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EAST CHICAGO | Most of Indiana believes in the myth. Like lint on a shiny new sweater, it doesn't go away. No matter how many swipes one hand can take.

The 1986 film "Hoosiers" is about Milan, the 1954 Indiana high school boys basketball state champs. Everyone knows this is true, right?

"It is not about Milan," Hoosiers writer and producer Angelo Pizzo said on Monday in East Chicago, where he took part in a Black History Month event for his friend, Napoleon Brandford.

No, Gene Hackman is not Marvin Wood.

And Jimmy Chitwood is not Bobby Plump.

But the stories are so similar -- small-school prep basketball team defies the odds and beats all comers to win state -- that many confuse the two.

Actually, Unionville and Bobby Kent influenced Pizzo, and also "Hoosiers" more than Milan did. Pizzo, who was raised in Bloomington, loved today more than most days.

The 101st IHSAA boys basketball state tournament tips off all around the state tonight. Dreams and drama will collide on hoop courts from here to there.

For Pizzo, going over to the Martinsville High School gymnasium for sectional week was the biggest thrill around.

"Martinsville had the biggest gym around and 15, 16 teams would come there to fight for the sectional championship," Pizzo said. "It was packed and everyone wanted to be there. One year Bobby Kent got hot and they won the sectional.

"That was a mini-Milan right there."

Pizzo despises the four-class basketball tournament of today for several reasons, but the biggest is its destruction of the old sectionals.

"That was the most exciting week of the year," he said. "It was neighborhood bragging rights. The memories the (E.C.) Roosevelt and Washington players had was sectionals because they were playing their buddies.

"Now, it's not like that anymore."

Pizzo goes to every Bloomington South boys basketball game, where his son is a student. Pizzo's brother, Seth, does video work for South football coach Kirk Kennedy, formerly of Lowell.

His movie and fame has also brought him close to Dan Dakich, the former Andrean star who coached at the Indiana University.

"Dan is always talking about region basketball," Pizzo laughed on Monday inside the East Chicago Police Department. Both Pizzo and Brandford are looking at ideas for a film on the 1970 E.C.R. team.

The stories inside the story are riveting. But Brandford was clear this will not be Hoosiers with smokestacks in the background.

"Hoosiers is a great, great movie," Brandford said. "It is a great story. But it is not our story."

Pizzo said he does not want to do another basketball movie. He would like a film about the Roosevelt team, but with a broader theme of Brandford's success on Wall Street and in life.

"Hoosiers" has been named the best sports movies ever made by several publications. The American Film Institute ranked the film No. 13 in its "100 years...100 Cheers" list of most inspirational films.

But tonight, Pizzo is excited about the immediate future and the state tournament. Like all other Hoosiers he's trying to see who the next Jimmy Chitwood will be. Or to be truer than the myth, who the next Bobby Kent will be.

"I know how Bloomington (South) has done against the teams in our area and some of the teams in Indianapolis," said Pizzo, who also wrote and directed "Rudy." "What still makes the tournament fun is trying to see how South would do against a team like Munster, a team we haven't seen yet."


Sports Director

Hillary has covered prep, pro and college sports -- and even a Dixie Baseball World Series -- for newspapers north and south of the Mason-Dixon Line since 1995.