Column: Experiencing Hoosier Hysteria in Henry County


Today, we visit Henry County, where two facilities celebrate “Hoosier Hysteria.”

Hoosier Gym in Knightstown, built in 1921 and expanded in 1936, was originally used by Knightstown High School basketball teams. When a new school opened in 1966, the facility sat idle until 1985, when it became the home gym of the fictional “Hickory Huskers” in “Hoosiers,” inspired by tiny Milan’s 1954 victory in the IHSAA state championship game against much larger Muncie Central. One-third of the scenes were filmed in the gym and its basement locker room. The gym was saved from demolition in 1988 and is operated as a nonprofit museum, looking almost as it did in the movie, with an autographed photograph of the fictional team hanging beside the “GO HICKORY” banner. Hoosier Gym, open to the public at no charge, hosts about 80 basketball games each year, with team jerseys hung in the locker room.

The Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame is in New Castle, about 15 miles north of Knightstown. The 14,000-square-foot facility, opened in 1990, honors Hoosier men, women and teams that have distinguished themselves on or around the basketball court. Visitors can search by name, school or year for Hall of Fame inductees, all of whom are pictured in the “Enshrinement Hall.” Special exhibits honor John Wooden, Oscar Robertson, Larry Bird and the 1954 Milan Indians. Memorabilia of championship teams are displayed along a ramp based on the one in Butler’s Hinkle Fieldhouse. Scoreboards from various eras hang on the walls. Exhibits allow visitors to try to sink the winning shot or block shots by Oscar Robertson and Stephanie White. One exhibit shows the many schools (including mine) that once played Indiana basketball but are now closed.

For anyone with interest in Indiana basketball, a visit to Hoosier Gym and the Hall of Fame is a must.