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"When you walk in here and it's a full house, that light -- there's like a haze that comes across it because you can't clean this building 100 percent," says John Harding, a 65-year-old Indianapolis native who has been the equipment manager for 19 years. "You don't clean concrete that's been here since 1928. There's just dust. It's been here. You see that haze coming across there in kind of an arc right going down -- it comes right down on the floor."
The oak floor has been replaced over time, but the risers below are the originals. The court creaks when you walk on it and it's uneven in some spots. The soft, flexible wood has made it a favorite of players through the years.
"It all came back to me when the movie 'Hoosiers' came out," Plump says. "People magazine wanted to take a picture of me in my letter jacket at Hinkle Fieldhouse. I'm standing under the basket at the south end and they've got their camera for the picture on a tripod on my side of the 10-second line. There's a kid dribbling under the basket on the north end. They asked him to stop because it was jiggling the camera. That's how sensitive the floor was."
Garry Donna, editor of Hoosier Basketball Magazine for 40 years and a member of the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame, said playing there as a high school kid in the 1950s was a bigger-than-life experience.
"It didn't matter that the locker rooms were a mile away, you didn't care that the sun came in the windows, it was a special occasion," he said. "Hinkle Fieldhouse is like no other."
The field house hosted the state championships from 1928 to 1971 and Plump's is far from the only stirring tale.
John Wooden is known the world over as a winning basketball coach at UCLA. Perhaps his most painful loss came in the 1928 state finals, the first at the field house.
Wooden's Martinsville team led Muncie 12-11 late in the game, but Muncie was issued a technical foul for taking too long while attending to an injury to Charles Secrist. Wooden, an excellent free-throw shooter for the defending state champs, missed the free throw.
According to the rules of the day, the ball came to midcourt for a jump ball. Secrist tipped the ball to himself, then fired the ball toward the basket from just beyond halfcourt, hoping to give himself a chance to rebound. The high, arching shot somehow dropped through the net, and Muncie won 13-12.
In 1955, Robertson scored 30 points to lead his team to the state title against Gary Roosevelt. It was the first state title in the nation for an all-black team.
"It came to mean more later," Robertson told The Associated Press. "You're not aware of all that in high school. I didn't find out about all those things until I was into my adult years."
Attucks scored 97 points that day, an Indiana record that still stands.
The next year, Attucks became the first unbeaten state champion in Indiana behind 39 points from the Big O.
Robertson played regular-season games there, too.
"We drew such big crowds that it was the only place to hold the games," the Hall of Famer said.
Over time, the building has become somewhat modernized. Chairs were added around the lower section in 1989, dropping the seating capacity to 11,000. Panels on the roof added in the past few years helped improve sound quality.
But for the most part, it's an uncomplicated place. Aside from the blue-painted original wooden bleachers that cover much of the arena and the "new" blue chairs, the dominant color is gray.
There are no video screens, no escalators, no air conditioning. Filled to capacity on a cold winter's day, it gets hot enough that the windows have to be opened. Nothing fancy.
"The people that really appreciate tradition and history love it," Butler coach Brad Stevens says. "If you're looking for new amenities and flashy things and something that everybody's trying to build to keep up with the Joneses, I think you've got to go somewhere else."
Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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