We Grow Basketball Here: The Old Man and The Team
In the first installment of the We Grow Basketball Here documentary series, the incredible story of Blackford High School's ascendent basketball team — with an old coach and a young star — is told by award-winning director Kirby Bradley in "The Old Man and The Team."
When we say "We Grow Basketball Here," the "here" in this story is just north of Muncie, Indiana in Hartford City, a town that like much of rural America, has been hit hard by industrial decline.
"It has been tough economically for us," said Tony Uggen, the Athletic Director Blackford High School.
As times got tougher and residents began leaving the city, the basketball program declined along with it, with losing seasons becoming the norm at Blackford High School.
Until Jerry Hoover came along.
At 82 years old, Hoover had been retired as a coach, but wasn't able to sit still for long, applying to be the coach at over a dozen schools. Hoover, however, was met with a familiar refrain upon applying for coaching vacancies: too old.
When a coaching position opened up at Blackford, Hoover applied for the job, bringing along a talented family member with him.
His cousin's son and grandson, Ted and Luke Brown, wanted to join Hoover as he reentered coaching, injecting new life into Blackford Bruins' basketball team.
Luke, entering his freshman season, quickly became a phenom in Indiana, lighting up box scores for over 30 points per game and reaching 1000 points faster than anyone in state history.
As rumors of Luke's talent spread, the gymnasium at Blackford High School began to fill up with enthusiastic fans, harkening back to a brighter time when the basketball team was the pride of the city.
"The stands just filled up," said Luke's father Ted Brown, who is an assistant coach with the Bruins. "The community was just so excited to have a winning basketball team. They just came out of the woodwork."
Although the Bruins' season ended in defeat, with a loss to undefeated Delta in the State Tournament, Blackford High School's resurgent year lifted the hopes of Hartford City, and restored pride in their historic program.
"It's bigger than basketball," coach Hoover said.
You can watch "The Old Man and The Team" in the embedded video player above or on the Pacers Facebook page.