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High School hoops really are better in Indiana

Posted Monday, December 14, 2009, at 7:15 PM

As you probably know by now, the draw for the 2010 Greene County Invitational was conducted Wednesday afternoon.

While that in itself is no major breaking story, it does remind me of how much we as sports fans in this area -- and in the state of Indiana -- take for granted our high school basketball.

As a part of my career I've had the opportunity to cover high school hoops in two states. And let me tell you there's a big difference in how it's accepted, appreciated and assessed.

Not so many years ago, I had the opportunity to work at a daily newspaper in a suburb of Atlanta, Ga.

The area had a plenty of high schools, just like we have here in our readership. There were about six or eight schools as I recall and for the most part they were classed in two or three different classes.

While that might be good fodder for another day, the point of this column is to let you know how special, unique and well-respected Indiana high school basketball fans are in other places.

When I first met one of the coaches involved, I happened to mention where I was from and what my previous newspaper work had entailed.

We immediately began having a long-winded conversation about the significant differences between the styles and personnel involved in basketball in the two states.

He explained to me that high school basketball players in both states were usually some of the best athletes in the school and that they were usually able to master the fundamentals within reasonable time.

But that was where the similarities on the court ended.

He implied that he could take a team from the area, come to Indiana and easily defeat any team his squad was put up against.

While we hashed that one out for about 30 minutes, finally coming to an agreement that we would have to agree to disagree, he did concede one point -- that he wished his fans were half as adamant as any fan of his team or school.

He relayed to me how zealous and joyous and celebrated the fans of the Hoosier State were compared to the fans in the Peach State when it came to high school hoops.

He knew, mostly by reputation, that fans here would spend a great deal of effort and time supporting their teams, win or lose.

He also knew they were some of the most knowledgeable and intelligent basketball fans in the country.

He went on to say that if he were ever given the chance, he would like to come to Indiana, watch a game and see them for himself.

Well, I don't know if he ever managed to do that. But I'm sure if he did, and he happened to come to Southern Indiana, that he wouldn't be disappointed with he witnessed.

As I spent my nights covering high school basketball, I almost immediately began to understand where the coach coming from.

The games that I were assigned to me were fast-paced, almost like a pickup game in a school yard. The players were for the most part, selfish with the basketball and didn't spend a great deal of time looking for an open teammate.

Instead of the controlled and strategic game that we are accustomed to here, I witnessed a game just short of controlled chaos on the court.

It was run-and-gun in much the same manner as might have made Jerry Tarkanian smile years ago. And besides that, it gave me a headache sometimes trying to keep up with who was scoring and when.

After I witnessed my first game there, I sat back and realized how as basketball fans, we have it pretty good here in Indiana.

For the most part, we don't have one dominant player taking all the credit and doing the majority of the scoring, if the team is reasonably good.

We don't have coaches yelling at the top of their lungs to try and encourage his team to play defense, set picks and generally be a fundamentally sound basketball team as a rule.

Sometimes we do have the above mentioned, but not for the same reasons. Most of the time it's because a player or players didn't understand the concept that was trying to be used, or they misunderstood a set play.

In the case of the games in Atlanta, it was just simply out of what I considered to be disrespect for the game, the coaches and the basics of the game.

When you have players who grab a rebound, dash to the other end of the court and either dunk it, try a lay up or a quick pull up jumper against an almost non-existent defense, it really takes something away from the game.

Defense in that area meant that you got back to the other end of the floor to admire the lay up or dunk that your opponent was attempting.

Defense in that area meant that you weren't the one who still standing at the half-court line hoping for a loose ball so you can run to the other end and show off on the next possession.

I guess in closing I'd just like to say to our fans, players and coaches keep doing what you're doing and don't ever get caught up in yourselves.

Instead, enjoy the game as we play it here and don't ever take for granted that it's the same everywhere.

Rick Curl is a sports writer for the Greene County Daily World. He can be reached at (812) 847-4487 ext. 20 or via E-mail at rcurl@gcdailyworld.com.

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As a resident of the great city of Atlanta, I'll have to admit that basketball in Indiana is infinitely better. I still find it weird when I take my kids to the park and we don't see basketball courts. Football on the other hand is a different story. Indiana football takes a far back seat to Georgia football. I also had the opportunity to take in a few high school football games in Texas and wow...those folks know how to work the pigskin!

-- Posted by horrorwriter on Sat, Jan 2, 2010, at 11:25 PM

@ Just_Me

Without going off on into full rant mode, I am 100% against class basketball.

However, as my junior high age son reminds me, that class ball or not, this is his time of getting to experience what it means to be part of Hoosier Hysteria within the school. He likes the part about small schools having a chance to go far. He hates that fact the possibility of another Milan has been removed.

At least for now. ;)

In short, he wants me to sit down, shut up, and let him enjoy what is available to him to enjoy, and not always be telling him that it comes up short in comparison to what I was able to enjoy. :D That said, he is never hesitant to sit down and watch Hoosiers with me.

So while you and I are in agreement on class hoops, there are still lots of kids growing up with a passion for basketball as they know it.

-- Posted by just sayin'... on Thu, Dec 17, 2009, at 8:45 AM

It was really good before class basketball. Size did not matter, and winning a sectional meant so much more back in the day. Class basketball has killed so many rivalries.

-- Posted by Just_Me on Wed, Dec 16, 2009, at 11:42 AM

My experience, having grown up outside Indiana but having seen a fair amount of basketball here, is that for the public schools in the same general size as those in Greene County, the basketball is definitely better in Indiana than where I grew up. For the larger schools, I'd say things are more even.

-- Posted by Question? on Tue, Dec 15, 2009, at 4:34 PM

I remember traveling down south and watching a college basketball game between two southern teams many years ago. The final score was like 107 to 103. Wow! I thought. One of those teams made the NCAA tournament that year. They lost to a Big Ten team and the score was like 89 to 45. They couldn't handle defense. Parity is better nowadays. But I'll never forget that occurence.

-- Posted by Neverhadittolose on Tue, Dec 15, 2009, at 3:55 PM

Gotta love being a Hoosier!! Great Story!

-- Posted by hash10 on Tue, Dec 15, 2009, at 9:12 AM

I've always wondered how the best team in Indiana would match up against a really good team from different states. I think it would be especially interesting to see how they match up against an academy team like Oak Hill.

-- Posted by EggMan on Tue, Dec 15, 2009, at 9:12 AM

Basketball is definitely better in Indiana.

-- Posted by jeffcoilyr on Tue, Dec 15, 2009, at 5:50 AM

if they aren't from Indiana, they won't understand and won't be convinced. first, i suspect they dont't see packed gyms. second, i'd remind that coach that our kids do pretty well in the Indiana-Kentucky all star games. third, there never was a movie made about high school ball played in Georgia.


-- Posted by Ol'Dad on Tue, Dec 15, 2009, at 12:57 AM

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