If you want to ignite a passionate debate, do what I did: Announce an All-Time All-Johnson County Boys Basketball Team.
You’ll find it several paragraphs below. A first team and a second team. Five players on each.
Talk about a maddening exercise.
In a county with such a uniquely rich tradition as this one, narrowing a field of worthy candidates to a top 10 is not only a daunting task fraught with second-guessing but one sure to spark
This is, after all, the hallowed ground of the Franklin High School “Wonder Five,” the first team in IHSAA history to win three consecutive state championships.
It is also the birthplace of two of the state’s first three Mr. Basketball winners — Franklin’s George Crowe, the first in 1939, followed two years later by Greenwood’s John Bass.
Johnson County is also the native home of Jon McGlocklin, a college All-American at Indiana University and an NBA All-Star and champion with the Milwaukee Bucks.
But those names are but a sampling of local greats who played at Johnson County high schools. John Pruitt, Burl Friddle, Thomas Lyons, Walter Surface, Ray Crowe (George’s older brother), Garry Abplanalp, Darrel Huechen, Ed Trogden, twin siblings Jon and Don McGlocklin (nephews of the elder Jon McGlocklin) and J.R. Angle are but another small sampling.
What follows is an admittedly subjective list of who yours truly deems the all-time best players from county high schools. Greenwood natives Tom and Dick Van Arsdale, who were both three-time NBA All-Stars, are not on the list because they played at Manual in Indianapolis.
Let the incendiary retorts begin.
Robert “Fuzzy” Vandivier: Widely regarded as one of the best players in the world at the time, Vandivier led the Franklin “Wonder Five” to consecutive IHSAA state championships in 1920, 1921 and 1922.
Former UCLA coach John Wooden once called Vandivier the best high school basketball player of all-time.
After leading Franklin to an 89-9 record during his four-year high school career, he and several teammates, along with coach Ernest “Griz” Wagner, went to Franklin College, where the “Wonder Five” enjoyed further success. Franklin won the mythical national championship in 1923 after an undefeated season.
After college, Vandivier coached Franklin High School from 1926 to 1944 and led the Grizzly Cubs to a runner-up finish in the 1939 state championship game.
Vandivier is the only Johnson County resident inducted into the Naismith Hall of Fame. He died July 30, 1983.
John Bass: In 1941, the former Greenwood star became the third recipient of Indiana’s Mr. Basketball award — becoming the second county player to win hallowed prize, just two years after George Crowe.
A standout among standouts, Bass led the Woodmen to the 1941 sectional championship by hitting a game-winning midcourt shot at the buzzer for a 28-27 win against state power Franklin.
Bass scored a game-high 13 points in the sectional final and was named Mr. Basketball shortly thereafter. He scored 145 points his senior year, a remarkable total for the time.
A longtime semi-pro player after high school, Bass scored 1,021 career points at Greenwood and still ranks among the county’s 50 all-time leading scorers.
Bass died April 28, 1989. He was 66.
George Crowe: Winner of the state’s first Mr. Basketball award in 1939, the former Franklin High School star played for Fuzzy Vandivier and was the catalyst behind the Grizzly Cubs’ runner-up finish in the 1939 state championship game to Frankfort.
Crowe scored 13 of Franklin’s 22 points in the title game and earned All-State honors, in addition to the Mr. Basketball award. Vandivier called Crowe, “the best money player I’ve ever seen.”
Arguably the greatest all-around athlete in Johnson County history, Crowe went on to play in the “Black Fives” professional basketball leagues before enjoying a nine-year career in Major League Baseball. He was an All-Star in 1958 with the Cincinnati Reds.
A graduate of Indiana Central College and a U.S. Army veteran of World War II, Crowe died on Jan. 18, 2011, in Rancho Cordova, Calif. He was 89.
Jon McGlocklin: A titan at the high school, college and NBA levels, the former Franklin High School star went on to become an All-American at Indiana University and an NBA All-Star and champion with the Milwaukee Bucks.
A 1961 Franklin graduate, McGlocklin was a three-year letter winner at IU and, after brief NBA stints with the Cincinnati Royals and San Diego Rockets, became the first player ever signed by the Bucks.
Nicknamed “The Original Buck” and “Jonny Mac,” the 6-foot-5 shooting guard played eight seasons in Milwaukee and was in the starting backcourt with Oscar Robertson on the Bucks’ 1971 championship team.
In 1976, McClocklin became the first player in Bucks history to have his jersey retired.
A longtime Milwaukee resident who maintains close ties to Franklin, McGlocklin, 70, has been a TV color commentator for Bucks games since his 1976 retirement from the NBA.
Jerry Nichols: An Indiana All-Star in 1971, Nichols starred at Greenwood High School before enjoying a sterling career at Purdue.
At Greenwood, the rangy 6-foot-6 forward led the Woodmen to an 18-9 record and a sectional title his junior year.
The following season, Nichols had startling per-game averages of 21.8 points and 18.9 rebounds, helping Greenwood to an 21-4 record.
Although injuries hampered his career, Nichols helped lead Purdue to an 18-7 record and NIT championship in during his junior season of 1974.
Purdue was 53-29 during Nichols’ career.
A longtime Greenwood resident, Nichols, 60, remains close to the Woodmen’s varsity program. When time permits, he attends practices as a quiet observer and is often seated on the bench during games.
John Gant: A prominent member of the Franklin “Wonder Five,” Johnny “Snake Eyes” Gant was arguably the team’s best player after Fuzzy Vandivier.
A member of all three of Franklin’s state championship teams, Gant shot a state-leading .396 percent from the field during the 1922 state tournament. He, too, went on to Franklin College and was a central figure in the “Wonder Five’s” post-high school success.
A member of the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame (one of four inductees from the “Wonder Five,” the others being Vandivier, Burl Friddle and coach Griz Wagner), Gant played professionally for two years after graduating from Franklin College in 1926.
Jay McClain: Because World II was raging at the time, All-Stars for the years 1943 and 1944 were selected 50 years after the fact. Proof that the memory of his talent passed the test of time, the former Whiteland standout was chosen for the 1944 squad in 1994.
McClain led Whiteland to the Elite Eight of the 1944 state tournament. Behind his stellar scoring and defense, the Warriors finished 27-3 and are still the only basketball team in school history to reach the Elite Eight.
McClain joined the U.S. Army after graduation and served in the South Pacific theater. He died April 1, 2002, at age 76.
Steve Van Antwerp: A prolific scorer throughout his career at Franklin High School, Van Antwerp was a center and a member of the 1959 Indiana All-Stars — Franklin’s first since George Crowe and the school’s last since his selection.
A four-year starter and a two-year teammate of Jon McGlocklin, Van Antwerp scored 1,187 career points and remains one of the top 25 scorers in county history.
Van Antwerp went to play at the University of Tennessee and is reported to have moved to Los Angeles after college.
Van Antwerp was the county’s last All-Star until Greenwood’s Jerry Nichols earned the honor in 1971.
Bill Depp: An athletic, multi-skilled 6-foot-7 center, Depp starred for two seasons at Edinburgh in the 1950s and still has the distinction of having the county’s highest career scoring average of 25.67 points per game.
A 1957 Edinburgh graduate, Depp led the Lancers to a 15-4 record in 1955-56 and to an 18-4 mark in 1956-57. During a particularly hot stretch of his career, he scored 30-plus points in four straight games, including a then-state record 65 points (Oscar Robertson had the record at 63) in a 120-83 win against Charlottsville.
Depp continued his career at Vanderbilt, where he still ranks fourth on the Commodores’ career rebounding list. A retired sales manager, he declined a contract offer from the Boston Celtics after graduation.
Bob Hasty: In 1966, the former Whiteland star did the seemingly impossible: He broke Fuzzy Vandivier’s longstanding county scoring record.
A 6-foot-1 dynamo, Hasty — a 1966 graduate — finished his career with 1,606 points, eclipsing Vandivier’s total of 1,597 — a standard that had stood since 1922.
Like Vandivier, Hasty accrued his haul before the adoption of the 3-point shot.
Hasty led the Warriors to a 19-3 record his senior year, which concluded with a 77-66 loss to Greenwood in the sectional semifinal.
Rick Morwick is sports editor for the Daily Journal. Send comments to email@example.com.