ARCOLA — June 28 is a day many members of the Arcola boys basketball team and their parents will remember for a long time.
On that day, the Purple Riders scrimmaged against Watseka at the iconic Hoosier Gym in Knightstown, Ind. The gym was part of the 1986 film 'Hoosiers."
Plans to play in the gym had been in the making since Arcola coach Greg Gisinger was hired in May of 2018.
"We did battle-tested fitness program last summer," Gisinger said. "I was planing on the trip to be this summer. I didn't know if I wanted to play someone else or not. I called Chad Cluver (who Gisinger was an assistant for) at Watseka (head coach) and asked if he would be interested in having his team play a scrimmage and he said, 'Absolutely.'"
It was the first time at the gym for Gisinger as well, and the team carpooled to Knightstown, a drive of three hours.
"It worked out well," Gisinger said. "Some of the parents enjoyed it more than the kids because they realize the historic side of it. The kids might not understand it."
The night before the trip the team got together at Jeff and Lisa Edwards' house, and Giginser grilled some burgers and they watched the movie Hoosiers in the Edwards' gym.
"I had never seen the movie or been there and didn't know anything about the movie other than that it is a basketball movie," said Arcola's Kacee Moore, who will be a junior. "It was a really good movie. It was cool seeing plays back then and their road to the state championship and having to play bigger schools."
Kevin Garza, who will be a junior, knew a little bit about the movie but had never seen it.
"The movie was really good," Garza said. "It was similar to Coach Carter only in that film the coach took them from a rough neighborhood. In Hoosiers, they had only eight players and for them to win state was amazing."
The team was scheduled to be in the gym from 1 to 3 p.m. When they first arrived they looked at the museum, which is in the foyer.
Hoosiers is based on the 1954 Milan Indians, who with an enrollment of 161 won the state championship in the one class system. In the locker room where the fictional team "Hickory" — based on Milan — listened to coach Norman Dale are about 30 basketball jersey's or practice jersey's hanging on the pipes of teams that have played in the gym. They're signed by the players, one from Paris. Fortunately, someone from Arcola had a sharpie and they signed one of the Purple Rider' practice jerseys.
"That was pretty cool," Gisinger said. "I am not sure how long it will be there, but if anyone goes back they can look for it. Watseka players signed a No. 15 jersey, which was the same number Jimmy Chitwood wore."
Moore said, "That was cool knowing it will be hanging up there for everyone else to see that Arcola had been there."
Garza agreed, saying: "Not a lot of kids get the opportunity to go to the Hoosier Gym. From now on every a time a team goes there they will see that Arcola practice jersey and that is a really good feeling."
The junior varsity team played an inter-squad scrimmage for 15 to 20 minutes. The varsity played next against Watseka, with players playing for 20 minutes in a constant rotation. In the last 20 minutes, the parents were invited to come down and shoot around.
"When we first walked on it, it was really cool," Moore said. "There was the big Hickory sign and the picture of the team from the movie."
One thing that was decided before the scrimmage is that when Arcola shot a free throw they would have to shoot it like Ollie McLellan did, in the movie — granny-style.
"That was Cameron Roberts' idea," said Moore of shooting granny-style. "We all thought that would be great and Watseka agreed also."
The varsity watched the JV scrimmage.
"It was cool getting to shoot on the baskets," said Moore. "We were stepping where they were stepping in the movie. It was pretty awesome. It was a cool feeling shooting and especially when you made one. It meant more since we got to watch the movie and play there."
Moore went with Kevin Garza and his parents, Juan Garza and Blanco Leal.
"When we played Watseka it was a really cool feeling," Garza said. "It felt like we were playing one of Hickory's rivals. When you bounced the ball it sounded odd, like an old court. I thought to myself: I can't believe I am actually playing here."
Garza said he would like to go back and that the chalkboard in the locker room with Dale's quotes from the movies was his favorite part of the gym, along with the old Converse tennis shoes.
"Ben Crane and his dad (Jim Crane) played one-on-one and that is something they will have in their memory bank forever," Gisinger said. "This was more about the families and having fun with basketball at a historic place like Hoosier Gym."
Gisinger said the Arcola assistant coaches, who were not able to go, as well as himself, will return in August for a coaching clinic.
"For me, I liked the old peach basket on the side (not used) and just the atmosphere," said Gisinger. "As soon as I walked in I got chills and a vibe. The only other time that happened is when I coached Chrisman in the Elite Eight at Redbird Arena (Illinois State University). That was the only other time I was taken back as a coach a little bit. I really enjoyed it. I really stepped back and watched the parents interact with their sons. To see the smiles on their faces, including the dads, to me that was pretty special."
Moore has already watched the movie again and this time with his parents, Jeff and Kendall Moore, who had not seen it in a long time.
"It was great being able to say you were there," Moore said. "I could see myself taking my kids there and telling them that I played there."
Gisinger hopes to go back in four years so that everyone on the basketball team experiences it.
"Hopefully they will look back someday and see how cool it was for them," Gisinger said.