Sports Column

Nelson: A Hoops Test


Travel was down these past couple weeks.

Except for a couple white-knuckle trips back from Pacers games, I’ve been staying closer to home for a bit.

That changes soon enough, and the timing is just right to take a request.

No, I’m not going to sing.

There were many kind comments after the nostalgia trip we took a couple weeks ago, and with the Boys State Basketball Finals being played this Saturday, we can take another bite of history and give and take a test.

The answers are all here, I promise. No homework.

And the test is a history test, but without many many dates. You can take a guess and seen how close you get.

It’s a basketball test, and we’ve got mostly local or area questions, but there are a couple others to take a stab at.

The old-timers will have an easier time of this - maybe we can challenge some of the newer hoops brains since so many NCAA brackets are in shambles.

The questions are all first - have fun.

1. When was basketball invented, by whom and where?

Yes, multi-part questions.

2. When and how did basketball get to Crawfordsville and Montgomery County?

3. We all know Crawfordsville won the first high school championship. How many times did they play in the finals?

4. The next five high school champions (1912-1916) were all less than 40 miles from Crawfordsville - who were they?

5. When did they stop using peach baskets for basketball games?

6. When did they stop having a jump ball after every made basket?

7. Which Montgomery County school was the last sectional winner?

8. Which team was the first undefeated state champion in Indiana?

Okay, lets get going...

1. Dr. James Naismith invented the game of basketball. He was in Springfield, Massachusetts and was a teacher. He invented the game in 1891, and the popularity of the game exploded across the country very quickly.

2. The Rev. Nicholas McCay, who worked for Dr. Naismith, brought the game to Indiana, and specifically to Crawfordsville, where he introduced it through the local YMCA. Very quickly, there was a high school team, a Wabash College team and a local group of men formed a team. That soon became a league as teams sprung up in neighboring towns and cities very quickly. The first game played outside of Springfield has been widely credited as being played in the old YMCA in Crawfordsville.

3. The Athenians have played in three state championship games. They won in 1911, lost to Lafayette in 1916, and to Ft. Wayne South Side in 1958. Crawfordsville also claimed a pair of mythical state titles in 1909 and 1910, one of which was the start of the Lebanon-Crawfordsville rivalry. The 1911 championship saw Crawfordsville having to win three games on championship Saturday, including a title win over Lebanon, who only had to play two games that same day.

4. In order - Lebanon, Wingate (twice with Homer Stonebraker), Thorntown and Lafayette (defeating C’ville). To say the least, western Indiana was the hotbed of hoops.

5. They used peach baskets until 1906, although stories are around that some baskets were in place for a lot longer. The first years, wherever possible, they had a non-player on a balcony that got the ball out of the basket after each made field goal. In many other cases, they had a hole in the bottom and they used a stick to poke the ball out. Iron rims made their first appearance in 1906, but various nets under the rims were slower to appear.

6. The center jump after every made basket was eliminated in the 1937-38 season. Dr. Naismith was quoted as not being happy with the rule change.

7. Waynetown was the last county school to win a sectional, cutting down the nets at the Crawfordsville gym in 1970, a year before consolidation.

8. It is more than fitting that one of the greatest players in Indiana basketball history was on the first undefeated team. It was Oscar Robertson, as the Big O and his Crispus Attucks team ran the table in the 1955-56 season. There were five more schools, including back-to-back years by different East Chicago schools, that were unbeaten. Since class basketball started, there have been seven undefeated state champs, and Ben Davis enters this Saturday’s championship game with the chance to become the eighth.

These are only the tips of the basketball iceberg, and there are several really good sources to do more research. I want to give a shoutout to Bill Boone, who has been so helpful and has done so much local work, and another tip of the cap to the Basketball Heritage Project. The material on their site is really good, really well-organized. I know they are working on adding more to the Montgomery County basketball story.

Now, back to crying over our brackets in this year’s college tourney.

Safe travels.

Jeff Nelson is a frequent contributor to the Journal Review and works professionally for Fox Sports assisting with NFL broadcasts and the Indiana Pacers.