Prep Basketball | Indiana-Kentucky All-Star

Kentucky working with Indiana to revive All-Star series in commonwealth

2014-06-18T18:00:00Z 2014-09-09T23:06:16Z Kentucky working with Indiana to revive All-Star series in commonwealthSteve Hanlon steve.hanlon@nwi.com, (219) 933-4198 nwitimes.com

Six years ago, Charlie Hall sat down at a table to discuss breathing life back into the Indiana-Kentucky All-Star series.

Once called nationwide "The World Series of High School Basketball," it was dying on the vine.

The boys game started in 1940, which makes it the longest running prep all-star series in the United States. The Indiana-Kentucky girls started playing in 1976.

"Everyone wanted to come up with a magic pill to fix one thing to fix everything," said Hall, the former Kokomo girls basketball coach and Indiana All-Stars Game Director. "The thing was going down. We needed to stop the bleeding."

In 2000, there were 12,741 fans at the game in Indianapolis. In 2008, when Hall took over running the event, only 5,097 bought a ticket.

"I knew one thing wasn't going to fix it," Hall said. "We had to do a lot of little tweaks to make it work again."

Hall got to work and got a lot of help from the Indiana Basketball Coaches Association, who started managing the games in 2012. Hall started a high school tournament at Indianapolis Ben Davis on the same day as the All-Star game in Indianapolis.

The first year, there were 24 teams. Last Saturday, there were 84 teams at two sites in Indy, with each player getting a ticket to the game. That's 1,400 high school players in town competing and getting a ticket to the All-Star game Saturday night.

That contributed to the 6,620 fans who had a ball watching Indiana's girls and boys teams sweep Kentucky.

There were baskets out front, too, and children could win a T-shirt if they made a hoop.

"You have to make it a fun, family experience," Hall said.

Crown Point coach Clint Swan was an All-Star assistant. He was at Friday's game at Lexington's Transylvania University. It was a great game, but only 1,000 fans showed up.

The Bluegrass Sports Commission is now running the games with the Kentucky Lions Eye Foundation. A three-year contract was signed to keep the Kentucky home game in Lexington.

While Indiana has Bankers Life Fieldhouse, home of the Fever and Pacers, Kentucky has been grappling to find a consistent host. In the last 10 years, games have been played at Owensboro, two gyms in Louisville, Bowling Green and now Lexington.

"I do know this, they do a tremendous job of marketing the game in Indiana," Swan said. "They get sponsors to make it a marquee event. The people in Kentucky are new and they're starting on the ground floor and trying to build it back up down there.

"The crowd wasn't very good but that game was great. I think Kentucky is moving in the right direction."

In 1940, the Kentucky census had 2,845,627 people living in the Bluegrass State. Indiana had 3,427,796 Hoosiers in that year, just a hair bigger. In 2010, Indiana had 6,501,582 residents and Kentucky had 4,350,606.

Some suggest that's why Indiana's boys have won 13 straight games and 20 of the last 21. Two million more people raise the stakes in talent.

But Hall doesn't buy that notion. He just pointed out that Indiana's boys have had a five-year run of extreme talent. And James Blackmon Jr. (Indiana), Trevon Bluiett (Xavier) and Tyler Wideman (Butler) were examples.

Twelve of Indiana's 13 boys All-Stars had Division I talent. Only six Kentucky All-Stars are going D-I.

"We've gone 3-3 over the last six years in girls basketball," Hall said. "But everyone is talking about the boys. We've had a great run of talent the last five years. But in four or five of those games it was very close."

Former Merrillville Hall of Fame coach Jim East has only missed one entire series since 1946. He was an assistant All-Star coach in 1996. He's seen it evolve over the years. When he coached, it was a two-week event.

Now, including the games against the Junior All-Stars, it's four games in six days.

"It's not like what it used to be, but what is?" East said. "Basketball has changed dramatically. I saw Rick Mount play in front of a full house."

East was encouraged about Saturday's game at Bankers Life. Like Swan, he thought the atmosphere was great and the growing crowd was thrilled with the high level of skill.

Kentucky no longer has players like Wes Unseld, Butch Beard, Jack Givens or Darrell Griffith. But they have a plan to revive the series.

"We know we are in a partnership in this," said Hall, who pointed out that Givens and Indiana born but University of Kentucky star Kyle Macy are going to start promoting the event in Kentucky.

Next year, Kentucky is planning on hosting a tournament on the day of the game in Lexington, hoping to get kids and coaches engaged in the event. Hall is also going to bring up Indiana's All-Star reunion which brought 48 former players and coaches to Saturday's game.

"As long as Indiana and Kentucky keep producing great players, people will come to these games," Swan said. "I think Kentucky has some work to do and it seems like the people running it now are moving in the right direction."

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