Sacred Ground: Indiana Hoops
Trying out – Getting on the Roster
Pouring through the history of Indiana Hoops, I’m hearing considerable chatter in my deepest nerve cells. This subconscious chatter pertains to recurring thoughts and images such as: why are your writing about Indiana Hoops? There’s nothing more to say! It no longer exists and is a potential fable anyway. Indiana basketball is in some minds an over glorified sports fantasy created, permeated and continued by Hollywood and the media. Does Indiana basketball really rise above hoops in nearby states such as Wisconsin, Michigan, Iowa, Kentucky or Illinois? Bobby Knight? Puhhleese! What about all the thousands of “cut” players in Indiana? What effect has all this competition produced? I seriously doubt most of these Indiana hoopsters and their parents cut by IU feel that Indiana basketball is all that great.
out for anything again (even debate) or worse, turn to drugs and menacing maladaptive behavior?
The Real Hoosiers: the Milan Indians. Courtesy milan54.org.
The fictional Hoosiers team. Courtesy milan54.org.
The reality is that player cuts exist within all levels of competitive hoops. Many well informed sports psychologists sense that being cut creates more social angst than it’s worth. With young people sports can affect many more students negatively than positively (albeit the subject is poorly studied). Try driving home with a car full of girls after cheerleading tryouts when five made it and one didn’t. Why are we doing this to ourselves? Is sport and its associated competition responsible in part for some of our cultural mishaps? Do young people that “get cut” thereby develop a miserable outlook on life, lose confidence and decide to not attend college, or try
Alternatively, does sport enhance the mind and body? Build character at all levels and bring out competitive fires one never realized they possessed? Or do perhaps “cuts” at a young age help one learn to deal with adversity, find inner strength and move on? We know a few answers from youth sports. Everyone in sports fails at some level. One either misses a free throw at a crucial time, knocks a golf ball out of bounds when they absolutely shouldn’t or disqualifies with an early start to a swim relay. That’s life and that’s life within sports. I never believed in cuts and as a youth hoop coach, never cut one kid. I made certain that all student athletes found a place to play, even if it was the Y, pick up ball or summer league. Many kids didn’t play in games but practiced with the TEAM. They just wanted to play; and how was I or anyone else to know that this kid might turn into something (remember MJ being cut as a sophomore in a small town and being ashamed to inform his parents)! My coached kids played somewhere, somehow. It isn’t that way in many places because many coaches, schools, administrators etc., just don’t get it. Life generally isn’t like the movie, “Hoosiers” where the star coach and player walk away with heroics and dates. Some of Hoosiers frankly isn’t true either–but I still enjoyed the film. Indiana basketball is perceived to be all about the good within the sport. A bit of digging however, reveals that the state of Indiana was a fairly turbulent place to play basketball because of race issues for many years. We’ve all moved on–it’s history–and thankfully we have the great game
to garages are common. Pickup ball is still played and it’s still a big deal to not be picked last. There’s still abundant school spirit throughout Indiana for hoops. Most of the big high school gyms in the United States are in Indiana (19 of the top 20). People in town enjoy the sport, talk about it incessantly, are quite knowledgeable and know how to express themselves intelligently when hoops is the topic. Gender hoop discrimination is also gone and race relations have improved tremendously. New Castle has staff (both men and women) that is quite knowledgeable at the only Basketball High School Hall of Fame in the United States. Therefore, my second turn through the New Castle Museum was impressive, learning many intricate matters pertaining to Indiana hoops. Throwing all aspects of discrimination of gender, race, age and anything else aside, Indiana hoops is truly sacred. Please read on and I’ll hopefully convince you of the very “Sacred Ground” the state of Indiana is regarding the game of basketball.
of basketball that we do because of all races, from Chinese to African Americans to Eastern Europeans.
Double Dribble – Not in Indiana (High School Hoops)
However, visiting the New Castle High School Hall of Fame allowed me to enter a new world of somewhat unexpected ugliness and sports turbulence. After the experience, it occurred to me that basketball history within Indiana for many years is substantially about troubled, unaddressed race relations. [Uhhh, excuse me. I came here to see hoops stuff, not race relations rehashed. I enjoy the history and racial issues are a very deep part of our history—but I came here to learn about fundamental Indiana hoops]. Therefore, I asked if I could go through again with the same ticket. Appropriately, I was allowed a return trip.
Indiana hoops arises from the culture of the game of basketball itself within the state. The game is engrained into almost everyone. Youth, high school, college and pro basketball are a big deal. The game allows the competitive spirit to come alive. Fans come from everywhere; follow their local and state St Mary’s Digital Archives. Used by perTEAMS with rev- mission. erence and addiction; and have unwavering support of all that is good about competitive hoops. Many middle and high schools–as well as colleges–embrace Indiana hoops from a fan’s club, school spirit or cheer squad. More recently social media with blogs of both white and blue collar professional support (Indiana Pacers–not Fort Wayne Pistons!) add to the engagement. Hoops is simply a large part of the state’s culture, not dissimilar to small towns having parades every warm holiday. Large gyms, pep rallies, rivalry weeks, bonfires, speeches, internet chatter and serious hoop play with a stress on fundamentals are typical winter season
The second time through I looked at basketball within Indiana perhaps more deeply than maybe even Wooden did. What makes this state tick regarding hoops? As Ohio, Oklahoma, Florida and Texas are to pigskin, Indiana is to hoops. Driving around the state there are many old gyms. Hoops attached
Steuben County gym. Credit: Steuben Republican via Carnegie Library of Steuben County IN. 2
happenings throughout the state. A fan is nearly as busy as a player or cheerleader it would seem. Bus trips with chants, after game parties and get togethers and serious scrutiny of all facets or the game are the norm. If you are not on the TEAM as a player, you are still “in the game.” You cannot escape it.
alone because the ghosts of the past are lurking and will wreak havoc if the old school building goes. My old school building in Wisconsin has a 100 year legacy, yet has been abandoned for 30 years. It seems no one can make a decision as to what to do with it. Razing it is not even within the discussion.
The glut of cold winter weather, coupled with the down time for agriculture–plus Indiana not being a football crazed state– paved the way for the elevation of hoops within the state. Though it started in Massachusetts, Naismith always maintained the real roots of basketball were in Indiana, the sport’s true “Sacred Ground.” The basketball culture it promoted and maintained was second to no other state.
Have we moved on from these days of glory within Indiana? Yes, indeed we have and the level of hoops today is considerably better. Though some fundamental skills may be lacking on a few TEAMS, Indiana TEAMS display the true spirit and competitiveness of the game. Basketball is a TEAM game– blended with the culture of the sport. Statistics are important, but most Hoosiers realize that the game is far deeper than saying our starting forward is a 20/20 guy (20 points and 20 rebounds). It is critical that a successful no-look flip or pass within a small crease is given the respect and credit it deserves. Great defense against a key opponent is rewarded with high acclaim for years. Thus all facets of the game are well known among Indiana players, fans and coaches. This hasn’t changed in over a century. While the game had its beginning in Springfield, Massachusetts, it really caught fire in the Midwest–especially Indiana. The game was simple, inexpensive, required multiple athletic skills and was won by chemistry and TEAM play. It was perfect for a state that had a need for a winter sport that didn’t require ice. If you’re on an Indiana hoop roster, you are not double dribbling. Flaws in a player’s game are perfected at a young age. Let’s travel back to the beginning of Indiana hoops—a truly golden era.
Indiana even has books and videos regarding old gyms. There are countless large and small communities with endless memorable school buildings. The human mind generally New Castle Fieldhouse. remembers only Credit: Brent Smith for USA Today. good times, and the blogs tell all. Reminiscing over a structure comprised Full Court Anywhere – Game On (More HS mostly of aged brick makes sense and provides pleasure from Basketball) both a fan’s and player’s perspective. Spending one’s youth in a school building for hours achieving in academics, culturally socializing and having the critical part of a one’s existence associated with that building is unique. We generally aren’t fond of old downtown buildings or businesses that are decaying. Schools are quite different. There is a virtual reverence that attaches to where the fan sat much of the time; the creaky part of the gym where the player drained a few; and a weak bubbler that hasn’t changed in years. Rarely is an Indiana historical building torn down. If they are not renovated, they simply sit and slowly erode. Crispus Attucks HS, Indiana State Champions 1955. Courtesy IPS Crispus Attucks Museum. These old (sacred) school buildings are everywhere. No one has the guts to put the When hoops in Herkimer, NY; Wichita, Kansas; Clinton, dynamite to these structures, let alone the money involved in Iowa; Wausau, Wisconsin and Springfield, Massachusetts the cleanup. It is well said by some to leave these old buildings were raging, full sized basketball floors could also be found in 3
In 1911 Crawfordsville defeated Lebanon for the first Indiana High School championship. Prior to high school TEAMS playing only other prep TEAMS, these TEAMS played colleges like Wabash, business clubs, YMCA TEAMS and tons of pick up squads which meant something: bragging rights. The University of Minnesota played and beat Crawfordsville HS in 1904 (28-23). Soon Hammond, Lafayette, Darlington, New Richmond, West Lafayette, Rochester, Kokomo, Brazil, Clinton, Rockville, Blufton, Norristown, New Albany, Valparaiso, Bloomington, Indianapolis, Monticello, Montgomery and Lebanon began fielding TEAMS. The game was on—in all ways. For a few years in the early 20th Century the media had proclaimed the state champions, usually Crawfordsville. However, Lebanon and Crawfordsville had split games in
many Indiana school gyms. Where else–for free or minimal amounts of cash–could you sit and watch two hours of local entertainment? These now ancient gymnasiums were once– and still are–the pinnacle of pride, competition and athletic bravado in their communities. Most of the Hoosier state was too warm for serious hockey or ice skating. Football and baseball have ended by late fall and the climate is such that one can absolutely practice hoops with a nailed goal on a silo, barn, hayloft, side of house, chicken coop, milk house, garage, school yard or within a business’s parking lot. There are no seasonal basketball limits in Indiana and practice really does “make perfect” in hoops. The usual gym held only a few except in places like Martinsville, Indiana, where in 1926 this small community built a 5,200 seating capacity arena for hoops. It is still utilized today complete with the memories of John Wooden, the Wizard of Westwood, lingering about. Getting picked for that TEAM usually meant an absolute love of the game, athletic ability, endurance, passion and a willingness to practice incessantly.
When the 3 point line became the rule in the 1980s, the state of Indiana actually cried foul! Our long bomb 2’s that we’d hit for 90 years are now 3’s. No one will ever lose from this state. However, the General himself, Bobby Knight, always coached that a TEAM will live and die on 3 point shooting. Even good shooters from the arc become average with a hand in the face. Great shooters are good despite great defense: they can hit when triple-teamed, off balance and Lebanon High School Team, 1918. From The Arbutus 1918, Indifrom the parking lot once on the grounds. ana Yearbook, p. 92.
many seasons. Both TEAMS perennially had winning records. Designated free throw shooters, considerable passing with minimal dribbling, stalls with great passing, shots off low ceilings and disallowance of zone defense occurred in these truly golden days. Once Crawfordsville became the state champ through an actual playoff system in 1911, the Indiana High School Basketball Championship playoffs had officially begun. Years of heightened rivalry had occurred prior to this dramatic win by Crawfordsville. Now the entire state became engulfed in high school playoffs which was a one division championship until 1997. [Only Delaware, Rhode Island and Kentucky have held onto a one division hoops high school championship]. Crawfordsville High School, 1911 Indiana State Champions. Photo via nwitimes.com.
Indiana hoops boasts 12 of the top 13 high school arenas in the United States in terms of seating capacity. Forty-one McDonald’s All Americans in 36 years have hailed from Indiana (the highest percentage for any state). One player from Indiana I coached in summer league high school hoops came to our Colorado gym and after playing a few games remarked, “I’m assuming the school gym we’re currently playing in is just a practice gym.” Unfortunately I had to inform him, “No, this is our one and only court.” It can safely be said that expectations of Colorado high school hoops are culturally consider-
In early basketball “full court” meant (before the half court 10 second rule) the ability of a TEAM to utilize the entire court to play keep away from the opponent–especially if they had the lead. Underdogs built strategy around this aspect of the then rules. Once a TEAM with a lead held serve and maintained even the slimmest of margins, the entire court became a game of “keep away.” 4
Shots from Downtown- Still More Indiana HS Hoops
ably less than those of comparable Indiana fans, players or parents. However, that is changing within the coming generation as TEAMS throughout the United States ramp toward an Indiana standard of excellence for high school hoop programs. Hang on!
Lebanon won the 1912 crown and the Indiana High School Championship for boys hasn’t stopped since Crawfordsville the year prior. Reviewing the list of past champions suggests no truly dominant TEAM has reached the pinnacle of single elimination Indiana high school hoops over a prolonged period of time. Lebanon was again the champ in 1917 and 1918. Franklin with its “Wonder Five,” won three straight championships from 1920-1922. Marion had a run in 1975, 1976 and 1985-87. Ben Davis of Indianapolis claimed two back to back titles in 1995 and 1996 before the split into four divisions following the 1997 season. In the top 4A division Lawrence North was the dominant TEAM and champs from 2004-06. Carmel won in 2012 and 2013 while Washington (3A) won in 2010 and 2011. Forest Park (2005-06) and Indianapolis Park Tudor (2011-12) were repeat champs in 2A. Lafayette Central Catholic has won 3 titles within 1A Hoops (1998, 2000 and 2003).
The Wigwam, Anderson HS gymnaisum built in 1961, but shuttered by school board in 2012. Courtesy indianalandmarksorg.
The heyday of Indiana hoops came in 1965 when over 1.5 million spectators watched the high school playoff series of their one division. Today Indiana hoops is still quite popular due to its state basketball legacy, successful and highly popular college hoop TEAMS in all divisions and the pure excitement of the sport. Economically it is still a great bargain to attend a local high school game, especially between rivals. It’s not uncommon on the same ticket to see frosh, JV and girls games preceding the varsity boys game. Thus for the high school hoop junkie, Indiana offers a great sports entertainment value ($3–$5 per ticket). There has been however, some regression in parts of the state. The town of Anderson near Indianapolis now plays in a 2500 seat arena, whereas previously (before 2009) the team played its games in an old arena, “The Wigwam,” which was a 6000 seat arena. These scattered school district cutbacks have caused considerable angst among Indiana basketball fans. The home of the fabled Hoosiers movie team, Milan (population 1,899), has an arena seating only 1000. There are plenty of full courts, silo courts and even in the upstairs of a barn (one of my venues growing up in Wisconsin). After Crawfordsville defeated Lebanon in 1911, the Indiana Hoops Arms Race was on. Most schools loved the game, took it seriously and full courts (and big ones at that) began to show up everywhere.
Marion Giants, Inidana State Champions, 1975. Courtesy grantcountysportshalloffame.org.
The ability to hit shots became a real premium within the sport and players that could hit from anywhere on the court produced championships. As the set shot evolved into the jump shot (former Marine Kenny Sailors, playing for the University of Wyoming in a game at Madison Square Garden in 1946, is credited with its creation), players developed techniques to counter any defense with varying themes (“turnaround jumpers,” “fade-aways” and “runners”). The game really was on at all levels throughout the state. These were the days prior to smartphones and social media. People were forced to communicate face to face and there was a specific culture surrounding players, coaches and fans. Interaction was public through newspapers, discourse and even through body language.
Perhaps the most famous of all Indiana high school games was Milan’s 1954 win over Muncie Central–the source story
for “Hoosiers.” This wasn’t as surprising as one might think since Milan had a great program–unfortunately knocked out in the quarter finals the year before. Emerson Houck’s recent book, Hoosiers All, notes that in the 1953-54 season, Milan had 161 male high school students with 57 of them trying out for the boys hoop TEAM. Coach Marvin Wood formed three TEAMS from these 57 (frosh, JV and varsity). Houck went on to say that in his opinion–despite the hype for “Hoosiers”– the very best state finals games were the 1969 championship (Washington High School with George McGinnis); 1982 (Plymouth with Scott Skiles) and the 1990 title game, won by Bedford North Lawrence with Damon Bailey (who went onto IU stardom.
Girl’s First - Indiana Miss Basketball Indiana also has girl’s high school hoops. The girls’ game in specific areas is even more popular than the boys’ game. A coveted award within Indiana High Schools is the Indiana Miss Basketball. This award is highly prestigious because many have gone onto college and WNBA stardom following the bestowed honor. The award began in 1976 with Judi Warren of Warsaw. Following her selection, a parade of WNBA draft picks began with Stephanie White from Seeger as Miss Indiana Basketball in 1995. Other WNBA draft picks who previously had won the award of Indiana’s Miss Basketball included: Kelly Komara (1998), Lake Central April McDivitt (1999), Connorsville Sara Nord (2000), Jeffersonville Shyra Ely (2001), Ben Davis Shanna Zolman (2002), Wawasee, Katie Gearlds (2002), Beach Grove Amber Harris (2006), Indianapolis North Central Tashia Phillips (2007) ndianapolis Brebeuf Thus far Warsaw has produced three Indiana Miss Basketball awardees and Brebeuf, Ben Davis and Norwell each have had two players so designated.
The Milan Indians, 1954 Champs. Courtesty chasingthefrog. com.
Both the hundreds of Indiana farming communities and urban centers became attached to their TEAMS with the fans becoming every bit as much a part of the TEAM as the players, managers, coaches and cheerleaders. Stuffed gymnasiums, pep rallies, speeches, gut wrenching contests, sportsmanship, rivalries and enjoying the sport for the sport itself was–and still is–Indiana hoops. Presently there are 49 high school conferences within Indiana. The old AM/FM radio coverage with play by play has now given way to Internet game streaming. An explosion of club ball at varying competitive ages and levels has occurred throughout the country and Indiana is no exception. Hoops has unfortunately succumbed to a year round sport for many youths after being brainwashed into believing they cannot compete unless they play hoops 24/7/365. [Most reputable college and pro athletes are against this growing practice since this is a young person’s only chance to learn and enjoy other sports which assist with basketball skills as well]. Bring on the girls programs of the last two generations—it’s full speed ahead.
Skylar Duggins, Miss Indiana Basketball, 2009. 6
There are some areas within the Hoosier state that are basketball factories, producing great talent and winning records with coaches and student athletes second to none. Fort Wayne Canterbury, a 1A school, is batting .900 the past few seasons. They’ve won six straight 1A titles in Indiana High School Girls hoops. There are four divisions within Indiana High School girls’ basketball, exactly like the boys’ varsity schedule. Steve Neff from Northwood and Donna Cheatham from Scottsburg are both inching towards the 700 win plateau. The Hulman Center in Terre Haute is the host arena for the girls’ championships. Attendance at these events is superb with the entire state involved. Girl’s basketball has grown by leaps and bounds within Indiana because it’s about the sport itself. Since the removal of the half court girl’s game in the 1990s, women’s high school hoops have skyrocketed. There are many sharpshooting young women averaging nearly 40 points per game. Their shooting percentages hover near 50%. Even WNBA scouts have begun showing up at these high school games, pinpointing high school athletes who will eventually find work in the pro leagues.
lessons that carry well into the real world and that is the very reason that basketball remains so very popular in Indiana. The true fans have seen much beyond the starting five’s prowess. Youth, high school, college, and admittedly pro athletes within Indiana basketball have helped with Indiana’s overall state economy and finances. Women leaders from the sport of basketball itself within the state include: Alison Bales: Indiana roots, Duke collegiate star with NCAA records for shot blocks as center; WBCA (Women’s Basketball College Association) All American, WNBA star and presently training to be an MD. Photo credit:spmsports.com.
Katie Douglas: Perry Meridian High School in Indianapolis; Purdue (Big 10 Player of Year and Silver Basketball Award from Chicago Tribune in 2001), and WNBA star (multiple WNBA all star TEAMS as well as championship with Indiana Fever – 2012), all around “game” with WNBA defensive 1st TEAM status 2007, and 2006 WNBA MVP All Star Game Award. Photo credit: Jim O’Connor, US Press Service.
Katie Gearlds: Beach Grove, Indiana High School star, Miss Basketball of Indiana 2003; a scoring machine with 4th highest rank in points scored in Indiana women’s record books, MVP 2007 while playing for Purdue versus Ohio State in championship game, WBCA High School All American and MVP of McDonald’s High School All American game 2003. Photo credit: purduesports.com. Girls Basketball Camp in Indiana. Credit: dickbshootingcamp. com.
Stephanie White: Seeger High School, West Lebanon, Indiana; 1995 Indiana Miss Basketball, Gatorade and USA player of the Year, Purdue University star winning Wade Trophy in 1999 as top women hoop player in US, as well as winning the National NCAA Championship; WNBA star with multiple TEAMS, TV basketball analyst, college and WNBA coach. Photo credit: spmsportspage.com.
Indiana hoops has it all for girls with summer leagues, national rankings for individuals and TEAMS, camps year round and college basketball scouts in abundance. Unfortunately some organizations require year round commitment causing specific student athletes to not play for their school. This is just a sign of the times and allows an individual decision on the part of every athlete who will carry the sport further than her school peers. On the other hand, Indiana girls’ hoops for the most part bring out the very best in these student athletes. Girls’ hoops in this state makes confronting life’s never ending challenges and adversity much easier to tackle directly as the sport of basketball allows one to deal with both winning and losing on a personal and TEAM level. Remarkably, even the failed tryout student athlete gains by realizing that she must work that much harder to achieve in life. Sports teach us 7
Shanna Zolman: Hoop star at Wawasee High School in Syracuse, Indiana; led Indiana High school scoring four years in a row (all time point producer of Indiana Women’s basketball), 2002 co-MVP McDonald’s High School All Star Game, 70 straight Free Throws completed in competition, career and season free throw percentages of 93.5 and 95.4 percent
(national records); WBCA All American, Lady Volunteer (Tennessee) college star, WNBA star player. Volunteer organizations include FCA (Fellowship of Christian Athletes), Race for the Cure (Breast Cancer), Muscular Dystrophy Association and All Things Basketball Camp for youth. Photo credit: Bob Stremka, Crown Point.
Deshaun Thomas (Fort Wayne) walked away with the award in 2010. These winners have put Indiana hoops on the map in many ways. Perhaps the best attribute of Indiana High School hoops is that many business, political, and athletic leaders have come from the ranks of these High School TEAMS. Indiana hoops bring out the very best in its student athletes in both men’s and women’s divisions. Some leadership examples within Indiana’s men’s high school hoops include:
There are many more hoop student athletes from Indiana women’s courts. Many of these young women have led the way for youth to aspire in athletics and academics. Some of the very best basketball coaching at all levels occurs in Indiana. These star hoop athletes with superb Indiana coaching and training have been strong inspirations to carry on Hoosier pride, enhance Indiana’s entertainment and sports economy and allow the superb sport of basketball to be carried into adulthood as an occupation.
Terry Dischinger (Terre Haute): a practicing orthodontist following his illustrious Purdue and NBA careers (NBA rookie of the year 1963), US military service, US Olympic Gold Medalist in 1960 with Coach Pete Newell. Indiana and Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame. Photo credit: teamdischinger.com.
The unique “culture” of Hoosier Hysteria is exemplified by an endless series of books written by coaches, players and fans of the sport. A hoop fan doesn’t have to travel far in Indiana to find excellent basketball at the youth, high school, college or pro level. With the explosion of women’s TEAMS across the state, high school hoops has doubled the appetite for fans. As noted previously, many amazing players from both men’s and women’s high school TEAMS have traveled well in both their individual non-athletic pursuits and basketball playing or coaching careers.
Rick Mount (Lebanon): Purdue and ABA/ NBA star; has been a leader with hoop shooting camps within Indiana (ideal jump shot–maybe the best form ever). First High School athlete on cover of Sports Illustrated, 1966 USA Today’s Yearbook Basketball Player of the Year, Indiana’s Mr. Basketball 1966. Photo credit: mhhs1966.com.
Greg Popovich (East Chicago, IN): a U.S. Air Force Academy graduate who has been involved in hundreds of positive relationships with youth and pro athletes as a coach, most recently, with the San Antonio Spurs. Designated in 2008 as a USAFA Distinguished Graduate–a very high honor and Coach Popovich described it is the highest honor ever bestowed on him. Five years active military service as an Air Force officer. Photo credit: Ronald Martinez, INBAE Getty Images.
Indiana Mr. Basketball Also Indiana’s Mr. Basketball award began in 1939 with George Crowe of Franklin, who later played at Indiana Central College. Bobby Plump of Milan “Hoosiers” fame deservedly won in 1954. Players from Crispus Attucks High School won the award in 1953 (Hallie Bryant) and 1956 (Oscar Robertson). Tom and Dick Van Arsdale (twins) tied in 1961. They traveled not far from Indianapolis Manual to Bloomington for illustrious college careers. Perhaps the most coveted of all Indiana players was Rick Mount, a winner of Mr. Basketball from prestigious Lebanon in 1966 (cover of SI) and then went on to Purdue and ABA stardom. George McGinnis won in 1969 from Indianapolis Washington. New Castle produced Kent Benson in 1973 and Steve Alford in 1983. Kyle Macy from Peru won the award in 1975. Ray Tolbert won the award in 1977 from Madison Heights High. Damon Bailey was the recipient from Bedford North in 1990, followed by Glenn Robinson in 1991 from Gary Roosevelt High School. Sean May won in 2002 from Bloomington North. Notably, one family produced three Mr. Basketball winners: Luke Zeller in 2005, Tyler in 2008 and Cody Zeller in 2011, all from Washington, a small town in southwest Indiana.
Steve Alford (New Castle): Indiana Mr. Basketball in 1983 averaging 37.7 points (before the 3 point shot went into effect); 1984 Olympics, 1986 NCAA champs with IU and Bobby Knight; NBA 4 years. Collegiate coach, presently coaching the UCLA Bruins Men’s Basketball TEAM. Photo credit: hoopshall.com.
Mike Woodson: IU star, winning Big 10 title in 1980. NBA player with multiple TEAMS and a very successful NBA coach; now head coach of the New York Knickerbockers. Photo credit: knicksblog.com.
college athletics. Collegiate sports demand so very much that little time is left for study, classes, socialization and fun. Thus a real dedication to the sport and TEAM occurs with collegiate basketball. Let’s not kid ourselves either. Most fans would kill to have the opportunity to play in Kansas City at the NAIA championship, the NCAA’s Sweet 16 or a conference tourney. It’s not about money because few athletes actually make money playing sports.
Nuances and Gems of Indiana High School Basketball
College hoops is about winning as a TEAM; draining shots you began to practice at age 3; impressing your peers on campus and creating an athletic school pride, or being part of a winner for personal pride. It’s hard for me to imagine that many of these players that have moved on to NBA stardom or ancillary careers find that it gets any better than their college or high school basketball careers. It’s meeting new frosh as they arrive on the TEAM, new coaches, fans or instructors and finding a way to “fit in” and engender a true winning chemistry. The overall statistics from the NCAA and NAIA are impressive because today’s student athletes have higher than average GPAs, graduation rates and job placement. Let’s check out Indiana’s collegiate basketball TEAMS.
We know that presently over 400 schools compete for high school championships in Indiana’s four divisions yearly. Add to that the men’s and women’s brackets and suddenly after the regular season everyone is involved with a playoff survival game. Over 800 schools have been lost to consolidation, merger, shut down, name change or (uncommonly) dropping a hoop program within the school. All Indiana players, fans, coaches, administrators (and everyone else in Indiana who doesn’t even care about hoops) is considered a Hoosier. If your roots are in Indiana, you are a Hoosier. If you play in Bloomington on weekends, you are a Hoosier. If you are on the roster for the Indiana School for the Deaf and Blind, Hoosiers is your TEAM name. If you were on Fort Wayne’s pre-Piston/pre-NBA TEAM, you were the Fort Wayne Hoosiers. And if you adopt Indiana as your home turf, you become a Hoosier. I asked a college acquaintance where he was from and received the reply, “I’m a Hoosier.” I let it go at that, not knowing then what a “Hoosier” really was, nor did I ask (to avoid showing my seeming stupidity) what “Hoosier” really meant. The reality is that most people just don’t know—and many Hoosiers don’t really know either. But now we all know it’s something good from Indiana, so let’s move on.
Ball State Cardinals: These guys have won numerous NCAA tournament games and conference championships. This Division I TEAM from Muncie won the MaIU Invitational in 2001 and seven Mid American Conference (MAC) championships between 1981 and 2000. Theron Smith and Bonzi Wells went on to NBA play from Ball State. Wells set the MAC all time steals record, lettered four years and is the conference’s all time leading scorer. Branch McCracken, the famous IU-Bloomington coach, was head coach at Ball State from 1930 to 1938. Ball State lost to the UNLV national championship men’s TEAM in 1990 by a close score 69-67.
Ancillary trivia: the Indiana town of Wingate developed and installed the very first electromechanical scoreboard for hoops in 1920. However, Wingate’s gym was built within a barn and heated with a stove. Thus emerged the term, “Barn Burner.”
College Play After mastering individual and TEAM hoop skills, adept players don’t think twice about adding basketball to their college repertoire. Playing in any division–and even college club ball–is very difficult for even the very gifted student athlete. Basketball culture, coaching expectations, parents, administrators, competition and overall program pressure to win at all levels have caused this growing year round sports phenomenon. Normally the sport of professional basketball ends in June after the college baseball season and when college and pro football training camps are just starting to ramp up. At many college campuses, five and six year graduation tracks have been established to accommodate the pressure of 9
No TEAM in collegiate TEAM play has engendered more excitement than the Butler Bulldogs during the past few years. It is a given that the Bulldogs will be good around tourney time. This is a feared TEAM for many good reasons. The 4500 student fan base with a strong alumni, recent coach Brad Stevens and assistant coaches, players, administration and fans are truly the very best. The truth is that Butler has been an excellent program since its inception. Hinkle Arena was the largest basketball arena in the world from 1928-1950. Hinkle Arena formerly was the host for the Indiana high school championship games for many years, including Milan’s 1954 win. Butler was in the NCAA Sweet 16 in 2003 and 2007. The Bulldogs won the pre-season NIT in
collegiate basketball entertainment experience. Passion and old fashioned TEAM/school spirit make IU the perennial favorite for home games. The William Tell Overture in the third timeout of the second half, the mop lady of Assembly Hall, candy striped pants and the pure glamour of the college crowd make this arena close to Ground Zero of College Basketball (UCLA). GLASS BACKBOARDS 1.5 inches thick were installed in the Men’s gymnasium in 1917, one of the first accounts of real glass in hoops (still debated). Many great coaches from every era have walked the sidelines in Bloomington, Indiana including (the first coach, James Horne (1900). Other IU coaches include Everett Dean, Branch McCracken, Lou Watson, Robert Knight, Mike Davis, Kelvin Sampson and Tom Crean.
2006, went to the final game in 2010 and 2011, and now has excellent recruits from all over the United States. Butler joined the Big East in 2013. Butler is a true collegiate powerhouse, excellent small school and a great place for today’s student athlete. Butler is now producing academic and athletic All Americans, as well as NBA players (recently Sheldon Mack and Gordon Hayward). After coach Brad Stevens received his lengthy multiyear contract for superb coaching and obtaining the very best performance by his Bulldogs the past few years, he recited it doesn’t get any better than Butler. Brad is correct; however, coaching mobility, new challenges and experiences await winners. Stevens has since moved on to the Boston Celtics head coaching position.
Evansville’s Purple Aces The Purple Aces have won five Division II national championships and numerous conference titles in men’s hoops through the years. Evansville was an original member of the Midwest Collegiate Conference (Horizon League today) and is presently in the Missouri Valley Conference, winning the title in 1999. Arad McCutchan from Evansville was the very first NCAA coach in the college division to be selected to the Naismith Hall of Fame. The TEAM plays like Aces per a 1920s sports writer, and plays its games in the Ford Center (capacity 10,000). In 1977 the entire TEAM was on a plane trip to Middle Tennessee State that crashed and killed the entire team save one player who did not make the trip. Ironically, he also died in a car crash a short time following the plane crash. It would be fitting to have this TEAM win an NCAA championship after what they’ve endured. I’ll never stop cheering for the Purple Aces.
IU cheerleaders. Credit: bleacherreport.com.
Everett Dean coached IU from 1924-38. He was highly successful and essentially molded IU basketball into the modern era by winning the first Big 10 title in 1926. Dean is enshrined within the Naismith and College Basketball Hall of Fame. McCracken played the first African American player in the Big 10, Bill Garrett. McCracken coached the Hoosiers to 365 wins in his 23 year stint, winning two national NCAA titles along with six perfect regular seasons and numerous Big 10 titles. Assembly Hall’s court is also named after him, Branch McCracken is IU basketball. Lou Watson was the face of IU basketball from 1965-71. His “Cardiac Kids” won the NCAA championship in 1967.
Indiana Hoosiers This is clearly one of the most storied programs in all of collegiate sports history. IU has five national men’s championships: 1940, 1953, 1976, 1981 and 1987 (third most in men’s college hoops), and one NIT championship in 1979. These guys have also won 21 conference championships (second most of any big 10 TEAM). All-Big 10 selections include 53 alumni and IU’s TEAMS historically have won 60% of conference games. The last undefeated NCAA Division I Men’s Hoop TEAM was Indiana in 1975-1976 (32-0). Additionally IU has been to the final four on eight occasions and entered the NCAA tourney on 32 occasions. All together, IU has won 56 games in NCAA men’s basketball tourney play. Assembly Hall and IU fans are at the top for the ultimate
Thereafter came Bobby Knight, the most controversial figure in Indiana sports history. Knight won 3 NCAA men’s basketball titles at Indiana during a 29 year reign; had 23 All American and All Big 10 players, 10 straight years of Academic All Americans, numerous fabulous college and future NBA players (Scott May, Kent Benson, Quinn Buckner, Steve Green, Ike Woodson, Isaiah Thomas, Uwe Blab, Ted Kitchel, Randy Wittman, Steve Alford, Keith Smart (championship finals 1987 shot), Jay Edwards, Greg Graham, Pat Knight, Alan Henderson, Calbert Chaney, Damon Bailey, Brian Evans and AJ Guyton. Knight was dismissed in 2000 by IU after numer-
a member of the Missouri Valley Conference, the Sycamores have won two regular season and three MVC tourney championships in St Louis. Indiana State sports one of the top five basketball players of all time, Larry Bird while two of the top five hoop players of all time played in the MVC (Bird and Oscar Robertson). Terre Haute is not where the world basketball world ends–it is where it begins. Terre Haute, Indiana (home of the ISU Sycamores) will forever be on the big stage of collegiate basketball.
ous adverse incidents of poor sportsmanship. Mike Davis held the IU reigns for six years, advancing to the championship game in 2002. However following that title win, his TEAMS fell into mediocrity and he resigned under pressure from fans and administrators. Kelvin Sampson with the Ralph Miller 1–4 offense and excellent pedigree only lasted two years. He recruited Eric Gordon, his TEAMS played reasonably well and he was popular with his players. Unfortunately a series of telephonic recruiting calls in violation of NCAA guidelines brought on his dismissal and a three year IU probation. Coaches Knight, Davis and Sampson are all very good people but they each felt the pawing pressure running hooves behind them and all succumbed to the pressure of the IU head coaching job by crossing the dreaded line at Assembly Hall (chair toss, not winning enough and impermissible telephonic messages to recruits respectively).
Notre Dame Fighting Irish I vividly remember sitting in a Creighton fraternity house watching Notre Dame score the last 12 points against UCLA on January 19, 1974. The Irish under Digger Phelps with players Adrian Dantley and John Shumate won the game 71-70. Ironically Notre Dame was on both ends of the 88 game record breaking streak of the Bruins under Wooden. Bill Walton felt the pain that day (but somehow recovered). At the time, I believed that this truly was the zenith of college basketball. The era was unsurpassed with Wooden towering over the sport with essentially a Lombardi-like status. No intrusive social media yet, school spirit reigning and overall, life was essentially seemingly very simple. This was clearly one (if not the) most historic game ever in college hoops and it was just a regular season contest at the Joyce Center in South Bend, Indiana. That game gave everyone hope that an actual BEAR (UCLA Bruins) could be defeated. Old game hoop film junkies have this game on the very top of their lists. Let’s review what else the 9th most winning program in men’s collegiate basketball history has accomplished.
Tom Crean from Marquette was handed a depleted IU squad in 2008. He turned the corner by winning an outright Big 10 title in 2013. Additionally 2012 and 2013 saw IU basketball in the Sweet 16. Three losing Crean records followed by some very good hoop teams has allowed Crean to maintain his job in Bloomington. All American Cody Zeller was a superb recruit for the program and Crean has many more on the way. Victor Oladipo was the IU collegiate basketball player of the year in 2013. Watch out for the Hoosiers in the next few years. They are back “Big Time.”
ISU Sycamores Indiana State is most know for its undefeated 1979 run at the NCAA title, losing to Michigan State and Magic Johnson in the finals. The program is far more than that 1979 season however. ISU had fielded great competitive TEAMS for many years. With Jerry Newsom, ISU was the 1968 NCAA Division II (college) runner up. The Sycamores won the 1980 NAIA championship (runner up in 1946 and 1948). Eight players from ISU played under Gold Medal winning coach John Longfellow in the inaugural 1951 Pan American Games. John Wooden successfully coached ISU to the NAIA runner up trophy in 1948, after deciding not to play in the championship game in 1947. The NAIA had disqualified African Americans from playing in national tournaments. If Sycamore Clarence Walker didn’t play, ISU wasn’t playing either. Wooden essentially changed the basketball culture as his action essentially shamed the NAIA into allowing unrestricted African American access to play in all tournaments in 1948. Indiana State finished 4th in 1949 and 3rd in 1953 NAIA tourney play.
Notre Dame is tied with Maryland for upsets of #1 teams at seven. South Bend boasts two national championships by the Helm’s foundation (1927 and 1936). The men’s TEAM has Credit: Andy Lyons, Getty Images. fielded numerous NBA players, all conference selections, tournament champions, consensus All Americans, five Big East Players of the Year and has been invited to post season play many times (31). Elite 8 appearances are five in number with one Final Four (losing to the Duke Blue Devils in 1978). Ten of the eighteen consensus consecutive 3 year men’s basketball All Americans hailed from Notre Dame. Academics are especially rigorous at Notre Dame and the student athlete really does need to be “on their game” in South Bend to compete successfully against the very best.
As a team, ISU was runner up in the 1936 Berlin Olympic US trials. They won four Intercollegiate and four collegiate regular season Indiana basketball championships. Finally, as 11
Individually Chris Thomas was the rookie of the year in the Big East conference in 2002 while earlier, Troy Murphy received the award in 1999. Austin Carr was one of the most prolific scoring machines ever (61 v Ohio U. in 1971–most ever in NCAA tourney game). This was before the 3 pointer when a basket was just two points from anywhere on the court. Beginning in the 1970‘s, Coach Digger Phelps put the Irish on the map in collegiate basketball. His 20 years in South Bend saw him win two-thirds of his games; graduate hundreds of great student athletes and compete against every TEAM the Irish confronted. Mike Brey has been the coach the past few years and has enjoyed similar success. Both of these great Irish coaches are very good people and have served as true role models for youth. The men’s Notre Dame program sits on a high perch. Happily for Notre Dame, they have been able to attract and maintain great people at the top of this program.
Purdue Boilermakers (Geeky Mascot) Undoubtedly the geekiest mascot in all of collegiate sports is the Purdue Boilermaker. This is because of the blue collar hat, to which I still say today watching these guys: really? How do they find anyone to wear this dorky ugly hat around campus and at basketball games? It’s got to be that the notoriety (or pay) is quite high. However, when I see the Boiler hard hat I think blue collar, tough to compete against and a difficult win. Any letting up against Purdue equals a loss. I view their entire programs at all levels as superior: from the Wabash thrashing, through Rick Mount, Keady, recent NCAA tourney hoop TEAMS. Heck! Even Drew Brees scares me (a Brees with one leg would still be a deep threat). The nickname, “Boilermakers,” emanates from an 1891 football thrashing of Wabash College (44-0) in Crawfordsville. The local press described the game as the ”slaughter of the innocents” with the headline, “Wabash Snowed Completely Under by the Burly Boiler Makers from Purdue.” Afterwards, the name stuck. The Black and Gold of Purdue hoops has a winning record against all Big 10 TEAMS except Ohio State (but it’s close even against Ohio State). If a student wants to attend a school with big time hoops, this is clearly one of the best. Let’s delve further..
Notre Dame women win Big 10 Women’s championship. Credit: Jessica Hill, AP.
The Irish women’s team has developed into a perennial powerhouse. Women’s sports have escalated at most universities but especially at Notre Dame. Muffet McGraw has led the Irish women since 1997, winning the NCAA title in 2001 over rival Purdue 68-66. The Irish have finished second in the NCAA tournament in 2011 and 2012. Additionally Notre Dame has been to the Final Four five times; has many former players in the WNBA; and also, other former players coaching youth and being great community and family leaders. Ruth Riley from Notre Dame won the AP National Player of the Year, Sports Illustrated Player of the Year, NCAA MVP and Naismith Awards for college women’s hoops in 2001. Skylar Diggins won great honors by winning the Nancy Leiberman and Big East Player of the Year Awards in 2013. McGraw was coach of the year in 2013 in the Big East Conference. McGraw is 782-315 in her collegiate women’s hoop coaching career. This will be a difficult coaching act to follow for her successor. Purcell Pavilion at Notre Dame is guaranteed many nationally viewed grudge matches for years to come because of the many great previous Irish collegiate women’s basketball TEAMS and McGraw’s coaching.
Photo credit: Rob Goebel, The Indianapolis Star.
Purdue’s hoops TEAM goes way back to a 1896 contest against the Lafayette YMCA. Since that time the Boilermakers have consistently been involved in winning hoop games within the conference and nationally. Surprisingly for an Indiana state school, the athletic department is not supported by taxes (becoming increasingly and understandably common). Ward Lambert coached 28 grueling years at Purdue, winning a national championship by the Helm’s Foundation in 1932. John Wooden was a thrice All American for the Boilermakers, win12
Joe Barry Carroll was a superb all around big man in the Purdue hoop program. It seemed the entire collegiate basketball rankings and play, as well as the future of the NBA centered around Carroll. The most important aspect of All American Joe Barry’s game was his consistency, especially rebounding. He led Purdue to an NIT title in 1979 and the Final Four in 1980. In 1994 Glenn Robinson was the NCAA Player of the Year, and that same year won the Adolph Rupp Trophy, John Wooden Award and the Oscar Robertson Trophy. Robinson followed up his time at Purdue with a stellar NBA career with the Milwaukee Bucks. Gene Keady was a stalwart coach at Mackey Arena for 25 years with consistent winning. He was the National Association of College Basketball Coaches choice for coach of the Year in 1994 and 2000, and won the Henry Iba Award in 1984 and 1986. Keady’s cradle of head coaches (assistants on the Purdue bench who elevated their coaching careers) includes Steve Lavin (UCLA, St Johns), Matt Painter (Purdue), Kevin Stallings (Vanderbilt), Bruce Weber (Southern Illinois, Kansas State), Cuonzo Martin (Tennessee), Alan Major (UNC Charlotte) and Dan Muller (Illinois State).
ning the national Player of the Year Award in 1932. Lambert coached 16 All Americans and 31 All Big 10 selections and won the Big 10 with eleven squads (tied with Bobby Knight). At the time his win record of 371-152 (.709) including 221 Big 10 wins were considered insurmountable. Sadly during a Boilermaker game on February 24, 1947, the student section collapsed in the Purdue field house. Two students were killed, and 166 were injured. Rick Mount was the first high school basketball player to be on the cover of Sports Illustrated (February 14, 1966). Rick was considered to be the next god of college hoops. The USA basketball player of the year in High School and Indiana Mr. Basketball created a minor recruiting war. He settled on Purdue near his hometown of Lebanon. He ranks 4th on the all time point scoring list of InPhoto credit: nasljerseys.com. diana high school hoops (2,595). And, this was before the 3 pointer. Purdue definitely recruited a scoring machine to campus. Rick netted 33 points versus the Purdue varsity at Lambert Fieldhouse as a frosh (the old rule of not permitting freshman to play on a varsity sport began in 1903 by Harvard and continued until the 1972 NCAA proposition 48 which allowed freshmen to compete in varsity contests). Rick went on to average nearly 30 points per game the rest of his Purdue career. He won numerous All-American and Big 10 honors. As a junior he played in the NCAA title game with Herman Gilliam and Billy Keller, losing to Lew Alcindor and UCLA. By this time Mackey Arena was constructed and Purdue hoops were very hot. Rick had averaged 41 PPG in the NCAA tourney that year (1969). Purdue averaged 95 points per game that year as Mount averaged 33 PPG, hitting on 52% of his field goal attempts (Maravich and Calvin Murphy were only in the mid-40s). Rick was also well known for instructing opponents gyms that the hoop was not of the correct height and/or level (Iowa and Louisville).
Purdue men have won 17 consensus All American honors and numerous NCAA basketball second TEAM and honorable mention awards. West Lafayette, home of Purdue, has nearly 40 Academic All Americans from basketball alone. Twenty four big 10 scoring champs have come from Purdue’s hoop program. Finally, Purdue men hoop TEAMS have 22 Big 10 championships; are in second place with all time Big 10 victories (848); boast 87 All Big 10 players, seven defensive players of the year and were the first Big 10 TEAM to win the NIT (1974).
Pudue’s women, 2012 Big 10 champions. Credit: Purdue Photo & Digital Imaging.
Rick Mount won an ABA title with Indiana in 1972 against Rick Barry of the New York Nets. He presently runs basketball camps throughout the Midwest; developed a return ball tracker for serious shooting practice; and lives in Lebanon. Historically Rick Mount is considered to be the purest jump shooter in the history of the game, rumored to never lose a serious H-O-RSE contest in his prime, and carried Purdue to some of its finest basketball moments. 13
The Purdue women have been in the Final Four on three occasions, winning the title in 1999. Purdue women sport seven All Americans; had the player of the year in 1999 (Stephanie White) and that same year, Carolyn Peck won the National Coach of the Year Award. The Boilermaker women have won 6 of 13 Big 10 conference tourneys and 7 conference season tourneys in the Big 10. Additionally Purdue women have
Wabash and DePauw, one of the oldest football rivalries in the Unites States, get after each other in hoops also. Though from differing Division III conferences, the basketball games (akin to pigskin), have grown in intensity and competitiveness through the years. Brad Stevens (of Butler fame) boasts four letters in hoops from Wabash College (founded 1832). An excellent tradition of Wabash student athletes has carried Brad into the top tier of modern collegiate basketball coaches, and now onto the NBA.
produced eight All Big 10 players, numerous Academic All Americans, 6 Chicago Tribune Silver Award winners, a runner up finish to Notre Dame in the 2001 NCAA final and multiple coaching awards within the Big 10. Purdue University is clearly a school for a basketball fan, hoop junkie or sports historians. Despite the geeky mascot, Purdue is undoubtedly a top tier collegiate hoop program.
More Indiana Collegiate Hoop Schools The run of Indiana colleges chasing dreams is nearly endless. All leagues in the lower NCAA and NAIA divisions are very competitive; produce NBA talent and endless superb youth coaches; and offer student athlete discipline within a reasonable context. These schools are clearly NOT the pressure cooker that exists at Bloomington, where a loss is equivalent to an earthquake. Let’s get after it.
Pro Ball–Room for More Can you imagine playing hoops your entire life? What a dream! Well it’s a dream come true for select Hoosiers. The Indianapolis Kautuskys of the Basketball Association of America began in 1937. This very TEAM moved to the NBA precursor, the National Basketball League, in 1948 as the Jets. The Jets folded in 1949 and became the Indianapolis Olympians ( John Wooden and Branch McCracken were players). This TEAM was an early part of NBA history, but they too folded in 1953. The Fort Wayne Zollner Pistons began in 1941 and moved to Detroit in 1957. This was a very good TEAM with many playoff victories, 5 NBL Hall of Fame players and two NBL Finals appearances. The Detroit move was spawned by market forces. The 10 year gap was opened by the ABA in 1967 with the Pacers–an ABA dynasty–winning 3 championships in 4 years. Five Hall of Fame players emerged amidst numerous ABA championships including Chris Mullen, Reggie Miller, Alex English, Mel Daniels and Roger Brown. The Pacers merged into the NBA in 1976 after advancing to the ABA finals in 5 of 9 years. McGinnis, Netolicky, and Mount joined the TEAM in this prolific era of ABA red-white-blue basketballs.
The University of Southern Indiana Screaming Eagles won Division II (College Division) in 1995 under Bruce Pearl (later, head coach of Tennessee). Southern Indiana was the runner up men’s TEAM in 1994 and 2004. The Pumas of St. Josephs have been very competitive within the Division II ranks. The TEAM has seen the Elite Eight on four occasions and has traveled to ten NCAA year end tourneys. The Great Lakes Conference in hoops is considered to be one of the very best in the United States, and the Pumas have won four regular season championships and one Great Lakes conference tournament.
The Indianapolis Pacers then fell on hard times after the NBA-ABA merger in 1976. Denver, San Antonio, and the New York Nets joined the Pacers as they threw the red-whiteblue ball away, gave up the 3 pointers for a time (1989 NBA 3 pointer), and went back to conventional hard nosed defensive NBA style hoops. ABA League bailout money to the Kentucky Colonels and St. Louis Spirit for Pacer ABA defection left this TEAM decimated for years. The trades and draft picks of the Pacers early years are no longer disputed. This organization said simply, made poor player decisions. Dealing Adrian Dantley and John Williamson loomed large for
Valpariso wins the Horizon League’s tournament championship in 2013 and a trip to the NCAA tourney. Credit: Jonathan Miano.
Valparaiso has won nine Summit League conference regular season championships and eight conference tourneys. Vincennes Junior College is the fourth winningest junior college program in the United States. The Trailblazers have 3 men’s NJCAA championships with 30 appearances in the tournament. This is a stellar program dating to 1903, and is routinely a powerhouse traveling deep into the JC tournament. Finally,
years. Trading a 1984 draft choice for Portland’s Tom Owens was seriously misguided as it kept the Pacers from selecting Michael Jordan, then player of the year from North Carolina. Jordan’s exploits after this draft are known even in rural China. The Reggie Miller era began in 1987 and though the TEAM never won the title with Miller, he offered a showcase of great offensive play and competitive TEAM play.
Interesting Pacer players and coaches include the 1987 Rookie of the Year, Chuck “The Rifleman” Person. Person was a threat when he drove into the parking lot. Clark Kellogg was second for the honor in 1983, and now does a truly excellent job as hoop analysis for college ball. Clark’s summer basketball camps are second to none. As a perennial All Star Reggie Miller defined Pacer hoops; however the stigma after playing for 18 years is NOT having a ring. Along with Pacers Chris Mullins and John Long, Miller’s free throw percentage hovered at 90% over his career. Mel Daniels boarded 16 per game, while Mark Jackson averaged 8 assists per game. The Pacers have 7 Hall of Famers in Springfield, and 47 All Stars. Though Leonard holds the Pacers record for wins (1,894), his ABA legacy didn’t translate into NBA titles after the 1976 merger. The Pacers have 30 playoff years in 47 years of existence, a long term winning record, historic homes such as Conseco, and sport a franchise that is begging for a ring. The chemistry on the present TEAM (pushing Miami to 7 games in the 2013 playoffs) under O’Brian may indeed bring an NBA title to the sacred ground of Indiana.
Best Ever: “The Big O” Many great coaches and players came to Indy, but the combination could never get the Pacers to the Promised Land (NBA title). Mark Jackson, Chris Mullin, Antonio and Dale Davis, Derrick McKey, Rik Smits, Jermaine O’Neal, Stephen Jackson, Ron Artest, Austin Croshiere, Al Harrington and Detlef Schrempf were all superb players for Indiana. Coaches McKinney and Irvine suffered from the ABA financial bailout and poor trades and bad drafts. Ramsey, Versace, and Hill as coaches gave the organization some respectability. Coaches Larry Brown, Rick Carlisle, Larry Bird, Isaiah Thomas, Jim Obrien and Frank Vogel all performed solidly, but couldn’t get over the hump in playoff situations. Granger and Dunleavy provided offensive spark in supposedly down early 2000 seasons. Vogel’s TEAM pushed the eventual winner, the Miami Heat to 7 games in 2013. The more recent addition of players such as Hansbrough, George, Stephenson, Posey, Collison, Hill, West, Hibbert, Copeland, Watson, Scola and Mahinmi may bring the required muscle for the Pacers to succeed in a big money and loose salary cap era.
Oscar Robertson on the cover of Time. Credit: Russell Hoban.
Pacers in action. Credit: prweb.com.
Indeed as basketball looms larger every year, historians must travel back to New Castle, Indiana and study who is featured in that building next to the US’s largest high school hoop arena. Crispus Attucks High School in Indianapolis featured the very best player in basketball history in Oscar Robertson. Crispus Attucks was named for the first African American to 15
He made other players better. His numbers are even better historically because there was no 3 point shot in his day and carrying the ball (palming) was not permitted. Double dribbles and traveling were actually called in college and pro ball unlike current trends. This triple threat playmaker was Rookie of the Year in 1961, NBA All Star MVP 3 times, and actually averaged a triple double over his first 5 seasons. No basketball player is even close to this mark. Oscar led the league in assists and scoring in 1967-1968 and along with Tiny Archibald, are the only two players to ever accomplish this feat statistically. He led the NBA 6 times in assists per game, essentially proof of his court vision being better than anyone in basketball history. Additionally he led the NBA in free throw percentage twice and averaged .485 field goal percentage over his NBA career. The 9th highest point total in NBA history belongs to Oscar, as well as his having a league high 77 forty point games (remember no 3 pointers).
die for the country during the Boston Massacre of 1770. Though there is some dispute amongst the top 10 players (Bird, Magic, Alcindor/Jabbar, Wilt, MJ, etc.), the Big O certainly was the most versatile all around player ever. Oscar was 6 foot 5 inches tall and weighed 220 pounds, Oscar attended and graduated from Crispus Attucks, the all Black HS in Indianapolis. He grew up playing on dirt courts where bragging rights and play came from a polished “game.” His sophomore year saw Crispus Attucks lose a playoff game to Milan (“Hoosiers”) in 1954. His last two years in high school the TEAM won two state titles and sported a 62-1 record over that span. Following a recruiting war, Oscar shined at the University of Cincinnati: player of the year, scoring titles (33.8 career PPG), and All American three straight years (1958-60). The Division I Player of the Year award is now named after Robertson. The truly sad part of Oscar’s career is the racism he encountered. Indiana, home of the KKK, was a very ugly place to live as an African American–especially as a basketball superstar. Oscar confronted endless racial slurs and the inability to eat, bathe, go to the restroom and travel within specific areas of the state. In his speeches and books, it is obvious that this was a motivating, yet highly bothersome force upon him. His “game” however, transcended every ounce of racism.
Oscar Robertson. Credit: Michael E. Keating, Cincinnati Enquirer.
Oscar’s off court legacy is the Oscar Robertson suit which was settled with the 1976 ABA–NBA merger. This allowed free agents the ability to negotiate with varying TEAMS for their services. He was enshrined in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1980. A large 9 foot bronze statue of Oscar Robertson stands in front of the Cincinnati Bearcat home court. He is an all around good guy and donated one of his kidneys’ to his daughter, Tia, for lupus related renal disease, allowing her to avoid dialysis. Rising from a segregated neighborhood with poverty, divorced parents and tremendous racism at every turn, Oscar was truly one of the very best Americans ever as a person and athlete. Entrepreneur and philanthropic efforts in Cincinnati and nationally following his basketball career have provided Oscar a full life.
Jerry West and Oscar Robertson receive congratulations from the Russian and Brazilian captains after winning the Gold Medal at the 1960 Olympics in Rome.
He led the 1960 Olympic Gold Medal winning basketball TEAM. His entrance into the NBA came with the Cincinnati Royals. Oscar went on to become an 11 time All NBA player (9 first string awards), won an NBA title with Milwaukee in 1971—his first title since high school. His averaging a triple double in the 1961-1962 NBA season (30.8 points, 12.5 rebounds and 11.4 assists per game), remains perhaps the most notable achievement in basketball history. Robertson was easily the most consistent player in NBA history on the court. 16
Sports historians are in shock while studying Oscar’s statistics from high school, college and the NBA. Old film clips of Oscar reveal his shot to be a precursor of Rick Mount’s perfect Hoosier form. Oscar Robertson stands out as the ultimate TEAM basketball player; would have been a great Harlem Globetrotter; and is anything but dull as he describes himself. Though his Cincinnati Royal TEAM seemingly underachieved for years, they played amidst a Boston dynasty that had 10 players just beneath Oscar’s level. The early NBA
TEAMS of the 1960s were anything but diluted (8 in the league compared to over 30 currently).
Reviewing the medical literature, one observes paltry standardized American guidelines in the clinical detection of athletes at risk of sudden cardiac death. Saving 100 student athletes per year is too low a number for massive youth athletic cardiac screening considering the costs and labor. Is this really true? Where are our values as a society regarding how we treat youth in the context of the trillions of dollars spent on terminal tertiary care at the end of our lives to prolong a terminal life for a few days? If one asked a dying patient if he’d rather spend the money that is spent on him at the end of his life on screening for cardiac disease so 100 athletes wouldn’t die in their youth from sudden death, they would all most likely answer affirmatively. Additionally, the number of youth who had near death experiences is multifold the actual 100 sudden death number. Cardiac screening in Italy for this exact condition eliminated 95% of sudden deaths in athletes from hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. The condition causes the heart muscle to enlarge, obstruct blood flow and eventually cause multi-system disease and death. The disease can be medically and surgically treated if detected early. Athletes can be withheld from competition and treated prior to risking sudden death from cardiac disease.
Basketball championships are won on TEAM play, chemistry, good fortune, money, contracts, recruiting, drafts, injury avoidance, coaching, player dilution, match ups and schedules. A championship is far different than a player ranking because of the many factors at play. Oscar won two Indiana HS championships and one NBA title (1971 with Milwaukee). The rap on Oscar is that the Bearcats and Royals didn’t win titles. The Bucks fell apart with Alcindor (38-44) after Oscar left in 1974 after losing the NBA title to Boston in seven games the previous year (59-23). Chasing titles and subsequently ranking players is a contrived media driven phenomenon. By comparison, Oscar Robertson was never blessed with the greatest of coaches and surrounding cast of players in college or pro ball until he synched with Alcindor in Milwaukee. One can only begin to envision the championships if he had been a Laker or Celtic during this NBA era, or had he been on an NCAA TEAM with Chamberlain at KU for example. The overall amazing athletic play, court vision, superb stats and complete “game” is Oscar Robertson’s true gauge of greatness. There will NEVER be another “Big O.” He is clearly the BEST EVER!
The John Stewart Pre-Participation Guidelines John Stewart was a colorful, outgoing, gregarious 300 pound seven foot plus student athlete in 1999. John played at Lawrence North in Indianapolis. This was clearly a powerhouse high school basketball TEAM–one of the very best in the United States. John collapsed and died on the court during a state semifinal playoff game on March 12, 1999. The grief remains to this very day for friends and family; not over hoops, but over John as a person. John was one of approximately 100 young student athletes who die in high school or college yearly from undiagnosed hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, an inherited lethal but treatable cardiac disease if clinically detected early. John had signed a letter of intent to play for the University of Kentucky under Tubby Smith the following season.
We need to abruptly stop this practice of ignoring our youth at the risk of incurring years more of athletic sudden cardiac deaths due to hypertrophic cardiomyopathy and other associated cardiac disease. As a society, we in the US have thousands of medical missions, order endless very low yield blood tests, scans and referrals to protect our medical providers legally. We provide endless expensive care to non-US citizens here and abroad. All these medical issues are culturally and politically driven, but when it comes to simple Internal Medicine or Pediatric exams by a trained physician, screening EKGs and echocardiograms for youth athletes, we fail.
Example of an ECG revealing hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. Credit: hqmeded-ecg.blogspot.com. 17
Screening cardiac exams with a simple diagnostic physical exam and EKG would detect most hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, along with many other cardiac abnormalities (right heart abnormalities, long QT intervals and other valvular conditions). Echocardiograms would add further to the detection of potential life threatening disease from exertion. Families and youth would want to know this before “two-a-days.” High school and college athletic practices are NOT easy for anyone. Competition has forced youth into amazing stretches of their athletic cardiovascular endurances. Only 100 die during competition yearly, but many more could be saved from an
ADULT cardiac condition that risks stroke, heart attack or death. KNOWING about one’s cardiac disease (especially hypertrophic cardiomyopathy) at an early stage rather than in a true emergency situation is good medicine. If someone from your family dies during athletics from hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, then the 100 number is meaningless to you. There are no words or explanations that will buffer a youth’s death. The only common factor is that we all must deal with, learn and move on in life after a death. Let’s be proactive in the spirit of John Stewart so other athletes don’t unexpectedly die on the court or other field of competition. Feleica Stewart has initiated a John Stewart Foundation attempting to establish within athletic club TEAM and schools proper cardiac screening. Progress has been made to a degree, but virtually 99% of US youth athletes in college and high school avoid standardized routine cardiac screening. Therefore we propose the following under the guidance of Clinical Cardiology and proper pre-participation athletic exams. 1) Yearly baseline physical exam by trained Internal Medicine or Pediatric physician 2) EKG 3) Echocardiogram The costs of these items are quite variable. The advantages for YOUTH are detection, saving lives and knowing that a life threatening condition does or doesn’t exist to the best of our medical knowledge. Abnormalities can be easily addressed by proper referrals to trained cardiologists. This is far more important than noting bow legs or a weak ankle ligament on a pre-participation physical examination. Schools, clinics, hospitals, parents, athletes, coaches, administrators and health care professionals all have a stake in the pre-participation exam. The John Stewart Guidelines are simple, cost very little on a screening level and would allow proper definitive youth cardiovascular health to be determined with much higher confidence. Obviously within our culture looms a medical legal element to the pre-participation guidelines. As a physician my personal recommendation is to put this aspect in perspective; do what is right for youth today; and allow good physical exams with simple modern technology to effectively screen youth athletes. No clinical exam or test is 100% effective; however, I would have certainly appreciated our children having been screened. The Stewart family’s lives are changed forever after John’s sudden death and out of respect for John Stewart as a person and in the spirit of youth athletics, we need to perform yearly diagnostic pre-participation exams, EKGs, and echocardiograms on all youth athletes.
Circulatory system of the human body. Credit: Leonello, iStock.com.