News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Given to Fly

January 6, 2010

'Til It's Over: Magic’s still there for '79 Sycamores

For the former Indiana State players who visited the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame in late November, the weekend was a chance to relive memories with teammates and see Larry Bird’s career with the Sycamores celebrated again.

Bird was enshrined Nov. 22 along with Michigan State’s Magic Johnson and coach Jud Heathcote on the 30th anniversary of the 1979 NCAA championship game.

In addition to supporting Bird, it was a chance for Larry Legend’s former teammates to be fans of the game.

The ISU team that finished 33-1 and was national runner-up to Johnson and the Spartans was well represented in Kansas City.

Bob Heaton of Clay City, Tom Crowder of Cayuga, Bob Ritter and Leroy Staley were in attendence along with ISU coach Bill Hodges and team trainer Rick Shaw.

The chance to talk 30 years later with the charismatic Johnson was a phenomenal experience, Heaton, Crowder and Staley all agreed.

Heaton recalled Johnson embracing a shy autograph-seeking boy during the weekend, and the former Sycamore spoke about getting Magic’s autograph on a Hall of Fame program being a highlight of the trip for him.

“It was fun to finally meet up with Magic and talk with him a little bit,” said Heaton, who is especially known for two game-winning shots during that magical season.

One was a three-quarter court shot at the buzzer of regulation that forced overtime and helped the Sycamores move to 19-0. The second was a left-handed shot in the NCAA Tournament regional final against Arkansas that sent ISU to a 73-71 victory and a berth in the Final Four.

Crowder, a reserve forward, took pleasure in the fact that some things stay the same 30 years later.

“He was typical Larry Bird, cordial but not outgoing,” Crowding said, “unlike Magic Johnson, he was happy to see us as much as anybody.”

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