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Interesting tidbits on upcoming Trojan boys hoops season

By DAVID RISLEY - drisley@thecouriertimes.com

I know. I know. It’s only August, we’re still in the dog days of summer, and the high school football regular season has not yet begun. But I guess a little bit about Indiana high school basketball is welcome almost any time of the year.

I write a couple preview articles for Hoosier Basketball Magazine, the high school basketball bible that comes out about the time the regular season starts (hopefully), and I have been getting submissions from coaches since the end of the school year last spring.

Also, New Castle basketball historian Dr. Neil Thornhill gave me a large packet of information a couple or so weeks ago about Trojan basketball. There’s a lot of interesting stuff in there, and I thought I’d relay a bit of it to you readers in small morsels at a time.

Anyway, all high school fall sports get going next week in full earnest and we’ll probably get swamped by those, leaving little space in the paper for basketball until late October or November rolls around.

I hope these tidbits of information satisfy some of the cravings of you basketball junkies. These are from Neil’s research and I will interject my comments where I deem appropriate.

The New Castle boys are scheduled to open the season at Greenwood Nov. 23 (unless either of those two schools has a deep tournament run in football). According to Neil, the Trojans have not opened the season on the road since November 1956 at Greenfield (a 64-51 win), which has been a span of 61 straight years of opening at home.

Below are some other interesting facts unearthed by Neil entering the upcoming season.

New Castle currently is on an 18-game home winning streak. The record is 33 games set during 1996-98.

The Trojans’ fifth home game this season, which won’t be until January 2019, will be their 900th game in the Fieldhouse.

Mason Gillis currently ranks 7th on the all-time New Castle career scoring list with 1,251 points. He has a very good chance to move up to second place, passing Kyle Huckeby who had 1,633 points. Gillis will need 865 points to catch all-time leader Steve Alford’s 2,116 points.

Luke Bumbalough currently ranks 18th on the all-time Trojan career scoring list with 966 points. With his 34th point this coming season, Bumbalough will become the16th player in New Castle basketball history to score 1,000 points or more in a career.

When Luke Bumbalough scores his 34th point this season, he will join Mason Gillis as a 1,000-point scorer. This will be the first time in school history that two 1,000-point scorers have played on the same team.

The 2017-18 season was the first time in school history that two players on the same team averaged 20 or more points per game in the same season. Bumbalough averaged 20.03 ppg and Gillis 21.6 ppg.

Mason Gillis set a school record for most points in a season by a junior with 649 points in 2017-18.

Daniel Cox begins his sixth season as head coach of the Trojans, tying him with Charles Stuckey in years of service. A 21-win season in 2018-19 will give Cox 100 wins as a Trojan coach.

As the 2018-19 schedule now stands, this will be only the second time in school history (110 seasons) that New Castle will not play a Henry County team. The only other time was in the 1914-15 season.

Finally, this will be the 60th year of Trojan basketball in the “Largest and Finest High School Fieldhouse in the World.”

There is no doubt New Castle Fieldhouse has a large and a fine facility in which to view a basketball game. There is not a poor seat in the place. But I feel a twinge of sadness knowing that, at the present time, it no longer can seat 9,325 spectators as advertised.

For a long time, I thought it could. Then I learned that those extra bleachers that enabled it to reach that capacity had been sold (to a race track, I think), so probably that means the 24 rows of permanent bleachers at the Fieldhouse can probably seat about 7,600 fans. 

Right now, my friends, that is less than the 8,100 seats at both the Seymour and Richmond gymnasiums, making them larger as to seating capacity. The Anderson Wigwam and its 8,996 seats is out of the picture, as it no longer is used as a basketball facility.

I would have loved for the younger generation to see the Fieldhouse with those extra bleachers up, and even better when they were filled to capacity. It was a sight to see (and an adventure moving with the crowd in tight space to get to the concession stand and back at halftime or between tournament games).

Times change and the extra seats probably aren’t needed now, but it’s a shame we won’t get to see that again.

Staying on the subject of basketball, I recently read that Beech Grove boys basketball Head Coach Matt English is battling cancer (brain tumor) for the third time and is undergoing chemotherapy for it.

The thing I most remember about him is that he was called for a second technical foul for disputing officials’ calls and was ejected from the game when New Castle played the host Hornets this past season.

Beech Grove trailed the Trojans 30-18 at the time, but English’s ejection fired up his team and the crowd, and the Hornets turned that 12-point deficit into a 67-57 victory, New Castle’s worst loss of the season (and there weren’t many of those).

I wish English well and a full and speedy recovery. Having cancer is no fun. I had pancreatic cancer, a couple of my organs were ripped out, parts of two others were taken, and I was rewired and am back as good as new. That surgery was over 4 1/2 years ago.

I was lucky. My cancer was caught early because of symptoms, the tumor was rather small, I had a really good surgeon, and I didn’t even need to go through chemotherapy.

It seems like every day I read or hear about someone having cancer. John Andretti’s colon cancer has returned, our own Steve Auten is battling his cancer again, and just yesterday I learned the husband of a friend has been diagnosed with colon cancer after undergoing a colonoscopy.

I like sports and writing about them, but all this cancer stuff kind of puts things in perspective, at least for me.

David Risley is sports editor at The Courier-Times.