I’m ashamed. So, so ashamed. In the history of my life, I’ve never stepped foot in the place that should be near and dear to all Hoosiers’ hearts (and of importance to someone who writes about sports for a living): The Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame.
The hoops shrine opened in New Castle on June 30, 1990. Dan Quayle was on hand to mark the ceremony, but the vice president was later one-upped (political persuasion notwithstanding) by a man who would become president. Then-Sen. Barack Obama, an unabashed sports fan, stumped at the Hall in 2008 on his way to carrying Indiana in the November election.
Over the years, John Wooden, Dick Vitale and all manner of basketball dignitaries have showed their respects to the building that houses well over a century’s worth of hardwood history.
Alas, non-dignitary Brian Harmon hasn’t made the time.
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As the Hall of Fame nears its 25th anniversary, I can’t begin to count the number of times I’ve driven by the place. To make matters worse, I’m actually from New Castle. In addition to family visits, an endless amount of basketball contests, football games and wrestling semistates have taken me directly past the Hall, often ending up at the world’s largest high school gymnasium — the New Castle Fieldhouse on the north side of Trojan Lane.
I have no excuse for not taking the time to pop in, although I’ve never had occasion to visit the Hall for professional reasons. A surprisingly low number of Hancock County players and coaches are enshrined, and I’ve yet to have the pleasure to cover a local legend during an induction ceremony.
Mike Edwards, the state’s 10th all-time leading scorer and 1969 Greenfield High grad, is in the Hall. So is former Butler standout “Shorty” Burdsall, who later coached at Eden High in Greenfield. Dick Harmening, a 1954 Greenfield High alum, earned induction after a distinguished coaching career that included stops at Franklin and Center Grove. Larry Angle enjoyed a Hall of Fame coaching trek that took him through Greenfield-Central.
Sisters Barb Skinner and Liz Skinner, former Indiana All-Stars out of Mt. Vernon who starred at Butler, are local women’s Hall of Fame honorees.
There are probably a few other folks with Hancock County connections that I’m overlooking, but I doubt many.
Current Lapel coach Jimmie Howell, once at Mt. Vernon, is a likely future Hall of Famer. The same with Julie Shelton, Butler women’s all-time leading scorer and a state championship coach at Mt. Vernon before heading back to Butler as an assistant. (Shelton was honored as part of the Hall’s 2014 Silver Anniversary Team, which is different than enshrinement). Maybe Shelton will allow me to speak during her induction ceremony one day. I have a few Tales from Outside the Locker Room I’d like to share.
Kevin Horrigan, recently retired Greenfield-Central athletics director and current director of the Indiana Boys Basketball State Championship Tournament, also deserves a spot in the Hall for his longtime service to the sport.
Even with a dearth of Hancock County Hall of Famers, various local basketball moments can be found on display in multiple areas of the Hall, I’m told.
On Feb. 14, 2012, Eastern Hancock’s Victor Vincz scored 52 points against Alexandria, whose own star, Mitch Yeagy, registered 51 points in the same game. Memorabilia, press clippings and so forth from that game have been exhibited at the Hall. And, an old pedal plane from the Eden Flyers is among the most commented-on artifacts, according to Chris May, the Hall’s executive director.
It’s time I experience this basketball goodness for myself. This week, as I have done time after time, I’ll be in New Castle for a basketball sectional featuring Greenfield-Central and Mt. Vernon. Instead of heading straight to the fieldhouse, or straight home after the game, I’m going to make a long overdue visit to the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame.
I can feel the shame and guilt drifting away already.
In honor of the upcoming 25th anniversary of the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame’s opening in New Castle, here are 25 facts about the shrine to Hoosier hoops:
1. The 25th anniversary of the grand opening is June 30, 2015.
2. By that date, the HOF will be approaching 285,000 visitors
3. The HOF has had visitors from all 92 Indiana counties, all 50 United States and 64 foreign countries.
4. Dan Quayle was acting Vice President of U.S. when he participated in the Grand Opening ceremony.
5. Vincennes Lincoln and Butler University standout Orvis “Shorty” Burdsall is among HOF inductees with a Hancock County connection. Burdsall coached at Eden High School, where he went 32-11 in two seasons (1952-53, 1953-54). Eden later consolidated into what today is Greenfield-Central.
6. HOF admission is $5 for adults and teens; $3 for children ages 5-12.
7. One of most unique items on display is the pedal plane from the Eden Flyers, that generates plenty of attention and discussion among visitors.
8. Then-Senator Barack Obama visited the HOF during his 2008 presidential campaign.
9. The Hall has had numerous basketball dignitaries visit, including John Wooden and Dick Vitale.
10. Another Hancock County HOF inductee is Mike Edwards, a Greenfield High grad, Indiana All-Star and University of Tennessee Hall of Famer.
11. The HOF’s John Jordan library is often overlooked or unknown to visitors, but it contains archives of information on most of Indiana’s over 1,200 high schools from the 1890s to today, as well as all HOF inductees, all of the state champion teams, Indiana-Kentucky All-Star history, and a plethora of books written about Indiana basketball and its history.
12. The HOF courtyard, designed in the outline of the state of Indiana, contains 6,000 bricks engraved with the names of basketball legends, fans, and supporters – and bricks are still available to be purchased to have your name engraved on them.
13. Among HOF’s memorabilia is a basketball used in 1910 by Beaver Dam High School. It is the oldest basketball known to exist in Indiana.
14. The HOF is open Monday through Saturday (10 a.m. to 5 p.m.) and Sundays (1 to 5 p.m.).
15. Museum has featured, permanent exhibits on legends including John Wooden, Oscar Robertson, Larry Bird and the 1954 Milan Indians.
16. Players become eligible for HOF induction 26 years after he/she has played high school basketball.
17. Coaches are eligible after accumulating 25 years of varsity experience or 10 years after retirement from high school coaching.
18. While anyone can nominate an individual to the HOF, a state-wide board of directors composed of coaches, journalists, administrators, and businessmen oversees the selection process, each year appointing a selection committee representing all parts of the state.
19. Until recently taking a leave, 1957 Greenfield graduate and Butler University Hall of Famer Gordy Pope was a member of the HOF board.
20. Current exhibits feature the 60th anniversary of Crispus Attucks’ 1955 state champion team that broke numerous barriers and records, and the 25th anniversary of the 1990 State Finals (won by Bedford North Lawrence) that set the world record for attendance at a high school basketball game. The March 24, 1990, attendance of 41,046 remains a world record.
21. The HOF is located next to New Castle High School which boasts the world’s largest high school fieldhouse with a capacity of 9,325.
22. The HOF has hosted the City Securities Hall of Fame Classic each year since 1990 at the New Castle fieldhouse. The Mt. Vernon boys basketball team won the event in the 2009-10 season.
23. The Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame Foundation, Inc. is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization. The operation of the Hall of Fame is dependent upon attendance, gift shop sales, funds generated through activities and events, gifts and donations.
24. All HOF inductees can be viewed online at hoopshall.com.
25. Included in the the 14,000 square foot museum are a number of interactive exhibits that will bring you closer to the action of Indiana high school basketball.
Source: Chris May, Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame executive director.
For more information, call 765-529-1891 or visit the HOF online at hoopshall.com.