In the Long run: Nobody does basketball like Indiana…nobody

March is here, which means one thing and one thing only for basketball fans: March madness! But I’m not talking about the tournament hosted by the NCAA. This is Indiana, the only place in this country where high school basketball trumps everything, and it’s beautiful.

This is something I’ve always known in the back of my head, but a video circling the internet of a high school game in New Castle has recently reminded me how great basketball is in this state.

On March 1, the New Castle Trojans took on Hamilton Heights in the sectional semifinal in their home gym, which is like the Sagrada Familia of high school gyms. With over 10,000 people in attendance, the two 3A teams duked it out in one of the world’s largest high school gyms. I get chills thinking about it.

This event drew the attention from big sports media pages like Barstool Sports, House of Highlight and big names in sports like CBS Sports’s lead college basketball analyst Clark Kellogg.

He took to Twitter with his reaction and said, “Everywhere else it’s just basketball… But THIS is INDIANA!”

I couldn’t agree with this any more. High school basketball is an unstoppable force in this state, and something that makes it so great is its history, which is something I never knew about until I decided to do some research.

According to an article in the IndyStar, Nicholas McCay was responsible for organizing the first game of basketball in Crawfordsville, Indiana in 1893. McCay nailed two metal rings to the wall and attached a burlap coffee sack to them for goals instead of peach baskets that the original creator of basketball, Dr. James Naismith, used. From there, with about 300 people watching, Indiana basketball was born.

According to the article, basketball was the perfect fit for Indiana. Baseball never really grabbed Hoosiers’ interests, and football was hard to make work in Indiana schools because of how spread out and isolated people were due to Indiana’s agricultural roots. With students living on farms that were miles apart, getting an entire football team together and funding it was difficult. In fact, the secretary of the Indiana High School Athletic Association in 1912, Isaac Neff, claimed that football was dead in Indiana because only 20 of the 250 schools had a team. It was easy to find five people to form a basketball team and a whole lot cheaper than other sports, so it spread through Indiana like a wildfire.

Since then, Indiana has produced cathedrals of high school basketball gyms. Of the 14 largest gyms in the U.S., an insane 12 of them are in Indiana (SHS is on the list at number 11). To fill these giant gyms, Indiana also produces some serious hoopers. In a U.S. high school basketball ranking released by MaxPreps in January, the La Lumiere Lakers of La Porte, Indiana took the crown at first while Warren Central, which is in our own backyard, was listed as the 10th best team in the nation.

Indiana will always appreciate anything that has basketball roots here, from NBA legends like Larry Bird to famous coaches like Bob Knight to hometown hoops heroes like Gordon Hayward and Damon Bailey and even in famous films like “Hoosiers.”

Over the course of time, a lot has changed about basketball and Indiana, but Hoosiers’ relationship with the game has stayed the same. Basketball was a perfect game for the kids trapped in a sea of corn in the past but has now been able to touch the hearts of young inner-city Hoosiers as well. I’m honored to have gotten to play in this state because nobody, and I mean nobody, does basketball like Indiana.