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You can relive days of Hoosier Hysteria

March 9, 2010
100 Years in 100 Days



by James Glass
The Indianapolis Star
March 6, 2010


Although basketball was invented in Massachusetts, it took root almost immediately in Indiana and over the past 100 years has become a passion that has consumed Hoosiers and made the state the center of hoops hysteria.


At the beginning of the 20th century, every Indiana community was caught up in the fever of developing the best team in the state and raised funds to build a first-class gymnasium or community center where high school boys could hone their skills. The regular season, played between the beginning of November and early March, dominated the lives not only of high school students and teachers but of everyone in the surrounding community. For many years, the culminating moment of each school year came in March, when every town and city held out hope of winning the state championship. Those who advanced through the sectionals, regionals, semistate and to the Final Four became dizzy with excitement and anticipation.

You can experience some of the fascination that Hoosiers feel for high school basketball by visiting the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame in New Castle. The museum is full of the lore from nearly a century of high school basketball -- photos and biographies of the stars and coaches; pictures of the places the teams played; and samples of the uniforms, basketballs, shoes, nets, letter jackets and trophies from famous games.

The Hall of Fame pays tribute to players and coaches who have immortalized basketball in the state. When they leave, visitors know much more about the exploits of John Wooden, Glenn Curtis, Charles "Stretch" Murphy and Tony Hinkle in the early days; Bobby Plump, Ray Craft, Hallie Bryant, Oscar Robertson and Ray Crowe in the 1950s; and Ralph Taylor, George McGinnis, Billy Shepherd and Bill Green in the years since the 1960s.


The schools with the most championships are impressive, such as Franklin, Muncie Central, Anderson, Crispus Attucks and Marion, as well as the tiny schools that beat all odds. In the early years little Wingate in Montgomery County won twice. In 1954, there was the miracle of Milan, a community of 1,150 people, whose team won the state championship and later captured international attention as the model for the 1985 movie "Hoosiers." The museum also celebrates the achievements and victories of girls' teams, who since 1976 have joined the Hoosier passion and competed in their own tournaments.

An indication of the commanding importance of basketball in Indiana may be found in a listing of the largest high school gymnasiums in the United States. Of the top 16, all but one is found in Indiana. The largest such gym is the New Castle Fieldhouse, which was built by local basketball boosters in 1959-60 and seats 9,314. The size of the structure and the volume of sound from spectators magnify the thrill of each game.

Several pre-1950 gymnasiums survive across the state and are cherished by their communities. The 1922 Knightstown Gymnasium, used in the filming of "Hoosiers," has been preserved and is used as a community center and museum. The Glenn Curtis Memorial Gymnasium in Martinsville, constructed in 1923-24, is now used by West Middle Junior High. The Muncie Central Fieldhouse, home of the Bearcats, opened in 1928 and is still in use. Probably the structure most associated with the state tournaments is Hinkle Fieldhouse at Butler University, also built in 1928, where 41 final games have been held.


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