For The Ashland Beacon
Say the word “Hoosiers” around any basketball fan and certain words and phrases are certain to appear.
Picket fence, make four passes and Now, boys, don’t get caught watching the paint dry are some of the most famous lines from the critically acclaimed 1986 hit, “Hoosiers” starring Gene Hackman.
For Greenup County basketball, the movie has an ever more special meaning after the Musketeers not only visited the legendary Hoosier Gymnasium, but they also played a contest against Letcher County Central on January 4.
“This was a dream,” Greenup County coach Robert Amis said. “Having a chance to be a part of something like this was amazing. Getting to coach a game in this gym certainly checks that off the list.”
Amis decided to make the trip with his team after seeing Bath County visit the venue last season and said he hopes to go back again.
“As soon as I saw other teams around the area making the trip, I knew I wanted to take my team there, too,” Amis said. “It was very cost effective, and the most expensive part of the trip was the hotel rooms.”
Greenup County traveled the near four-hour trip the night before which Amis said was another good thing for his team.
“It allowed my kids to bond even more,” he said. “These kids are still learning about each other. They have played 12 games and two scrimmages together, so it was great for them to have that time for some team bonding.”
Once the team arrived at the gym, it was a trip back in time with memorabilia placed throughout the building. From the old-time ticket booth once entering the building from the exterior doors, to the wood bench seating that sits above court level to the peach basket and plywood slat backboard still hanging over top, every place the eye turned, something new was there to take in.
“It was a different style of game day as we brought the parents down to the locker room and let them take it all in as well,” Amis said.
Greenup County occupied the same locker room used in the filming of the movie and parents and fans could not take in everything quick enough once they arrived inside.
“I think the parents were as excited to be here as the kids were,” Amis joked.
As for the venue, even that took some getting used to as the floor is not standard size resulting in some interesting rules that had to be discussed prior to tipoff.
“It took me a few minutes to take everything in,” Amis said of how the court was laid out. “Coaching from the baseline was something new to me. It was like Vanderbilt. It was unique.”
As were many older gymnasiums, space was not a consideration when building the court. Players were faced with a double half court line as well as a double sideline which nearly created some confusion early in the contest. However, once the ball went in the air, the game ruled all and Greenup County got to play the part of the Hickory Hoosiers on the scoreboard.
In the end, it was not a state championship like the 1952 Huskers claimed in the movie, but it was a Greenup County win, 65-54 over Letcher County Central. Brady Nelson had 22 points, including three And-1s in the game. Zander Carter netted 15 points, going 5 of 6 from long range. Rod Dryden added 11 while grabbing 18 rebounds.
Since the return from Knightstown, the halls of Greenup County High School seem a little like Hickory on a daily basis with every member of the team donning Huskers’ apparel.
As for everyone from both teams who made the venture to the Hoosier state, by the time the final horn sounded, the meaning from one of Hackman’s most famous quotes from the movie had a meaning that could be fully understood.
Welcome to Indiana Basketball.