With the Indiana high school boys basketball playoffs kicking off on Tuesday, MaxPreps asked senior writer Dave Krider, a member of the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame, to reflect on his 60 years of covering the legendary hoops scene in the Hoosier State.
I was born in 1939, the same year that James Naismith, the founder of
basketball, died. In some way, I believe that I was created to carry on
the Eternal Flame for basketball, particularly the Indiana high school
brand. Though I was never on an organized team, I have played thousands
of hours of pick-up.
While growing up, I guess basketball was my
girlfriend because I spent so many hours on neighborhood courts. I put
on a summer all-star game in LaPorte for 31 straight years that drew
great players from as far as 150 miles away. One year I even had three
Mr. Basketball winners.
I am 73 years old and still play Noon Hoops two days a week at the LaPorte YMCA. God truly has blessed my life.Slideshow: The 10 Largest High School Basketball Gyms in IndianaThe Early Years: Fuzzy Vandivier and John Wooden
Indiana's first great high school basketball player was Robert "Fuzzy" Vandivier, who led Franklin
to three consecutive state championships from 1919-22.
Vandivier has long been considered one of Indiana's greatest ball-handlers and I found out why when I interviewed his niece, Ann Turner, for my book "Indiana High School Basketball's 20 Most Dominant Players." The foreword was written with a dead-on analysis and great humor by Gov. Mitch Daniels.
Turner told me that after playing in his first basketball game at age six.
"Uncle Fuzzy said that he ran all the way home because he was so excited," Turner said. "He told grandma that all he wanted for Christmas was a basketball. Unfortunately grandma didn't know anything about basketball, and when Uncle Fuzzy opened his present, he got a FOOTBALL! He learned how to dribble the football and shoot with it."
Vandivier and his teammates eventually moved on to hometown Franklin College where they again had great success and were nicknamed the "Franklin Wonder Five."
Not long afterwards, a youngster named John Wooden — who had idolized Fuzzy Vandivier — leaped onto the Hoosier scene at Martinsville
. A shy, religious teenager, he helped his team win the state title in 1926-27 and finish second twice. He grew up on a farm playing at times with Branch McCracken, who later coached Indiana University to a pair of NCAA titles. His first basketball was a combination of old socks and rags sewed together by his mother.
Wooden once told Indianapolis Star sportswriter Bob Williams, "In those days you couldn't grow up in Indiana and not have a basketball touch you in some way."
Wooden, of course, went on to become an All-American at Purdue University and eventually led UCLA to a record 10 NCAA championships. He was the first ever to make the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame both as a player and coach.
We served on the McDonald's All-American committee and I was proud to call him a friend. He always took my calls over the years while living in Southern California.
I was blessed to grow up in what I still believe was the Golden Era of Indiana high school basketball.Click 'Next' to continue reading.