Jim Higdon never predicted the final assist of his high school basketball career taking place 47 years after graduation.
Nor did he expect it to go to a player who rose
to stardom in a Greenwood uniform
a full generation before him.
Higdon’s relentlessness in attempting to earn 1941 Indiana Mr. Basketball John Mark Bass his rightful spot in the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame paid off recently with the announcement Bass would be part of the Hall’s upcoming 12-member class.
It all becomes official at the March 25 awards banquet at Primo Banquet Hall in Indianapolis.
Bass, a 6-foot-2 center and three-time Johnson County scoring champion, will be inducted posthumously. He died in May 1989 of congestive heart failure at age 66.
“My dad would be very honored. Someone else who would’ve been delighted would have been my mom (Laura Ann Bass), but she passed away in August,” said John Bass, 64, the couple’s only child, who plans to be at the ceremony to receive the honor for his father.
The younger Bass was a four-year varsity letter winner in basketball for former Woodmen coach Jack Nay. He graduated from Greenwood in 1969 — a year after former teammate Higdon.
“John and I aren’t as close now as we were back in the day, but we’re still friends,” Higdon said. “His dad and my dad actually coached our basketball teams together when we were like 10 or 11 years old.”
Higdon regarded it to be a major injustice the accomplishments of a tenacious interior presence like John Mark Bass have never been available to Hall of Fame visitors. The passage of time, combined with very little statistical proof of Bass’s dominance, also were factors.
Higdon, however, wouldn’t let it go.
“I thought I would do some research and got some old scorebooks from the 1940s and ’50s,” he said. “I thought it was about time to get him into the Hall of Fame, that this needs to be taken care of.
“So I called the Hall of Fame
and talked to (executive director) Chris May.”
Also instrumental in Bass receiving his just due is Dave Jones, a friend of John Bass whose father also was an admirer of John Mark Bass.
Jones, too, gathered information about John Mark the Hall of Fame selection committee found beneficial.
“Dave made a promise to his dad that my dad would get into the Hall of Fame,” John Bass said. “But over the past 60 to 90 days it’s been Jim Higdon carrying the ball over the line.”
Hall of Fame procedure states players aren’t eligible for induction until 26 years after he or she last played high school basketball. John Mark Bass last took the court 74 basketball seasons ago.
Capable of playing near or above the rim long before it was fashionable to do so, Bass averaged 10.7 points as a sophomore, 13.8 as a junior and 13.2 as a senior.
His junior year, Bass played a pivotal role in Greenwood’s 33-29 triumph against Franklin in the 1940 sectional final, which snapped the Grizzly Cubs’ string of 22 straight sectional titles. The 1941 Woodmen repeated, downing Franklin 28-27 in the sectional championship game on a buzzer-beating midcourt shot by Bass.
Some believe John Mark and Laura Ann Bass will have the best seats in the house to hear the former’s name and basketball credentials announced for all to hear.
At least that’s Higdon’s wish.
John Mark Bass was the state’s third Mr. Basketball (Franklin’s George Crowe was the first); was a long-time recreational player who didn’t play in college because of his U.S. Army service during World War II; was offered a chance to play professionally for the Baltimore Bullets but had to decline because of his full-time job; and was clearly one of the finest high school players of his era.
Yet his legacy has been largely overlooked, if not forgotten.
“He wasn’t a guy who went out and touted himself, but I think he would be very happy about being inducted,” Higdon said. “And I think he would be happy for his school.”
A WHO’S WHO
Here are the members of the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame’s Class of 2015:
John Mark Bass – Greenwood, 1941
Harold “Buster” Briley – Madison, 1960
Danny Brown – Jennings County, 1973
Bill Depp – Edinburgh, 1957
Harry Flournoy – Gary Emerson, 1962
Rick Goins – Rushville, 1976
Jerry Lewis – Reelsville, 1958
Vic Molodet – East Chicago Washington, 1952
Marvin Pruett – Springs Valley, 1959
Roger Schroder – Milan, 1954
Dan Sparks – Bloomington, 1963
Dean Weirich – Northridge, 1972