FORTVILLE — Trying to pinpoint exactly how many times Michael Ertel has watched the movie “Hoosiers” was like asking how many breaths he took in an hour.
Maybe 10. Probably at least a dozen. Undeniably more.
“I don’t even know,” Ertel responded after a brief pause. “It’s timeless. I’ve seen it a lot.”
Oddly enough, for as many moments Ertel has lost himself in the classic 1986 film, the Mt. Vernon graduate has only lived vicariously, never bouncing basketball to hardwood inside Knightstown’s Historic Hoosier Gym.
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That all changes tonight, as he suits up for the fabled Hickory Huskers in the 12th annual Hoosiers’ Reunion All-Star Classic.
“I’ve never been to Knightstown in that gym before, so I’m excited to put on that Hickory uniform. Everybody watches that movie growing up. To kind of live it out is pretty cool,” Ertel said.
One of three Hancock County hoop stars invited to participate in the all-star doubleheader tradition, Greenfield-Central’s Madison Wise and Katie Helgason will join Ertel as the trio aims to put on a show in front of an intimate capacity crowd of approximately 665.
The girls game opens the night at 6 p.m. with the boys game to follow at 8 p.m. as the Huskers run the floor against their archrival Terhune Tigers.
Helgason, a Ball State signee, and Wise, like Ertel, will represent the Huskers along with Mt. Vernon basketball coach Travis Daugherty, who will lead the Hickory boys.
For both Wise and Ertel however, tonight’s event kicks off a busy few weeks with the twosome embarking on their four-game Indiana All-Star tour, beginning with an exhibition against the Indiana Junior All-Stars on Tuesday.
“You only get to play so much with these guys before everyone goes off to college, so to play in another cool all-star game with these guys and to run up and down is going to be fun,” Ertel said.
Wise, a 6-foot-1 forward and an Iowa State recruit, was third in this year’s Indiana Miss Basketball voting. Only the fifth player in girls basketball state history to surpass 2,000 points and 1,000 rebounds in her career, Wise averaged 23.5 points, 10.1 rebounds and 3.1 assists per game as a senior.
The unanimous Hancock County Player of the Year finished her career with the county’s girls basketball scoring record at 2,109 points and is only the third girls basketball player in Greenfield-Central history to be chosen as an Indiana All-Star. She is the first since Janet Meeker in 1989.
Indiana Miss Basketball Karissa McLaughlin of Homestead will team with Wise on the Huskers, along with fellow Indiana All-Stars Nicole Konieczny (South Bend St. Joseph) and Ajanae Thomas (North Central).
Ertel will get court time alongside Indiana All-Stars Jaylen Butz (Fort Wayne North) and Cooper Neese (Cloverdale).
Teams will gather for a short practice inside the gym this afternoon before a pregame dinner and then will take the floor shortly afterward. While limited preparation would trouble some, Ertel isn’t concerned.
“(Tonight), I want to have fun and take in the moment,” Ertel said. “But during the (Indiana) All-Star week, I want to show everybody how good of a player I am. There will be a lot of people watching, so I want to showcase my abilities and really beat Kentucky twice and the juniors twice. It’s about playing well while also winning.”
Daugherty knows precisely how talented Ertel is and expects his former point guard to thrive in tonight’s up-tempo contest.
“He’s proven over the course of the last few years that he’s in that elite class of players in 2017,” Daugherty said.
Ertel averaged 19.8 points, 3.8 rebounds, 1.3 steals and 3.5 assists a game as a senior for the Marauders. He scored a career 1,282 points to rank second in school history and led the team to a 14-9 record in 2016-17.
A University of Louisiana-Monroe recruit, Ertel is the first player from the Mt. Vernon boys basketball program elected as an Indiana All-Star since Daniel Turner in 2010.
In his four years at Mt. Vernon, Ertel, Daugherty and the Marauders won 54 games. The Hancock County Player of the Year would like to reach No. 55 with his former coach.
“I was kind of surprised when he told me he was going to be coaching, so I’m definitely excited about it,” Ertel said. “I’m sure Coach won’t put in too many complicated plays. It’s going to be more about pushing the ball and shooting it. But if it gets late and it gets tight, I’m sure we’ll be running some strategy he’ll throw in.”
Daugherty was contacted to participate in the Hoosier Reunion All-Star Classic this spring, and he jumped at the chance. An avid fan of the movie and a former Indiana Junior All-Stars assistant coach in his time with Tipton, he’s anxious to soak up the atmosphere.
“It’s a unique opportunity to be around players of that caliber and obviously, selfishly, I’m most excited about being able to coach Mike again,” Daugherty said. “I’d be a waterboy for that game. Just to have a chance to be there in the gym and be around players at that level.”
The anticipation isn’t reserved for just the players and coaches, Daugherty said. The coach plans to bring his sons Aden, 10, and Owen, 8, along for the ride to see the game, which will make the night even more special.
“I’ve actually never attended this game,” Daugherty said. “I’ve been in that gym a handful of times, and with the history of the gym, the movie and all of that, it’s such a unique venue to begin with, even when you’re by yourself. Now you throw in some of the best players in the state in a pick-up all-star game in a packed house. It doesn’t get much better than that.”
2017 Hoosiers’ Reunion Classic
HICKORY HUSKER BOYS
Coach: Travis Daugherty, Mt. Vernon
Jalen Adaway, Logansport;6-4;Forward;Miami of Ohio
Mark Albers, Pendleton Heights;6-4;Wing;Marian
Jaylen Butz, Fort Wayne North;6-10;Forward;DePaul
Michael Ertel, Mt. Vernon;6-2;Guard;Louisiana Monroe
Hunter Ferris, Cambridge City Lincoln;6-5;Forward;IU-East (Student)
David Froedge, New Castle;6-0;Guard;Prep School
Datrion Harper, Ben Davis;6-0;Guard;IU-East
Matt Jennings, Logansport;6-0;Guard;Grace
Cooper Neese, Cloverdale;6-4;Guard;Butler
JonRoss Richardson, Lapel;6-6;Wing;Rollins
Tyler Smith, Northeastern;6-1;Guard;Florida Southern
Courvoisier McCauley, Indianapolis Manual;6-4;Forward;Prep School
HICKORY HUSKER GIRLS
Coach: Corie West, New Castle
Katrina Christian, Crothersville;5-7;Guard;Eastern Illinois
Taylor Drury, Eastern (Pekin);5-10;Forward;Indianapolis
Katie Helgason, Greenfield-Central;5-7;Guard;Ball State
Keyla Hines, Franklin Central;5-4;Guard;Belmont Abbey
Kaitlyn Howe, Rushville;5-3;Guard;Lincoln Trail
Brooke James, Princeton;6-0;Forward;Wabash Valley
Nicole Konieczny, South Bend St. Joe;5-7;Guard;Valparaiso
Karissa McLaughlin, Homestead;5-8;Guard;Purdue
Olivia Porter, New Castle;5-8;Wing;Ball State (Student)
Anne Secrest, Tippecanoe Valley;6-0;Center;Youngstown State
Ajanae Thomas, North Central;5-10;Forward;Indiana State
Madison Wise, Greenfield-Central;6-1;Forward;Iowa State