In 49 other states, it’s just basketball. But this is Indiana, where Basketball Day Indiana has been hyping up fans of the sport. Now, that fandom will be making its way to the City of Firsts.
Last week, it was announced that the fourth annual Basketball Day will be held at Kokomo’s own historic Memorial Gymnasium, on Saturday, Feb. 8.
Basketball Day Indiana is a full day of high school games and television coverage of college hoops and the Indiana Pacers. The event will be produced by FOX Sports Indiana, the Indiana Pacers, Indiana Fever, and the IHSAA.
According to FOX Sports Indiana Senior Vice President and General Manager Jack Donovan, the network wanted to showcase the state’s iconic gyms and communities each year as part of the event, making Kokomo the ideal setting due to the city’s abundant basketball antiquity.
“Our community obviously is rich with basketball-relation here, and I can’t think of a better place to watch a full day of basketball than the Kokomo High School historic Memorial Gymnasium,” said Mayor Tyler Moore. “Kokomo has a rich history of basketball with the likes of Jimmy Rayl, Jim Ligon, Jim Butcher, Tiffany Longworth, Mistina Oliver, and those that still are making names for themselves in basketball history, if you will, Brandon Wood, DJ Balentine, Tayler Persons …
“So, for Kokomo, obviously this is without a doubt a tremendous honor as we look forward to sharing that passion for the game with fans throughout the state,” Moore said.
Kokomo Athletic Director Nick Sale it was an honor for the school to be chosen as the 2020 host site.
“The honor to be chosen as host for Basketball Day Indiana 2020 is a direct reflection of all the outstanding student-athletes and coaches who have played and coached for Kokomo High School throughout the years. Our tradition and historic venue of Memorial Gym set us apart. This event will allow us to continue to promote all the great things that are happening in the city of Kokomo and at Kokomo High School,” Sale said.
Four high school basketball games will take place in Memorial Gymnasium, which was built in 1949 and added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2005. The first game between Kokomo and Tipton will begin at 10:30 a.m., with Peru and Northwestern following at 12:30 p.m., Fort Wayne Blackhawk Christian versus Crispus Attucks at 2:30 p.m., and ending with Fishers and Westfield at 4:30 p.m. All games will be televised live on FOX Sports Indiana.
The Wildkats team is thrilled to have this once-in-a-lifetime experience, according to Head Coach Bob Wonnell.
“This is an awesome experience for our Kokomo team from many different perspectives. First and foremost, Kokomo will play Tipton at 10:30 a.m. on T.V. Morning games are difficult, but this will be an excellent practice to simulate a regional weekend. Second, this is an excellent opportunity for our Kokomo team to play in front of a large crowd in an amazing environment. Our team can gain so much experience by playing in front of what promises to be an electric atmosphere here at Memorial Gym,” Wonnell said.
Additionally, Wonnell said the experience will help the team reach its goal of living up to the legacy that Kokomo has held in basketball for many years.
“We work hard each day to bring Kokomo basketball back where it belongs, among the top teams in 4A basketball. When that day arrives, events like this will help our Wildkats gain that poise and experience of playing an early Saturday morning game when the stakes are the highest,” Wonnell said.
The Pacers will begin and conclude the celebration of Basketball Day, starting with the home game against Toronto on Friday night and New Orleans on Saturday night. The Pacers will host a “Hickory Night,” commemorating the “Hickory” film that took place in Indiana, during the weekend by wearing their Hickory jerseys and recognizing legendary coaches Bob Knight of IU and Gene Keady of Purdue during a special halftime ceremony.
Every high school hosting a home game during the Basketball Day weekend will receive a Basketball Day flag. FOX Sports Indiana also will provide reports throughout the day on the IHSAA girls’ sectional tournament games.
Admission to Memorial Gym will be $5 for a day pass to all four games in the Basketball Day tournament.