Day 4: Butler | Traveling Violations
INDIANAPOLIS – After deciding to transfer from Notre Dame, Mike Monserez went looking for a new basketball home. On his visit here to Butler, he was led into Hinkle Fieldhouse and home found him.
"It was about 7 a.m. on a Saturday morning. You could see the sun coming through the windows," Monserez recalls. "I got some jump shots in and thought, 'This is pretty neat.'"
The 75-year-old basketball barn wasn't the only reason Monserez came to Butler, but it was in the top three. This is a true classic of the game, an 11,400-seat old-school gym.
And famous too. This is where both the real-life and movie versions of Hoosiers took place. For years the Indiana high school tournament staged its finals at Hinkle, and even today sectionals and regionals some years call it home.
"I always dreamed of playing in here one day," says Butler sophomore Avery Sheets, who hails from Lafayette, Ind. "Other than the university and the program, it is what sells you to come here. It is hard to turn down all the history."
No one knows that better than Butler coach Todd Lickliter. He regularly welcomes a steady stream of visitors to Hinkle, basketball pilgrims who show up out of the blue to see the famous structure. On Tuesday it was a businessman from Dayton who decided to stop by.
Lickliter played state tournament games here as a sophomore, junior and senior at nearby North Central High. He then spent four years at Butler. He can show you his locker as a high school kid and where the crowd rushed the court when his college team beat Ohio State.
"For me it is special" to coach here, he says. "Wherever you [coach] it would be special, but to do it at a place where you have memories that are before the first day you were hired is special."
He wouldn't trade Hinkle for anything, even if the school somehow offered to put up one of those $100 million megaplexes that have become fashionable.
"No, no, no," Lickliter said. "Come on, you're going to trade this?"
So he uses Hinkle as more than a home-court advantage. He uses it as a recruiting tool. Many kids today want fancy facilities out of their college. While Butler has a modern locker room, Hinkle will never be considered flashy.
But if a recruit likes Hinkle, then he is probably a Butler guy.
"It says something about them," Lickliter says.
• You know you are in racing-mad Indianapolis when the "Do Not Disturb" sign on your hotel door is shaped like a racecar, is colored like a checker flag and reads "Driver Resting."
• Lickliter attended Indianapolis North Central High School, where he played for his father, Arlan. It is also the alma mater of former McDonald's All-American Jason Gardner, who just graduated from Arizona.
Not to mention Butler senior Nick Gardner.
"Hey Nick," Lickliter asked. "Who's the best guard to ever come out of our school?"
"You," Nick Gardner said.
"Jason Gardner," Nick laughed.
"See, smart kid," Lickliter said.
• Basketball types checking in with the Tour Tuesday include retired UTEP coach Don Haskins, Indiana coach Rick Carlisle, Milwaukee's Dave Babcock, Kiki Vandeweghe and Jeff Bzdelik of the Nuggets and Cornell assistant Paul Fortier, who reports that we shouldn't sleep on the Big Red.
• Considering the short-notice announcement we were pretty pleased with the attendance at Tuesday's fan event in Indianapolis. A decent crew showed up at the legendary Slippery Noodle Inn, which is Indiana's oldest bar and in operation (save prohibition) since 1850.
Please consider that 1850 date for a moment. People used to ride their horses to get a drink at this joint. Awesome.
Particular thanks to Pacer tryout CarlEnglish (who, in case Coach Carlisle is reading this, left early to get his rest and didn't drink anything), Indiana fan J.T. Loughmiller and Butler fans Matt Jarvis and Neal Walther for the good time.
• ATTENTION KATE, who is engaged to the aforementioned Neal Walther. Might we note that he loves you, he meant to be home sooner and he wasn't lying when he intended to have "one beer." He just kind of got caught up in the Tour. So please forgive him. It is our fault. Please blame us.
• ATTENTION KENTUCKY FANS, yes, we are planning to have some similar event Thursday in Lexington. Stop emailing us and begging for it. Exact times are not known, but plan on either attending the remote event that radio stud Drew Diener is having that very afternoon (call him to find out the details) or stopping by the wonderful Two Keys sometime between 6 and 8 p.m. Times subject to change.
• First-rate Butler assistant Brad Stevens took us to the Bulldog stronghold of Moe & Johnny's for lunch in nearby Broad Ripple. It was good meal at what may be the preeminent Butler bar that was once known as "The Bulldog."
• Butler's freshman class is tremendous. The biggest catch – and we do mean big – is 7-foot Jamie Smalligan of East Grand Rapids, Mich. He reminds of a young Chris Kaman, who was a star at Central Michigan before being a lottery pick of the Clippers.
Smalligan moves well and has a terrific jump shot. After practice Tuesday he knocked down 73 of 100 three-point attempts. We did mention that he is 7 feet tall, didn't we?
• Mileage thus far: 634.6 miles.
• Next stop: Bloomington, Ind.