The 2014 IHSAA boys basketball state tournament marks the 17th anniversary of the implementation of class basketball, but for former Kokomo players like Brian McCauley and Jason Snyder, the memories of what the single-class tournament was like are still fresh on their minds.
Now the Wildkats’ boys basketball coach and athletic director, respectively, McCauley and Snyder remember standing-room-only crowds being the norm throughout the tournament, which started at Kokomo’s Memorial Gym for sectional play and moved on to Marion’s Bill Green Athletic Arena for the regional.
Tonight, the North Central Conference-rival Giants pay the Kats a visit in a Class 4A sectional semifinal. The first matchup between the teams this season on Dec. 20 at Memorial Gym featured a sizable crowd the likes of which Snyder hadn’t seen in a long time.
With tournament survival on the line, as well as fan contingents from McCutcheon and Harrison making the trek over from the Lafayette area, a similar, if not larger, crowd is expected to take the action in.
“It brings you back to former years,” McCauley said. “It’s exciting. It’s what Indiana high school basketball is all about.”
The Giants (18-4) have enjoyed an infusion of excitement in and around their program this year with the addition of former great James Blackmon taking over head coaching duties.
His son, guard James Jr., an Indiana University recruit, McDonald’s All-American candidate and Mr. Basketball candidate, made the move from Fort Wayne Bishop Luers with his father, and has torched the nets to the tune of a 33.4 points-per-game scoring average this season.
“He’s a complete basketball player,” McCauley said of Blackmon Jr. “He can score off the dribble. He can score off the catch. He can score in multiple ways. He’s an active defender with great size and athleticism.”