Commentary

Indiana's passion for basketball unmatched

Updated: January 26, 2009, 5:01 PM ET
By Mark Tennis | ESPNRISE.com

Its tradition, devotion to history and passion is surpassed perhaps only by Texas for football.

The Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame motto says it all: In 49 states, it's just basketball … This is Indiana.

Indiana's single-class state basketball tournament, which was converted to multiple-classes in the 1997-98 season, created the ultimate David vs. Goliath possibilities and in 1954 it did when Milan High (enrollment 161) won the title and in the championship game defeated Muncie South (enrollment 1,600).

That win, of course, later became the focus of the movie "Hoosiers," which many rank as one of the greatest sports movies ever made.

It wasn't made into a movie, but the 1990 season in Indiana also is legendary because of the state final held at the Hoosier Dome that drew more than 41,000 fans. It was the biggest crowd to attend a high school basketball game ever.

Despite its location next door to Chicago and all of its great players and teams, Indiana high schools also have had their share of top players and teams. Just three years ago, in 2006, the nation's No. 1 team was unbeaten Lawrence North of Indianapolis, which was led by consensus national player of the year Greg Oden.

Top all-time Indiana players:

Who's Next?

Indiana is traditionally one of the top high school basketball states. This year is no different with a solid crop of Class 4A schools such as Lawrence North, North Central, Terre Haute South, New Albany and Bloomington South as top contenders. In the lower classes, keep an eye on Evansville Memorial and Princeton (both in 3A) and Tipton and Bishop Luers (2A).

The senior class is not particularly strong individually, but 6-foot-5 guard D.J. Byrd of North Montgomery signed with Purdue. That's not the case with juniors, where four ESPNU 60 players - 6-7 DeShaun Thomas (Ohio State); 6-9 Dominique Ferguson (Kentucky); 6-7 Russell Byrd (Michigan State); and 6-7 Justin Martin (Louisville) -- have already verballed.
-- Christopher Lawlor

Steve Alford (Chrysler, New Castle)
Damon Bailey (Bedford North Lawrence, Bedford)
Larry Bird (Spring Valley, French Lick)
Louie Dampier (Southport, Indianapolis)
Eric Gordon (North Central, Indianapolis)
Shawn Kemp (Concord, Elkhart)
George McGinnis (Washington, Indianapolis)
Kyle Macy (Lebanon, Peru)
Rick Mount (Lebanon)
Greg Oden (Lawrence North, Indianapolis)
Oscar Robertson (Crispus Attucks, Indianapolis)
Glenn Robinson (Roosevelt, Gary)
Scott Skiles (Plymouth)
Dick Van Arsdale (Manual, Indianapolis)
Tom Van Arsdale (Manual, Indianapolis)
John Wooden (Martinsville)

Mark Tennis is a deputy sports editor of ESPN RISE.