GARY | It's about as long as Tito Jackson's belt. The streak that we're talking about here, that is.
It's been a long time since it's been great being a sports fan in Indiana. It's been more than a few days since there was more than corn here.
Peyton Manning aside, the glory days have been in the rear-view mirror.
Tonight, top-ranked Notre Dame will play USC for a shot at playing in the BCS National Championship game. Indiana is No. 1 in the NCAA men's basketball poll. And if David Letterman would stop talking about politics, he would still be cool.
The icing on this cake will take place this afternoon at Lake Central. Hamilton-Southeastern's Zak Irvin and his Royals will take on the Indians. The Class 4A No. 7-ranked program played at Bowman Academy in Friday's Black Friday Shootout.
“He's the leading candidate for Mr. Basketball,” Bowman coach Marvin Rea said of the 6-foot-8 Michigan-bound standout. “The kid is unbelievable.”
Irvin scored 30 points and grabbed eight boards in the Royals 73-71 win over Bowman Academy in Friday's Black Friday Shootout in Gary. Like HSE's Gary Harris last year, Irvin is at the top of the list of candidates for this year's Mr. Basketball Award.
You have to credit Royals coach Brian Sutterfield for coming to Lake County for two tough games. He picked up L.C. last year so Glenn Robinson III could be seen in the Indy area.
“We wanted to do the same thing for Zak this year,” he said. “We wanted him to be seen up here.”
The Duneland Athletic Conference's double-round robin schedule will be over after this season. Consequently, it will be easier for DAC players to travel the state and pick up potential votes for the Indiana All-Stars and Mr. B.
It's been too long since that was available.
And speaking of streaks as long as this writer's waistline, the region has not had a Mr. Basketball since Valparaiso's Bryce Drew in 1994. Take away the three Zellers from Washington, nine Mr. Basketballs since Drew have come from the Indy Donut.
It is difficult for our players to win this award. East Chicago's E'Twaun Moore outplayed Indianapolis North Central's Eric Gordon in the 2007 state championship game, and won the state title, but finished second in the highest Hoosier honor.
Here is the one thing Irvin and Moore have in common. Both were extremely fundamental players and both were Honor Roll students. Those things factor in to the decision to wear No. 1 in June.
“He was tough,” Bowman's Justin King said of Irvin. “But I loved the competition.”
Both of Irvin's parents played D-I basketball. He started playing at 5. HSE played both Lake Central and Bowman last year. He was pumped to come up to the region and try our style on for size.
“It's more like AAU up here, up and down the court and real physical,” Irvin said. “We have to compete as a team in an environment like this.”
He did. They did. If you have a couple of hours this afternoon, come watch this kid play. He'll be teaming up with three area players next year in Ann Arbor, Robinson, Crown Point's Spike Albrecht and Chesterton's Mitch McGary.
“Those are great guys, we've become pretty good friends,” Irvin said.
And for any area players who want to get on the list that Irvin is on, follow his lead. Learn to play the game right. Be a great student athlete and citizen. And it is possible.
This streak will not last forever.
This column solely represents the writer's opinion. Reach him at email@example.com.