Hooping with Holcomb: Event showcases game, famous court

I was determined to see Eric Holcomb after getting the invitation to attend the “shooting hoops with the governor” event at Hinkle Fieldhouse on Jan. 8.

Eric is a fraternity brother of mine since we were both members of Phi Gamma Delta at Hanover College.

It had been years since I’d been to Hinkle Fieldhouse, which is also known as “Indiana’s Basketball Cathedral.”

Just stepping on the floor and seeing the spot where Bobby Plump hit the game-winning shot for Milan in the 1954 state basketball tournament to down Muncie Central would be thrilling enough.

This gym has been a Hoosier monument since it was built in 1928.

It was the largest gymnasium in the world from 1928 to 1950.

After passing through security checkpoints, we arrived at the basketball floor.

I noticed the governor on the far end of the floor with a crowd, so I waited, along with my oldest son, Daniel, until an appropriate time.

While waiting, I couldn’t help noticing all the banners hanging from the rafters.

Most impressive were Butler’s “Final 2” banners from 2010 and 2011. In 2010, they lost to Duke 61-59 in the national championship game, then lost to Connecticut the following year.

After several minutes passed, I approached the governor and asked if I could get a picture of him and Daniel playing basketball.

The governor had his high school friends from Pike High School wearing “Hickory” shirts, as made famous by the movie “Hoosiers,” which was partly filmed at Hinkle Fieldhouse.

He talked about a few fraternity brothers who I remembered, including a fellow named Mike Pence.

I soon discovered that the governor takes a basketball with him wherever he goes, and the big screen in the rafters showed him shooting basketball at different locations all over the state.

He told me he’s not a great player, but I disagree. His jump shot looked smooth and very well rehearsed.

Later, I noticed a very tall man enter the stadium. Upon closer look, I discovered it was Ray Tolbert, a member of Indiana’s 1981 championship basketball team.

Ironically, I attended IU in 1981, the year they won the title, but I mainly talked to Isaiah Thomas and Landon Turner, who often visited Foster Quad, where I lived.

It was nice to finally get to chat with Ray and talk about the four professional teams he played with and the schools where he’s coached basketball.

Before leaving this majestic place, I thought about how appropriate it was for a governor to have an inaugural event that showcased Indiana’s game at it’s most famous court.

The governor was enjoying himself while others got a chance to shoot with him and Ray.

Everyone seemed to enjoy this event greatly, and most left with big smiles on their face.

Lenny Hauersperger is a sports correspondent for The Tribune. Send comments to jmorey@tribtown.com.