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THE “MEN OF STEEL”

East Chicago players forged unforgettable legacy By Chris Ramirez

of playing together on the playgrounds and in the elementary schools that helped raise the talent level. When it comes to high school sports, we Regionites love to talk of “It started around second grade. My friends and I all grew up wanta glorious yesteryear. This being the ing to play in that (Washington HS) state of Indiana, discussions regarding gym,” he said. “We played all the time such topics often start with basketball. – before school, after school. In the Region schools have won seven summer, we literally played from early state championships in the illustrious morning until it was too dark to see the history of the tournament hosted by the rim. Indiana High School Athletic Associa“As we got a little older we started tion – hardly the numbers of domiplaying with kids from other parts of nance. But plenty of locals will argue town and the competition was fierce. that’s because many times the state The games were all out battles,” he championship was decided during the continued. grueling Northwest Indiana sectional “By the time we got to high school, and regional rounds. Still others will we had the system down and knew tell you it was anti-Region referees at what was expected. Plus we all knew semi-state that doomed the local boys. each other’s strengths and weaknesses Despite the low number of troand could anticipate what each other phies accumulated, Lake County has was going to do,” said Trgovich. “Most nonetheless seen its share of greatgames that year we felt invincible.” ness through the years. The argument Darrell Brandford, whose brother has been made countless times that Napoleon authored the book ‘Road the best two teams this state has ever Warriors; The story of the 1970 Rooseen came from schools located less sevelt Roughriders’, reminisced about than two miles apart, who played their those days. Jim Rossi and Jim Bradley receive the home games in the same gym in front of “We scrimmaged against college guys presentation of the 1970 state championship trophy. the same 6,000 fans, and who won state all summer long and some of the games championships in back to back undefeated were really physical,” he said. “But those seasons. guys taught us a lot.” I’m referring of course, to the East Chicago Brandford recalls going to Gary for pick up Roosevelt and Washington teams of 1969-70 and games. “(Former Chicago Bulls) Norm Van Lier, 1970-71. Chet Walker and Bob Love used to play there,” In 1970, the Roosevelt Roughriders, led by the he said of a court in Gary’s Brunswick neighborlate, great Jim Bradley, captured the school’s first hood. “You brought a team and it was play till you and the city’s second state championship, going lose. Once you lost, you had to sit out and it might 28-0 in the process. be three or four hours before you got to play again The following season it was the boys from the because there was so many good teams. You learned Harbor (Washington) who registered perfection (29to minimize mistakes because you didn’t want to go 0), en route to the single class state title. home.” What was it about the city of East Chicago that Bill Holzbach, coach of the 1970 Roughriders, allowed it to produce so many great players? Were credits the city’s youth leagues for the success. there high levels of iron ore in the water? Were “We had a feeder system that was the best boys sprinkled with mill dust at a young age? Was it around. Not just in the Harbor either, it was on someone’s grand plan or merely a coincidence? both sides of town,” he said. “From an early age Whatever the cause – the effect was clear; from our kids played a lot of organized basketball. The the fall of ‘69 through the spring of ‘71, (varsity) coaches were in charge and they Darnell Adell, John Moledet, and Pete Trgovich the EC twosome were dominating, going told the others how they wanted the kids celebrate the 1971 state title. a combined 94-6. As champions they were (coached).” 57-0! “But you can’t win without the kids. And In a 2005 interview with the RSN, Trgovich said it was a decade

we had very smart, dedicated kids.” Darnell Adell, one of the stars for ECW, cited camaraderie and chemistry as key factors. “We were all friends,” said Adell. “We hung out together all the time so there was social interaction. There was a purpose to what we were doing. We were driven to win a championship.” Like most everyone else interviewed for this article, Adell said it ultimately came down to experience. “We had played together for so long before we ever got to the varsity that we could let our instincts take over. We knew what to do and how to do it. We were taught well.” When it comes to the fans – and 6000 plus showed up for nearly every game those two seasons – Trgovich, Adell, Holzbach and Brandford all agree they got their money’s worth. “Fans came to the games and were entertained by the style of play,” Adell said. “And by the level of it.” Pistol Pete concurred. “It was exciting basketball. We didn’t spend much time thinking about it. When we had the ball, the idea was to score and the fans loved it.” And score they did. The Senators averaged better than 92 points a game, passing the 100 point mark on several occasions. All five Washington starters went on to play Division I ball; Ruben Bailey (Ball State), Darnell Adell (NC State), Trgovich (UCLA), Bridgeman (Louisville) and Tim Stoddard (NC State). Trgovich and Stoddard played for national champions. In the 1975 NCAA semifinals, Trgovich guarded Bridgeman. Stoddard went on to major league baseball fame, pitching for both the Cubs and Sox during a 13-year career. Three players – Pete Trgovich (ECW), Junior Bridgeman (ECW) and Jim Bradley (ECR) – were drafted and/or played professionally. Bradley, often described as the best high school hoopster to ever come out of the Calumet Region, had a supporting cast at ‘Velt that included Cavanaugh Gary, Jim Rossi and Mike Artis. To this day, no Region teams are revered as much as the 1969-70 Roosevelt Roughriders and the 1970-71 Washington Senators. The players on those teams, whose feats will live on for eternity, are legends in their own time. And for their accomplishments, they’ll be forever remembered as “The Men of Steel!” STARTING LINEUPS: 1970 Roosevelt Rough Riders: 1971 Washington Senators: Chris Ramirez can be E-Mailed at chris.ramirez@regionsports.com.


Front Row (from L to R): Alex Nickla, Josh Berquist, Tom Bardeson,

Zack Lambert, Nick Hanlon, PJ Phelps

Back Row (from L to R): Nick Jeffirs, Braxton Rice, Rade Kukobat,

Noah Burkholder, Bret Barclay


CLINT SWAN

ALEX NICKLA

PJ PHELPS

NOAH BURKHOLDER

TOM BARDESON

BRAXTON RICE

NICK HANLON

NICK JEFFIRS

BRET BARCLAY

JOSH BERQUIST

RADE KUKOBAT

ZACK LAMBERT


THE Clint Swan FILE Date of Birth: April 4, 1973 Teaches: English / Language Arts

EDUCATION High School: Rensselaer 1991 College: Saint Joseph’s College 1995 Degree: Bachelor’s Degree in English FAMILY Clint and his wife, Kimberly, a guidance counselor at Crown Point High School, have one child, Elliot, who is a first grader at Solon Robinson Elementary School. PLAYING CAREER High school: Played basketball at Rensselaer Central College: Played basketball at St. Joseph’s College HIGHLIGHTS As a senior at Rensselaer in 1991 Clint was named All Conference, and led the Bombers to the Regional Championship and a trip to Semi-State; earning All Sectional, All Regional and All SemiState honors in the process. Clint is a member of Rensselaer Central High School’s Hall of Fame. Clint was also a member of St. Joseph’s College 1994 NCAA Division II tournament team. COACHING CAREER Assistant Coach at North Newton 1994-1995 Assistant Coach at Tri-County 1995-1996 Assistant Coach at Andrean 1996-1997 Head Coach at Andrean 1997-1998 to 2000-2001 Head Coach at Frankfort 2001-2002 to 2005-2006 Head Coach at Crown Point 2006-2007 to Present HIGHLIGHTS Clint is in his 16th season as a head coach, and in his seventh at Crown Point. He has a career mark of 223-129 overall and 85-57 with the Bulldogs. When Clint was named coach at Andrean at age 24 in 1997 he was the youngest head coach in the state of Indiana. In his first four years at Andrean his teams amassed 83 wins against a mere 16 defeats. The 59’ers made three Semi-State appearances and reached the state championship game in 2000 where the Niners lost to Indianapolis Brebeuf at Conseco Fieldhouse. In his first three years as a head coach, Clint put together the finest record in the state for that time period except for Marion High School. Clint has coached two Indiana All-Stars and nine Division-I college players. Seven of his former assistant coaches have gone on to become head

BRIAN ELSTON

KYLE HANAWAY

KEVIN THOMAS

MIKE HOLOBAWSKI

JON HASS

BRIAN MALONEY

coaches. In 2008 his Bulldogs won the Michigan City sectional, finishing with a 17-7 record and in 2010-2011 Crown Point went 18-4, winning more games in one season than any Bulldog team had in over 20 years. During his career, Clint’s teams have won four sectional titles, three regionals and one semi-state crown. AWARDS Clint was named the IBCA District 1 Coach of the Year in 2000. Has twice been named NWI Times and Post-Tribune Coach of the Year (1998, 2000) and as coached the 2000 Indiana Junior All-Star Team.


Front Row (from L to R): Manager Isaac Johnson, K.V. Myricks, Michaud Cherry, Jake Raspopovich, Jamards Owens, Darion Williams, B.J. Jenkins, Donte Lockwood, Manager Bradley Brayfield Middle Row (from L to R): Manager Quinton Jones, Breon Hill, Zoran Talley, Devin Taylor, Isaiah Wilson, D.J. Wilkins, Manager Desmond Griffin Back Row (from L to R): Asst. Coach Cliff Huges, Asst. Coach Brian Fogarty, Head Coach TJ Lux, Asst. Coach Bob Owen, Asst. Coach Michael Holden


TJ LUX

JAKE RASPOPOVICH

K.V. MYRICKS

B.J. JENKINS

MICHAUD CHERRY

JAMARDS OWENS

ZORAN TALLEY #54

ISAIAH WILSON

DARION WILLIAMS

JELANI PRUITT

DONTE LOCKWOOD

BREON HILL

JAMES WRIGHT

DEVIN TAYLOR


THE tj lux FILE

Date of Birth: April 29, 1977 Teaches: Math

EDUCATION High School: Merrillville – 1995 College: Northern Illinois – 2000 Degree: Bachelor’s Degree in Math Education Grad School: Two years at Northern Illinois, working towards a Masters Degree in Education Administration FAMILY TJ has been married to his wife Mary for twelve years. TJ and Mary have three sons: AJ 8, Jack 5 and Troy 1. ATHLETIC CAREER High School: Played basketball and tennis at Merrillville College: Played basketball at Northern Illinois. Professional: Played basketball professionally for six years in Germany and France. ATHLETIC HIGHLIGHTS Merrillville: Named All Conference and All State 1995. Named to Indiana All Star team 1995. Named Trester Award winner at 1995 state championship game. Ranked 10th all time in scoring at Merrillville with 874 points. Tallied third highest single season points total (546) and second highest single season field goal percentage (.663) in 1995. Northern Illinois: Ranks 1st all time in career scoring with 1,996 points. Ranks 1st all time in career rebounds with 1,110. Ranks 1st all time in games started with 116. Named 1st team All Mid-American Conference four times. Named Academic All-American three times and Academic All American of the Year in 2000. Inducted into Northern Illinois University Hall of Fame in 2010. Professional: Was a member of Reims, France Pro “B” League championship team and was named league MVP in 2003. Named to France Pro “A” League All Star team and finished 3rd in MVP voting in 2004. Was a member of Dijon, France “Coup de France” championship team in 2006. Named League MVP and was named to the France Pro “A” League All Star team in 2006. Played in the FIBA Europe Cup. COACHING CAREER Volunteer Coach for two years at Merrillville (2000, 2008) Asst. Coach for two years at Merrillville (2009 to 2010) Head Coach at Merrillville for two years (2011 to Present) COACHING HIGHLIGHTS In his 2nd season at Merrillville, TJ has a career record of 28-9. In his first season at the helm, the Pirates captured the class 4A sectional #2 championship. OTHER NOTABLE INFO TJ owns and operates DLux Personal Training in Crown Point.

BRIAN FOGARTY

CLIFF HUGHES

BRADLEY BRAYFIELD DESMOND GRIFFITH

MICHAEL HOLDEN

BOB OWEN

ISAAC JOHNSON

QUINTON JONES


Mike Schlotman – Munster - 6’4 G Committed: William & Mary 28th Ranked Senior in Indiana

Nick Davidson – Andrean - 6’4 G Committed: Valparaiso 29th Ranked Senior in Indiana

Jake Raspopovich – Merrillville - 6’1 G

B.J. Jenkins – Merrillville - 5’10 G Interest: Chicago State 50th Ranked Senior in Indiana

Ryan Taylor- Michigan City - 6’5 G Interest: SIU -Edwardsville, UIC 60th Ranked Senior in Indiana

Charles Cooper - Lew Wallace - 6’3 F Collin Wojick – Andrean - 6’4 G Interest: Rose Hulman (DIII), IU-East Interest: Elmhurst (DIII), Wabash (DIII) 94th Ranked Senior in Indiana 75th Ranked Senior in Indiana

Tom Bardeson - Crown Point - 6’4 F

John Mosser – Valparaiso - 6’6 C Offers: St. Xavier (NAIA), Taylor (NAIA) 105th Ranked Senior in Indiana

Interest: IU-East (NAIA) 96th Ranked Senior in Indiana

Photo Courtesy of Strempkagallery.com

Committed: Texas-Pan Am 88th Ranked Senior in Indiana

Skylar Moss – Andrean - 6’4 F Interest: Wabash (DIII) 109th Ranked Senior in Indiana

Mike Miklusak – Lake Central - 6’5 F Offers: Chicago State, Texas-Pan Am 46th Ranked Senior in Indiana

Levon Hamilton III – Hammond - 5’11 G

Interest: IU-South Bend (NAIA) 118th Ranked Senior in Indiana



Region Sports Illustrated - CP vs. Merrillville