Basketball was not born in Indiana, but the Hoosier State adopted the game more than 125 years ago.
Inspired by the storied history of Indiana high school basketball, photographers Chris Smith and Michael E. Keating captured Hoosier Hysteria’s legacy with photographs and essays in “Chasing Indiana’s Game: The Hoosier Hardwood Project,” a new book published by Indiana University Press.
Upon finding a photograph of his father’s 1937 high school basketball team, Smith decided to pursue a photographic project focused on Indiana’s historic high school gyms.
[sc:text-divider text-divider-title=”Story continues below gallery” ]
Teaming up with fellow photographer Keating, “The Hoosier Hardwood Project” was born.
As of 2020, Smith and Keating have traveled more than 50,000 miles and shot more than 400,000 digital frames of 300 gymnasiums, including Seymour High School’s Lloyd E. Scott Gymnasium, the largest high school gymnasium in the world at 8,228 seats.
The project, currently on display at the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame and selected as one of the Indiana Historical Society’s Bicentennial Exhibits, is now available within “Chasing Indiana’s Game.”
“As the years go by, one thing remains constant in our state, and that is the shared love of basketball,” Smith said. “This project has shown Michael and I that basketball in Indiana is much more than just a game. With every stop, it became obvious to us that the communities in our state take great pride in their gymnasiums and the tradition of Friday and Saturday night basketball.”
Smith said they were always welcomed with open arms and allowed to explore and document the buildings and people within them.
“And we were often led to our next destination by those very people,” he said. “History and a sense of community live within the walls of these gymnasiums.”
In addition to images ranging from barn courts to some of the nation’s largest high school gymnasiums, the book also features essays by Smith and Keating recounting stories and memories learned along the way from community members and some of Indiana’s most legendary players and coaches.
The photography project initially emphasized the architecture of Indiana high school gymnasiums, but as time and travels persisted, Smith and Keating found inspiration in the people who brought the courts and the game to life.
“We traveled to an old gym turned community center in Vernon, Indiana, and arrived while a dance class was taking place on the stage. On the court, a young boy was shooting baskets,” Keating said.
“His mother asked if she should stop her son so that we could photograph the gym, and my response was ‘absolutely not,’ and that’s when it hit me that this project was not just about the physical spaces. It was about the human connection to these gyms and the countless memories that were made in them,” he said.
Before they knew it, they were sitting on the stage looking through historic team photos and sharing tales of the boy’s grandfather, who played on the same court.
“Legacy and community live in the ideas of Hoosier Hysteria,” Keating said.
Early viewings of the book prompted endorsements from some of Indiana’s basketball legends, including George McGinnis (former Indiana Mr. Basketball, ABA and NBA All-Star and Basketball Hall of Famer), Judi Warren (Indiana’s first Miss Basketball in 1976) and Bobby Plump (a member of the 1954 Milan High School state championship team).
[sc:pullout-title pullout-title=”At a glance” ][sc:pullout-text-begin]
“Chasing Indiana’s Game: The Hoosier Hardwood Project” is available for preorder on Indiana University Press, Amazon and Barnes and Noble.
For information, visit hhphotoproject.com.