The Norwell Knights girls’ basketball team won in Knightstown Friday night in the NE8 opener against Huntington North. Learn more about how the game in the Hoosier Gym came about and what it means to the program in the Monday, Dec. 4, News-Banner. Below is a photo gallery from the evening and a compiled history and notes about the gym and the movie filmed in it, “Hoosiers.” (Photos, compilation by Jessica Bricker)

From the gym’s website:

• 1920: Games were held above a drugstore and in a church basement.

• 1921: A handful of Knightstown businessmen gathered. The community lagged behind others in developing an athletic education and citizens thought the children needed a physical education.

Within weeks, $14,400 was raised from 250 private citizens and local businesses. It measured 105 feet long and 80 feet wide. By that summer, construction started. It was ready for its first game that winter.

• The first game was held Nov. 25, 1921. The Knightstown Falcons lost 10-11 to Sulphur Springs. The team’s first home win came Dec. 2, 1921 in overtime, 20-18, over the Indiana School for the Deaf.

• 1922: It was determined they needed to raise money for maintenance, like power and heat, so other teams were encouraged to play there, including professional and collegiate teams.

• 1936: The community used Worker Progress Administration funds for exterior renovations, a new front entrance, lobby, and basement dressing rooms.

• 1952: The building was expanded to the east with three large classrooms.

• 1966: But by 1966, the gym had become obsolete. New facilities were built in April of that year and the last game was played.

“It was the end of an era, or so everyone thought. For the next 20 years, the old gym saw little use.”

• 1985: The gym was used to film the sports classic, “Hoosiers,” as the home gym to the “Hickory Huskers.”

From the website: “You can shoot a basket from the spot where Jimmy made the game winner as time expired, walk through the lock room where Coach Norman Dale retreated after being tossed from the game, or sit in the stands and relive the magic of what Sports Illustrated and ESPN called the greatest sports movie of all time.”

 

The Hoosier Gym’s website links to a documentary on Vimeo, “The Hoosier Gym: A Basketball Mecca.”

• It opens with a James Naismith quote: “I am sure that no man can derive more pleasure from money or power than I do from seeing a pair of basketball goals in some out of the way place.”

• The gym served as a civic center where community events were held.

• The gym showcases the “unique phenomenon known as Hoosier Hysteria.”

• An interview with the writer, Angelo Rizzo: The Milan gym had been torn down. He thought the gym in Knightstown was tremendously interesting and fascinating. Because the movie was to be headquartered in Indianapolis, production staffers wanted the gym to be within a 50-mile radius from the city. That’s how they learned of the Knightstown Gym.

He saw the stands, which stood out to him. The gym was unlike any other he had seen in the search. It had the right size, feel, atmosphere for the movie.

• The movie is more about the game and winning or losing; it’s about positive values, friendships, family, strength of community and second chances.
“The gym provided the perfect setting.”

• The movie provided a second chance for the gym. It continues to serve as a community center but also as a tourist stop and is rented for weddings, parties, banquets and basketball.

• It’s a symbol of what basketball was like nearly 100 years ago in Indiana and why this state is home to Hoosier Hysteria.

 

“Hoosiers” — 2-disc special features, “Hoosier History: The Truth Behind the Legend.”

• From the documentary: Basketball is a way of life, important part of culture in Indiana. It’s a religion. It’s how a community or school defines themselves.

• Director David Anspaugh is from Decatur.

• The movie is a version of the story of the 1954 state championship game, where Milan (population 1,150) upset Muncie Central.

• Hoosiers live and breath basketball on Friday night.

• Gene Hackman called the film a good story. He said he grew up in a similar town in Illinois.

• The ball players are actually ball players, not actors.

• It was the rainiest autumn on record in the state when they filmed, Anspaugh said. But it worked for them because in these communities, when the harvest was in and the chill took over, games served as the gathering spots for people.

“It was warm. It was colorful. It was exciting.”

• Production staff visited 65 different towns, high schools and courts. The film is shot in 10 or 11 different gyms. Hackman said they went from filming in tiny gyms to Butler’s Hinkle Fieldhouse, which seats 16,000.

• When Jimmy’s shot goes in, that was a spontaneous reaction from the actors. Anspaugh said he takes no credit for how that scene is. Its lack of direction shows what basketball means in Indiana.

“Being here in Indiana, they live and die through that movie and that scene,” Reggie Miller said.

• Hackman said it’s a film that transcends generations.

• Rizzo: They look back at that time with nostalgia.

• Anspaugh said working on the film was infectious. The crew worked day and night and believed in the story they were telling.