Anyone that ever played Indiana high school boys basketball knew what the 15th day of October meant, and I’m sure you still do.
Some dates you just never forget, and if you grew up playing high school basketball in Indiana, the date of Oct. 15 was special. That was the day when fall conditioning was behind you and basketball practice officially began.
For decades in Indiana, the date was always Oct. 15, and everyone in the community during the heyday of Hoosier Hysteria knew the date. It’s the date when small communities started to get excited about basketball season. It’s when barbershop talk got serious about the local team. As players, everything we did during the offseason was about getting to this date.
During the weeks of September, as part of the conditioning program, we spent much of our time running on the track and lifting weights on the old universal weight machine. I can remember those beautiful Indian summer afternoons and being up on the track running 220s and 440s with weighted jackets on — to the point of collapsing.
After the running was over, we would hustle back down to the gym, lift weights and then play pickup basketball games. We would open the doors on the south end of the gym just to let some air in.
The coaches would just let us play because officially, they couldn’t really coach us until “the day” arrived, so we would play for a couple of hours on those beautiful fall evenings, each day getting us closer to Oct. 15.
Every now and then, the cheerleaders would be in there practicing, and my good friend, Terry Alexander, used to say, “Have you ever noticed a bunch of the guys play harder when the cheerleaders are here?”
Finally, “the day” arrived, and before going to the locker room, we stopped at the equipment room, where the student managers handed us our practice gear for the first time that fall.
Once we were out on the floor, everyone grabbed a basketball and started getting loose. It was all preliminary. We were waiting for coach Crafton, coach Brown and coach Dan Deaton to come out of the office and officially get things going.
I can still hear those balls bouncing on the gym floor, and I can still see my eyes focused on the northeast corner of the bleachers waiting for the coaches to appear.
Finally, when Coach came out of the office, he walked directly to center court without saying a word. He stood there for a few seconds as we continued to shoot but were fully aware of his presence.
Coach looked around and then blew his whistle and commanded out loud, “Huddle up.” As we sprinted to midcourt, it was officially Oct. 15.