Hall of Fame Classics remain prominent prep basketball showcases


Hundreds of photographs occupy wall space inside Chrysler Fieldhouse, each its own small endorsement of New Castle High School athletics.

Even the building’s humble beginnings are shown.

The bulldozing of Henry County soil 56 years ago produced a massive crater, which in time gave way to steel girders, brick and some of this state’s most-treasured high school basketball memories.

Since 1990, this is where every Girls and Boys Hall of Fame Classic –- Indiana’s premier high school hoops showcases not referred to as the State Finals –- has been played.

Two former Indiana Mr. Basketballs call Chrysler Fieldhouse home. So do an assortment of former Indiana All-Stars –- including first-year Center Grove boys coach Zach Hahn.

How relevant are the four-team, invite-only, the whole-state-is-paying-attention Classics?

The alum list alone is a who’s who — Glenn Robinson (Gary Roosevelt), Stephanie White (Seeger), Tom Coverdale (Noblesville), Shyra Ely (Ben Davis), Zach Randolph (Marion), Chris Thomas (Pike), Sean May (Bloomington North), Katie Gearlds (Beech Grove), Luke Recker (DeKalb), Mike Conley and Greg Oden (Lawrence North) and Trey Lyles (Tech).

Trust me when I say that’s merely scratching the surface. On Saturday, Center Grove’s girls experienced the venue’s intense spotlight with a third-place finish.

Maybe not the development Trojans coach Shawn Sanders envisioned, but a tremendous opportunity for a high school making its fourth Hall of Fame Classic appearance (the girls won in 1996 and were second in 2000 with the boys winning it in 2010).

Other Johnson County programs invited here in the past are Franklin Community’s girls in 1999 (runner-up) and the Indian Creek girls in 2003 (fourth). Franklin previously took part in the 1987 Girls Hall of Fame Classic hosted by Seymour High School.

Among the Classic’s more admirable accomplishments is its ability to not lose momentum despite the hiccup known as the changeover to a class basketball in 1997-98.

Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame Executive Director Chris May attributes this to a consistent degree of respect for tradition and the players who have contributed to it.

“I think this event represents a lot of great traditions, a lot of great history and a lot of great people. It’s the outstanding teams that have been in this tournament in the past. It’s the amazing players that have gone on to great college and professional careers and the Hall of Fame coaches who have brought teams here,” May said.

“All of that history makes it very, very appealing to schools and teams that they covet that invitation. For fans, they know that year in and year out they’re going to see the best our state has to offer.”

It remains to be seen when another Johnson County program is next invited to New Castle.

Could be many years. Could be sooner than thought.

Whiteland’s boys team starts four underclassmen; Indian Creek’s boys take a 4-1 record into Tuesday’s four-team Monrovia Tournament with two of its three leading scorers being a sophomore (6-foot-2 guard Tim Abel) and freshman (5-8 guard Jared DeHart).

Or could Hahn, a starting guard on the New Castle club that placed second to Cathedral in the 2006 Classic, return to a building he basically grew up in – this time as Center Grove’s coach?

No matter which girls and boys programs get the nod, it never ceases being a big deal.

“That would be a great opportunity,” said Indian Creek boys basketball coach Derek Perry, who understands the chances of a Class 3A program with only one regional title (1983) to its name securing an invitation are remote.

“The thing is, there are so many great teams out there. You’ve got to win a lot of games to get noticed, but it would be a great opportunity for the kids.”

Mike Beas is a sports writer for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at mbeas@dailyjournal.net.