More than 50 years ago, two young men who someday would rank among Indiana’s greatest basketball legends crossed paths at Butler Fieldhouse.
On one side was senior Bobby Plump of the small-town Milan Indians. On the other stood sophomore sensation Oscar Robertson of powerhouse Indianapolis Crispus Attucks. It was 1954 and a trip to the state semifinals awaited the winner.
Attucks led early, but Milan pulled ahead and played keepaway in the second half to win 65-52. As Plump recalls, he scored 28 points. Robertson, who became one of the NBA’s all-time greats, scored 22.
“I keep telling Oscar he has to respect me,” Plump said with a laugh during an interview with The Associated Press. “I don’t refer to the fact that I was a senior and he was a sophomore.”
Added Plump: “I think he was the best player I ever saw.”
Two games later, Plump hit the shot of his life in the closing seconds of the state final against another big-school power, Muncie Central. With time winding down, Plump drove from near the midcourt circle, then cut to his right and pulled up from about 15 feet. The shot was good, Milan won 32-30, and a David-vs.-Goliath story that has survived generations emerged.
The story, and that final shot, inspired the 1986 movie, “Hoosiers.” Smooth-shooting Jimmy Chitwood from the film? That’s Plump.
“Everybody in Indiana was familiar with what happened in 1954 because they kind of lived through that thing, or they heard tales passed down,” said Plump, now 73. “It used to be I’d meet people and they’d say, ‘I saw that game.’ Now people say ’My grandfather told me about that game.”’
As for Robertson, the loss to Milan marked the last time he lost a state tournament game. The next year, he led the first all-black team in the nation to a state championship. He followed it up by leading Attucks to the first unbeaten state championship season in state history in 1956.
Plump and Robertson, perhaps more than any other two players in state history, inspired Indiana boys — black and white, city and country — to dream of playing in the state tournament. In honor of the 100th state tournament, which will conclude on Saturday at Conseco Fieldhouse, The Associated Press compiled an Indiana All-Century team. The 26 players — a set of twins has been included as a single entry — were chosen with input from a panel of experts who have been involved with basketball in the state for at least 20 years.
Larry Bird, an all-century pick who averaged 30.6 points and 20.6 rebounds per game as a senior at Springs Valley in 1974, said the memories of pursuing a state title live long after the dribbling stops.
“If you go around the state, most guys played basketball on some level,” he said. “When I see a lot of my friends who played in high school but didn’t get to play in college, that’s all they talk about. They remember the coaches, they remember the cheerleaders, they remember the scores of games, and that’s their life.”
The members of the team, in alphabetical order, are:
Steve Alford, New Castle; Damon Bailey, Bedford North Lawrence; Kent Benson, New Castle; Larry Bird, Springs Valley; Hallie Bryant, Indianapolis Crispus Attucks; Mike Conley, Lawrence North; Bill Garrett, Shelbyville; Terry Dischinger, Terre Haute Garfield; Eric Gordon, Indianapolis North Central; Billy Keller, Indianapolis Washington; Clyde Lovellette, Terre Haute Garfield; George McGinnis, Indianapolis Washington; Rick Mount, Lebanon; Greg Oden, Lawrence North; Bobby Plump, Milan; Zach Randolph, Marion; Jimmy Rayl, Kokomo; Oscar Robertson, Indianapolis Crispus Attucks; Glenn Robinson, Gary Roosevelt; Scott Skiles, Plymouth; Homer Stonebraker, Wingate; Deshaun Thomas, Ft. Wayne Luers; Tom and Dick Van Arsdale, Indianapolis Manual; John Wooden, Martinsville; Robert “Fuzzy” Vandivier, Franklin.
Gene Keady, who recruited the state for 25 years as Purdue’s head coach, offered a list of all-time greats. Later in the conversation, he realized he had skipped a few.
“You start forgetting many of these guys,” he said. “That’s easy to do in Indiana. It’s amazing how many players come out of Indiana, per capita. The state has the best players in the history of the game.”
The state held onto one-class basketball until 1997, something that traditionalists say made the state tournament unique.
“I think it was special,” Keady said. “Everybody in the world knew about Indiana’s one-class basketball system.”
Former Pacers coach Bobby “Slick” Leonard, who played high school basketball at Terre Haute Gerstmeyer but was better known for his success at Indiana University, said towns often were identified by their high school basketball teams.
“When I was in high school, there were 714 teams in the state tournament,” the 77-year-old Leonard said. “That’s before a lot of consolidation. And there’s a lot of schools that had 20 kids in the graduating class, and everybody played.”
Leonard remembers listening to state tournament games on the radio in the 1940s, and what the atmosphere was like in Terre Haute and the surrounding towns as state approached.
“All those little towns, those gyms were packed on Friday night,” he said. “When it got to state tournament time, they closed the barber shops, the drug stores and everything else, and everybody headed to the basketball game.”
The special moments, like Milan’s victory, stand out. Keady mentioned Luke Zeller’s buzzer-beater just inside halfcourt that gave Washington an overtime win over Plymouth in the 2005 Class 3A final.
Warsaw coach Doug Ogle recalled watching Bailey play in front of 40,000 at the Hoosier Dome in 1990.
“I remember being way, way up, not being able to see very well, but you just felt it was kind of neat to be there as part of it,” he said.
Now, eight teams on Saturday pursue the same dream that Hoosiers have been chasing for 100 years. That isn’t lost on Ogle, whose Tigers will play Indianapolis North Central for the Class 4A title.
“If you love Indiana high school basketball, how can it not add to the excitement, being part of the 100th boys basketball tournament?” he said. “It’s important. I think it’s going to be meaningful to all four champions on Saturday because I think people are going to remember the 100th. I just think it will stick in their minds a little bit more.”
More than 50 years ago, two young men who someday would rank among Indiana’s greatest basketball legends crossed paths at Butler Fieldhouse.
- High School
Terre Haute track and field athletes shine at Patriot Invitational
The Terre Haute North and Brown County girls and boys came out winners Saturday in the Patriot Invitational Track and Field Meet at Terre Haute North High School.
Prep roundup: North girls tennis beats ranked teams
Terre Haute North knocked off two state-ranked teams — No. 12 Fort Wayne Canterbury and No. 13 Delta — on its way to capturing the Delta Invitational championship for girls high school tennis Saturday.
Herrin's pitching effort leads South to win over Northview
When two good high school baseball teams get together, each using one of its better pitchers, the margin for error figures to be slim, and some defensive plays that weren’t made were the difference Friday evening as Terre Haute South beat Northview 7-1.
Stout home run sparks South softball at Sullivan
Terre Haute South junior Mariah Stout made her father proud and helped her team win its eighth game of the season at the same time Friday evening.
With the previously flat-looking Braves trailing host Sullivan 1-0 with two outs and nobody on base in the top of the second inning, Stout woke up her dugout mates by hammering a McKenzie Pirtle pitch over the fence in left-center field for a score-tying home run.
Terre Haute North baseball cruises past Warren Central
Terre Haute North swept a high school baseball doubleheader against Warren Central on Friday night by scores of 14-1 and 10-4.
PREP ROUNDUP: Sollars, Morrison lead West Vigo softball to win
Kaitlyn Sollars had a double, triple and four runs batted in and winning pitcher Leah Morrison contributed a pair of triples and a double to lead visiting West Vigo over Riverton Parke 14-1 in high school softball.
West Vigo baseball wins in rout
When Brandin Behringer drove in his first run Thursday evening, it gave West Vigo a short-lived lead in nonconference high school baseball.
The remainder of the Viking senior’s RBIs came four at a time in the bottom of the fourth inning, his grand-slam homer capping the second of consecutive seven-run innings that sent his team to a 15-3 win over visiting North Vermillion.
Prep roundup: Vikings get big hits to beat North Vermillion on softball diamond
The West Vigo softball team improved to 4-3 for the season with an 11-4 victory over North Vermillion on Thursday.
Leah Morrison busted the game open with a three-run double in the Vikings’ seven-run fourth inning.
Kenzie Little chipped in with a two-run triple in the sixth and Hannah Harden tossed a complete-game for the pitching win.
Prep baseball: Northview beats top-ranked Shakamak
Damon Bass pitched a three-hit shutout and struck out seven to lead Northview to a 7-0 high school baseball victory over Shakamak.
The visiting Knights blew open a tight game against Class A’s top-ranked team with a four-run seventh inning.
Austin Butts and Jake Harden combined for six hits for Northview.
PREP ROUNDUP: North girls tennis wins 5-0 at Plainfield
Terre Haute North’s girls tennis team swept its opening match of the high school season as it defeated Plainfield 5-0 on Wednesday.
AMEY TAKES AIM: Loss of Coach Bennett leaves hole in Marshall
My email box is a little less busy now, and there’ll be a familiar face missing on basketball trips to Marshall in the future.
Roncalli fights past North Central in extra innings on way to Braves Bash title
Roncalli became a three-time Gold Bracket champion of the sixth annual Braves Bash high school softball tournament at Terre Haute’s Miss Softball America complex Saturday night by defeating Evansville Mater Dei 7-1 in the title game.
The 12-team round-robin tournament, which started Friday evening with three pools, and concluded with bracket championships Saturday night.
Sullivan enjoys record golf day at Northview Invitational
Sullivan and No. 1 player Nathan Pirtle were top finishers in the Northview Invitational for high school boys golf teams played Saturday at Forest Park.
TH North loses to McCutcheon, beats Harrison (West Lafayette)
Terre Haute North bounced back from a big loss to host McCutcheon to defeat Harrison (West Lafayette) in a pair of high school baseball games Saturday.
The Mavericks defeated the Patriots 17-7 early Saturday, but North beat the Raiders 9-4 later in the day.
West Vigo baseball drops first two in Center Grove Classic
West Vigo hammered the baseball all over the field and had a double-digit lead through three innings early in the week at Seeger before rain washed it out short of a complete game.
TH South sweeps MIC baseball doubleheader
Justin Jenkins and Timmy Herrin led visiting Terre Haute South to a sweep of a Metropolitan Interscholastic Conference high school baseball doubleheader Saturday at Indianapolis North Central.
Opening their final MIC season, the Braves won the opener 9-6 and the nightcap 8-6.
Braves Softball Bash a 'premier' early-season tournament
The Braves Softball Bash has grown to 12 schools in 2014, with high school teams looking to gauge their early-season progress against quality competition.
The host Braves have put together a solid 3-1 start that includes a doubleheader sweep of Casey, Ill., a newcomer to the field along with West Vigo.
Golf season gets going Saturday with Northview Invitational
Most high school boys golf teams in the area will get the season started Saturday in the Northview Invitational at Forest Park.
New players will be in the lineups for many of the teams. Sullivan and Greencastle are the leaders in returning players.
PREP ROUNDUP: Allen homers in North softball win
Jazmine Allen had her first home run of the season and she and Conner Nelson combined for five hits and four RBIs as Terre Haute North defeated Sullivan 8-1 on Thursday in nonconference high school softball.
PREP ROUNDUP: South offense leads Braves to dominant win over Lincoln
Justin Jenkins had three hits and Jacob Johnson and Zach Donnelly drove in four runs apiece as Terre Haute South rolled to a 15-2 high school baseball victory Wednesday at Vincennes Lincoln.
Terre Haute North tops Sullivan, falls to Class A No. 1 Shakamak
Class A No. 1-ranked Shakamak got a big pitching performance and big hits from Braxton and Brett Yeryar Tuesday night while beating Terre Haute North 5-2 at Don Jennings Field.
Prep roundup: West Vigo softball wins in 4 1/2 innings
Charity Lane, Shelby Edington, Baylee Waters and Leah Morrison each had two hits and Lane knocked in three runs to lead West Vigo past visiting Turkey Run 13-2 in a run-rule high school softball game that went 4 1/2 innings Tuesday.
Terre Haute South cruises to Braves Bash title
Terre Haute South knew it had a deep pitching staff going into the 11th annual Braves Bash baseball tournament and that proved to be true. But the Braves’ offense surprised everyone but the players Saturday as South won two 10-run-rule games en route to the championship.
South defeated Mount Vernon 10-0 Saturday morning and capped the championship with a 14-4, come-from-behind victory over Munster in the finale.
PREP ROUNDUP: Collett homers as North splits doubleheader
Sophomore T.J. Collett hit a solo home run in the top of the seventh inning in the first game of a doubleheader as Terre Haute North opened its high school baseball season with a 9-3 victory over host Hamilton Southeastern on Saturday.
The Patriots lost the nightcap 6-0 after three first-inning errors led to three unearned runs.
Metro sports: Locks of Love tournament today at Memorial Stadium
The Indiana State Women’s Soccer team will host its annual Locks of Love tournament today. The 4th annual event will begin at 9 a.m. at Memorial Stadium.
PREP TRACK PREVIEW: Raetz, Holman among new coaches
Two new coaches are in charge among the eight Vigo County and Northview high school track teams in 2014, although one of them isn’t really that new.
Mark Raetz has taken over the Northview boys for Chad Smith, who is battling an illness. Raetz formerly headed the Terre Haute South boys program for two seasons.
Metro sports: ISU blanks Austin Peay in 6-plus innings
Indiana State’s baseball team posted another mid-week victory Wednesday night as four pitchers combined to throw a three-hit shutout and lead a 3-0 victory over Austin Peay State at Bob Warn Field.
Season preview: Vigo County, Northview baseball teams ready to roll
To no one’s surprise, Wabash Valley baseball fans don’t have to leave Vigo County — although they certainly could, as described later in this article — to find talented baseball players on the high school diamond this spring.
Terre Haute North has a quartet of .300 hitters returning — Zach Milam, Jonathan Eilbracht, Nathan Will and Lane Dransfield — in addition to super sophomore T.J. Collett, who led the Patriots with a team-best 50 runs batted in for the 24-7 Patriots last season. Collett hit .424 with six doubles, two triples and nine home runs as a freshman.
PREP ROUNDUP: Marlow's 10 RBI leads Braves' softball at Casey
Terre Haute South’s Kelsey Marlow had 10 runs-batted-in during a doubleheader sweep at Casey.
Metro sports: ISU’s Stone, Riemenschneider honored by MVC
Indiana State junior Megan Stone and freshman Brooke Riemenschneider each earned Missouri Valley Conference Athlete of the Week honors, according to an announcement from the league office Monday.
- More High School Headlines
- Terre Haute track and field athletes shine at Patriot Invitational