One thing I think about on occasion is what took place nine years ago.

That’s when we celebrated 100 years of Indiana high school basketball. 

The State Finals were still played at Conseco Fieldhouse back then. Now, of course, it’s now Bankers Life Fieldhouse. And word has it that the field house could soon have even another new name! The NBA Pacers, of course, have played in their current facility since 1999 after the losing of Market Square Arena.

After the early afternoon state championship basketball games, a huge parade was the order of the day. 

Players who played on state championship teams were invited to ride on firetrucks in the parade (included were some media members) that went up Pennsylvania Street, over to Capitol Ave., and continued around the downtown area. And finally, of course, ended in front of Conseco Fieldhouse for a special celebration get-together inside.

It was amazing how many fans and former players gathered on corners and along the parade route to cheer the champions on.

I remember seeing 1970 Carmel Mr. Basketball David Shepherd and his wife standing  on one of the corners. He must have yelled my name a couple of times before I realized where it was coming from. We both waved. Hey, I felt special. Dave was always one of my favorites, not to mention a super basketball player!

That was an incredible time . . . enjoyed by many. Actually, I’m sure, enjoyed by all who gathered for the special occasion.

The IHSAA also had taken orders for a 100-year commemorative basketball leading up to the big moment.
Guess what? Yep, I purchased one of those once-in-a-lifetime basketballs!

Then my mind wandered for a few seconds as I stared at the computer, and I started thinking about all of the gymnasiums since I started in the newspaper business in 1963.

I figured that I’ve attended high school basketball games, all in Indiana, in 174 gymnasiums. I mean, that’s a lot of popcorn to smell and eat, too!

Of course, that includes many facilities and gymnasiums that are no longer used for boys high school varsity games. And keep in mind I was 16 years old when my passion for sports writing became my daily way of life.

Have you ever been in the old Sharpsville Gym, where fans had to get there to avoid being seated behind one of the many beams that clearly blocked your view in certain sections?

How about games at Fairmount and Windfall, basically old barns at best?

How about Tig Arena in Peru? It was a cracker box where you were so close to the floor, well, you could even trip the stripe shirts if you had a mind to do so.

Then there was the Berry Bowl in Logansport, which was torn down in 1973. You had to climb and climb and climb up steep stairs just to reach the press box.

In Michigan City at the old Elston Gym you had to climb up a iron rail ladder to reach the reach box. Try doing that while carry a bag of popcorn and Coke. Yeah, you got it, not exactly easy to do! But I tried, unsuccessfully.

When I was 12 years old, I think, my dad took me to the Old Church Street gymnasium in New Castle, where New Castle’s Ray Pavy and Kokomo’s Jimmy Rayl staged an unbelievable shootout (Pavy 51 points, Rayl 49) in front of a jam-packed audience where at times it was hard to catch your breath as you sat elbow-to-elbow in a really warm gymnasium.

Rayl, who was Mr. Basketball and the Trester Award recipient in 1959, came back to edge Pavy for the North Central Conference scoring title that year.

I’m sure many diehard fans have some stories, some memories they could share about gymnasiums, too.
Memorial Gym in Rushville is one of the oldest and best facilities for some truly great high school basketball atmosphere. It was built in 1926, a gym that would be considered ancient by today’s standards. 

The facility has been updated over the years. Back then the seating accommodated 3,200; now it’s around 2,500. So, it’s an entertaining venue to watch basketball. The last I heard girls basketball was still being played there.

Here’s a list of some of the oldest gyms I know about:

(Oldies-but-Goodies, and the year they were built)

1921 — Mooresville (Newby Dome)
1922 — Knightstown Gym
1923 — Mecca (Arabs’ Gym)
1923 — Gaston Gym
1924 — Mishawaka (“The Cave’’)
1924 — Economy High School
1925 — Vincennes Rivet
1925 — Newport Gym
1926 — Rushville (Memorial Gym)
1926 — Washington Catholic (“The Birdcage’’)
1927 — Fort Wayne North Side

(NOTE: If you know of any other Old Gyms that belong on the list, please let me know.)

The historic Knightstown Gym is undoubtedly the most famous of them all — for more reasons than just the fact it’s one of the oldest.

It also was home to the fictional Hickory Huskers and the filming of the movie “Hoosiers’’ in 1986.

It was used for all regular-season high school games until being replaced by a new gymnasium in 1966.

But there are still a few high school games played there, in what is now known as The Hoosier Gym.

In fact, the annual Hoosiers Reunion All-Star Classic games are still being played at The Hoosier Gym in April. Those high school all-star games date back to 2006. 

Seating is at a premium as you can imagine. After all, the gymnasium seats roughly somewhere between 600-700.

The old  gym is part of our state's history, and a tourist and museum destination for thousands of sports enthusiasts.

And the Hickory Huskers photo from the movie still hangs in the old Knightstown Gym.

Quite a sight as one can imagine. If you’ve yet to visit it, you really should — step into our Hoosier History.

*—Mark Morrow, a Hall of Fame Indiana sportswriter, has resided in Hamilton County since 1989. You can follow him in The Times, and on Twitter at mmediamarko12. He can be reached at mediamarko5@gmail.com or by calling 317 460-8018.