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Becoming a Hoosier: Jim Rayl played a significant role in the 1986 sports film ‘Hoosiers’

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Jim Rayl

HOOSIER — Jim "Jimbo" Rayl poses for a photo on the set of the 1986 film "Hoosiers." Rayl's character was player number five on the Terhune Tigers team during the sectional semi-finals against Hickory.

While hanging out with friends and listening to the radio the summer before his freshman year of college at Indiana University Purdue University-Fort Wayne, Jim “Jimbo” Rayl heard an advertisement for tryouts for a basketball movie being filmed in Indiana.

On a whim, he decided to seize the opportunity. With a few friends, the former Kokomo High School basketball star headed down to Indiana University Purdue University-Indianapolis where the tryouts were held. Upon arrival, he discovered there were thousands of men between the ages of 18 and 25 trying to get a part in what would be known as the movie “Hoosiers.”

At tryouts, Rayl and the other men were instructed to run up and down the court, simply playing basketball. Afterward, members of the production company called over certain players and told them they made the cut. Rayl was one of the approximately 100 to 150 hopefuls to make it to the next round of auditions.

In the second round, the men again just played basketball. After that, the selection was narrowed down to about 20 to 25 men who had to return for a casting call, and Rayl was one. This time, Rayl had to put in work. He was given the lines for the main eight roles on the Hickory team. Rayl’s decision was simple; he chose the part with the fewest lines, not wanting to have to memorize too much.

A week after auditioning with the casting director, Rayl received a call telling him that he didn’t get the part he auditioned for, but he was offered a part on the opposing basketball team. Rayl accepted the part of player number five on the Terhune Tigers team.

“I was excited to make it to the final 20 to 25 but bummed I didn’t make the main team. But it all worked out. I’m just glad I was able to be a part of it,” Rayl said.

In the movie, Hickory and Terhune were big rivals and played each other in the sectional semi-final game. This scene was filmed in the gym of Brownsburg High School, founded in 1907, due to its dated appearance, in Brownsburg, Ind. There were two days of practice for the scene and three days of filming. This included big actors like Gene Hackman (Norman Dale), Barbara Hershey (Myra Fleener), and Dennis Hopper (Shooter Flatch).

During one scene, Rayl had the most camera time of all the other players on the Terhune team. He was fouled and then went up for a free throw, allowing a closeup. He was the only scorer for the team, and he also played a small part in a fight between a Hickory player and another Terhune player in the middle of the game.

In the downtime, Rayl spent a lot of time talking to the big actors, especially Hopper, who was in two movies with James Dean, which fascinated Rayl. Playing the role of the always-intoxicated assistant coach, Hopper would go into the hallway and spin in circles before a scene to appear drunk. This became particularly special to Rayl during the sectional semi-finals scene when Hopper’s character stumbled onto the court as Rayl was about to shoot a free throw after being fouled by Hickory.

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rayl haircut

CLEANED UP — Rayl sits behind the scenes getting a haircut by the hair and makeup crew before shooting the scene.

To pass time between scenes, the basketball players would participate in free throw contests. With many people in the stands watching, each player would shoot until he missed. The record was 32 or 33 shots in a row. Rayl got up to the line and made 75 free throw shots before the movie director told him he had to stop so they could get back to filming.

“After about an hour of filming, they told me I could start back up again, and I missed my first one. They ruined my rhythm by making me stop at 75,” Rayl said.

After the three days of filming were over, all the players were supposed to turn in the prop uniforms and shoes. Instead, Rayl put his in his duffel bag and took them home, even though most of the other men didn’t. Today, he has the uniform framed, hanging in his basement.

The “Hoosiers” movie was released in the fall of 1986, Rayl’s sophomore year of college. After the NCAA found out about Rayl’s part in the movie, they suspended him for the first three games of his sophomore season for being “paid to play basketball.” Making $150 each day for the five days, Rayl was forced to pay back a percentage to the movie company; however, the check he sent never was cashed.

Rayl still receives invitations to attend the “Hoosiers” reunion held for all cast members. The last reunion he attended was in 2013 at Banker’s Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, he said, where he signed autographs and took photos with fans. This was an unusual experience for him, he said, as he’s not used to fame.

Still to this day, he’s surprised by how popular the movie became.

" ... We had no idea. Even after we filmed it and everything, we still didn't think it was going to be that good of a movie. It ended up being one of the greatest sports movies of all time," said Rayl.

Today, Rayl resides in Kokomo and works as a State Farm insurance account representative at Cossell Insurance Agency Inc. More than three decades later, Rayl is not the only one who remembers his role in one of the most timeless sports films.

“The cool thing about it is it’s so popular. People around Kokomo know that I’m in it. Thirty-some years later, they still know that I was in the movie ‘Hoosiers,’” Rayl said.