Milan (Ind.) High School coach Josh Blankinship said to most of his players, the history of the school made famous by the movie "Hoosiers" doesn't mean a lot.
But to senior Braden Voss, it means everything.
“It's definitely an honor to playoff or Milan. There's nothing better than putting on that jersey every night, and playing for that team that has that great tradition with their name," said Voss, whose great uncle, Ray Craft, was a member of the 1954 state champions made famous by the 1986 movie and the ficticious Hickory High, based on Milan. "It means a lot that my family has been involved with it for quite a while. I just want to keep my tradition going."
Blankinship, who is in third year at Milan, said he's sure he's never been anywhere where the Milan and "Hoosiers" question has not come up. This week his team is one of 34 teams at the annual Centre College Basketball Team Camp here.
"It goes with the territory, and Milan's a great place to be with the history that has taken place, and not necessarily just 1954," Blankinship said. "What I like to tell everybody is when I first got the job, I walked into the gym and I saw the ‘54 banner, but then right next to it is the 1953 banner and it said state finalists. Well, I had no idea they were in the state finals the year before and had gotten beat.
“Everybody likes to talk about how Milan is the one-hit-wonder type thing and a one-year deal. And that wasn't the case at all. It was not quite the upset the movie made it out to be."
For a quick history lesson, Milan and it's enrollment of 162 beat Muncie Central (enrollment 1,662) 32-30 on a last-second shot by Bobby Plump in 1954.
While Voss has reminders of the famous title-winning team in his family, Blankinship said the story is almost ancient history to his other players.
"I think to our kids, and not just the basketball players, it's just kind of passed them up. But for their grandparents, and for a certain degree their parents, it still holds close to them. But the kids, not really. They've seen class basketball, that's it," the coach said. "It doesn't mean anything to them. That's just kids these days.
"They're thing is, we want to make our own thing, which isn't a bad thing. Gut kids need to have an understanding of what that meant to our community and the state of Indiana at that time and how special that is for Indiana high school basketball."
Blankinship said the former players are terrific to the program to this day.
"I think the best part for me is just being able to meet some those guys and listening to some of the stories that Bobby Plump and Ray Craft and Gene White and Roger Schroder tell. All those guys are great guys and they love basketball and they want to see Milan basketball succeed," he said. "They're very supportive of the program and our goals, and what we're trying to do. And me personally, I can't thank them enough for the support they've showed us."
Voss said even if the seniors were born about eight years after "Hoosiers" came out, there is always still pressure because of the name Milan.
"Yeah, it's on all of our shoulders. You hear that all the time. You just feel the pressure because you're wearing that jersey that says Milan on it," said Voss, who admits that is a hard legacy to live up to. "It gets a little nerve-wracking, but we get so caught up in it we just want to continue that and show we can do the same thing even thought it's not the same thing with the classes (in Indiana basketball now). We want to show we are actually good enough."
That is what Voss wants to do in his senior year after a 5-16 record last season.
"We've got six solid seniors coming back. Five of us started last year, so we've got basically everybody coming back," Voss said. "We've gotten big contributions from our sophomore class and freshman class (over the summer) and we plan on doing great things this year."
And while Voss likes the movie “Hoosiers,” he would make one change to it.
“Using the Hickory name, that makes me think of Milan all the time,” he said. “I sometimes wish it was our name. I wish it was Milan in the movie.”