The Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame

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THE INDIANA BASKETBALL HALL OF FAME: 

BASKETBALL’S PAST IS FOREVER ENSHRINED & ON DISPLAY

By Mike May

Honoring, preserving, and promoting the heritage of Indiana high school basketball.  That’s the best way to summarize what’s showcased at the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame – located at One Hall of Fame Court in New Castle, Indiana.  When you walk in the doors of this well-lit, modernized, spacious, two-story, 14,000-square foot complex, get ready for a glimpse back at the yesteryear of basketball in the state of Indiana.  While this facility does honor many of the great college and professional basketball players in Indiana, the main focus at the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame is on the ‘bread & butter’ of basketball in the Hoosier state: boys and girls high school basketball.  Here, you’ll see the memorabilia and memories from the past that have been preserved with pictures, newspaper stories, medals, basketballs, banners, pennants, nets, license plates, pom poms, shoes, and jerseys that symbolize the championship moments in Indiana basketball dating back to the 1890s.  Once you walk into the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame, it won’t take long to realize that high school basketball in Indiana is the real deal – always has been and always will be.

“In 49 other states, it’s just basketball, but this is Indiana,” said Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame Executive Director Chris May.  “The most special thing about the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame is that every person who walks through the doors really wants to be here. Whether it’s a school field trip, a group tour, old teammates reminiscing about their regional run, or a basketball fan who saw one of our billboards while traveling, everyone seems to share the same common interest and passion for basketball.”

If you work at the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame, it helps to have played high school basketball in the Hoosier state.

“I can vouch first-hand that there is no better feeling as a high school athlete than running out of the gymnasium tunnel to the band playing and a full crowd cheering at an Indiana high school basketball game,” said Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame Assistant Executive Director Kayla Kessler, who played in the 3A state basketball final in 2010 for Rushville High School.  “I’m very fortunate to continue being surrounded by the sport that makes Indiana so special while working at the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame.”

Before you enter this building, take time to examine the state of Indiana formation on the outdoor courtyard.  The Indiana creation is made of nearly 7,000 red bricks, each one with the name of a team, coach, player, administrator, sportswriter, or broadcaster who has been a part of “Indiana’s Game.”  Also, the flags flying near the entrance to the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame are symbolic of the high schools which have had recent state championship success in Indiana.

Upon entering the Hall of Fame, you must watch the 17-minute video presentation in the Danielson Theater that summarizes the significance, importance, and long-term impact of high school basketball on life in Indiana.  There are soundbites from Indiana basketball legends such as Oscar Robertson, George McGinnis, Scott Skiles, Larry Bird, Steve Alford, Bobby Plump, Judi Warren, Damon Bailey, and Stephanie White.

“They (the days spent playing high school basketball in Indiana) were the happiest days of my life,” revealed Robertson, as he recalled life back in the 1950s when he lived in Indianapolis and attended Crispus Attucks High School, where he played high school basketball. As a high school student at Crispus Attucks, Robertson – later, nicknamed The Big O – led his high school team to back-to-back state championships in 1955 and 1956.  While at Crispus Attucks, Robertson’s team went 62-1 during his junior and senior years.  Robertson averaged 20.8 points per game in his junior year and 24.8 points per game as a senior.  FYI:  Robertson, of course, later enjoyed hall of fame careers in college at the University of Cincinnati and in the National Basketball Association (NBA) with the Cincinnati Royals and the Milwaukee Bucks.

Bird’s childhood memories of playing basketball in Indiana were rather humble and austere.  The future Indiana State and Boston Celtic hall of famer remembers playing with a rubber basketball and shooting into tin cans in his hometown of French Lick, Indiana.  There is a section of the Hall of Fame where Bird’s career as a member of the Springs Valley High School Blackhawks in French Lick and the Indiana State University Sycamores in Terre Haute is on display.  FYI:  Bird’s number in high school was the same as it was at Indiana State and with the Boston Celtics, 33.

And, in that 17-minute video, you will see highlights of the playing career of Bedford North-Lawrence High School Stars legend Damon Bailey who scored an Indiana high school state record 3,134 points while playing for the Stars.  FYI:  Bailey later starred in basketball at Indiana University in the early 1990s, leading them to one Final Four appearance in his four years as a Hoosier.

After the video, venture onto the main floor of the Hall of Fame.  There, you will see a multitude of banners hanging from the ceiling which honor many state championship squads such as the Muncie Central Bearcats in 1928, the Fort Wayne Central Tigers in 1943, and the East Chicago Roosevelt Rough Riders in 1970, among others. 

The letterman’s jacket worn by Sandy Herre, the 1988 Mini Miss Basketball recipient and the IHSAA’s State Finals Mental Attitude award winner, is worth seeing as it’s decorated with more artwork reflecting her basketball accolades than the panel of an Indianapolis 500 racing car.  FYI:  Sandy wore #44 and played at Benton Central High School and later at the University of Indianapolis.

While roaming around the hall, watch the video dedicated to the Miracle of Milan.  This Miracle took place on March 20, 1954 when tiny Milan High School, a small school in southeast Indiana, with an enrollment of just 160 students, upset Muncie Central in the state championship finale, 32-30.  In that game, which was held at historic Butler Fieldhouse, Milan’s Bobby Plump hit a jump shot from the right elbow of the free throw line with seconds to go to claim the victory.  Many basketball fans would be fascinated to discover that Milan’s key to success in winning that game was implementing the “Cat & Mouse” offense, which is a mirror image of today’s “Four Corners” offense.  FYI:  That championship game in 1954 later provided the foundation for the 1986 movie, Hoosiers.

Make a point of finding the rectangular image of the press row at the Indiana High School Athletic Association’s championship basketball game in 1951 at Butler Fieldhouse.  The media attendance for that game – and probably every championship game in those days — was staggering.  Again, only in Indiana!

And, while walking around the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame, you must pay a visit to the enshrinement hall where each of the inductees into the Hall of Fame are permanently honored and recognized.  You might find the name of an inductee that you know or knew.  I did!

And, if you really love basketball, set aside some time to check out the Jordan Library where you can research the basketball history of more than 1,000 high schools in Indiana.  Some of those high schools are no longer in existence, but they are remembered and preserved in Indiana, if they played basketball.  Videos, featuring game footage from archived games, are also available upon request in the Jordan Library.

Naturally, conclude your visit to the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame with a visit to the gift shop where you can find a souvenir or memento of your trip to the ‘historical archives of Hoosier hysteria.’  

For more details on the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame, check out www.hoopshall.com, call 765-529-1891, or send an email to info@hoopshall.com.  The Hall is open from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm Monday–Saturday.  It’s open on Sundays from 1:00 pm to 5:00 pm from March through November.  It’s closed on Sundays from December through February.  Parking is free and can accommodate buses and large trucks.  The admission charge is $5 for adults and teenagers.  The fee for children aged 5 to 12 is $3.  This facility if completely handicap accessible and wheelchairs are available, if necessary.

So, if you want to see how Indiana high school basketball is honored, preserved, and promoted, then you must make the journey to the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame in New Castle, Indiana.  This destination awaits your arrival.  Remember, in 49 other states, it’s just basketball, but this is Indiana.  Understood!  Can you feel that Hoosier Hysteria running through your body?  I can!!

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Note about the author:  Mike May — who can be reached through www.mikemaymarketing.com — grew up in Seymour, Indiana where he was a loyal fan of the local high school basketball team, the Seymour Owls.  As a young boy, he has vivid memories of two of Seymour’s greatest teams.  The 1969-70 team (25-1) lost its only game of the season in the final of the Evansville Semi-State to the Loogoottee Lions on March 14, 1970, 80-78.  At the time, the heavily favored Owls were ranked #2 in the Indiana state high school basketball poll.  One of the newspaper headlines the following day said “Loogoo-Who? Ends Owls Dreams 80-78.”  The 1970-71 Owls lost a heartbreaker in the final of the Seymour Regional in March of 1971 to the Floyd Central Highlanders.  In that game, which was temporarily postponed at the beginning of the fourth quarter because of a bomb scare call/alert into the Seymour Fieldhouse, the Owls led by 17 points with 6:50 remaining in the fourth quarter.  But, the Highlanders scored a then-state record 41 points in the fourth quarter to prevail, 93-86.  By the way, no bomb was ever found in the Seymour Fieldhouse on that Saturday night.  The building remains standing to this day.  Mike remains a passionate basketball fan, has coached girls high school basketball in Florida, and continues to play the game of basketball at every opportunity.

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Mike May is a freelance golf writer based in Wellington, Florida. Mike, an avid golfer, is also a member of the Golf Writers Association of America. He traces his roots as a golf writer to the 1983 British Open Championship at Royal Birkdale -- which he attended for all four days -- and then voluntarily wrote his own account of that major championship event. In addition to being a golf writer, Mike coaches girls high school basketball, officiates high school soccer, and works with a cause (PHIT America) that is focused on bringing daily P.E. back to all U.S. schools. Mike is a 1985 graduate of the University of Florida where he earned a degree in broadcasting. Mike can be reached on email at: mmaymarketing@gmail.com