It’s the home state of Larry Bird … and Oscar Robertson … and, in today’s NBA, Gordon Hayward. In fact, Indiana produces more NBA talent per capita than any other state in the nation.
Indiana also boasts 18 of the 20 largest high school gyms in the country, led by the 9,000-plus-seat New Castle Fieldhouse.
In short, no other state has a bigger love affair with basketball than Indiana, where just about every house has a backboard and a rim hanging from a barn, garage or pole.
“The stereotypes are true about Indiana basketball — we’re pretty big about it,” said Sawyer Glick, a native of Columbus, Indiana, and now a basketball standout at Barry University. “I grew up with a basketball in my hands.”
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Sawyer, 23, is a 6-5, 190-pound shooting guard. His brother, Kooper, 20, is a 6-3, 200-pound utility player who is a tenacious defender at guard and forward.
Barry coach Butch Estes said Sawyer, who averaged 10.7 points and 3.7 rebounds last season, is much improved this year, and he’s ready to live up to his birthright as an Indiana shooter.
“Sawyer was good last season — not dynamite, but good,” Estes said. “This year, he’s a different player. His attitude is, ‘I’m ready for the big time’ … and he is.”
On Nov. 3, in an exhibition game, Sawyer proved Estes right, scoring 32 points in a major upset over Auburn, a Division I team that had been expected to outclass Barry.
It was Sawyer’s three-pointer from the top of the key that sent that game to overtime, and his brother saw that play unfold from the bench.
With Barry trailing by three points, Daniel Mortensen grabbed a loose ball. Kooper yelled for Mortensen to pass to Sawyer, which he did.
“I knew it was (going to be) a bucket,” Kooper said. “I saw Sawyer, in rhythm, catch it, one, two, heel, toe — I’ve seen him do that a lot.”
Sawyer is likely Barry’s best shooter. He made 42.1 percent of his three-point shots last season, and Estes called him “gifted” offensively.
Kooper, meanwhile, averaged just 2.8 points last season, making 24.0 percent of his three-point tries. He also played just 9.8 minutes per game compared to 21.7 for Sawyer.
This season, Kooper’s role should expand based on how he’s regarded by Estes.
“He’s a maverick,” Estes said of Kooper. “He brings a toughness to our team. He fears nothing, no one, no situation.”
Kooper, who played football, baseball, basketball, hockey and golf while growing up, is considered a better and more physical athlete than Sawyer.
“I used to love football,” Kooper said. “I always loved contact, and I guess it carried over to basketball.”
Sawyer and Kooper come from an athletic family. Their mother, Jill, was a college gymnast at Indiana State. Their father, Rory, who is 6-foot-5, was a high school basketball player. And their older brother, Coleman, played golf and hockey primarily.
Coleman used to “rough-house” with his younger brothers, but he now helps Rory and Jill run the family business, Barkes, Weaver & Glick Funeral Homes in Columbus.
Sawyer, who is majoring in International Studies, and Kooper, who is majoring in Sports Management, both said helping with the family business is a fall-back option.
But first, they want to see how far basketball can take them, and perhaps this season that could be a deep run in the Division II NCAA Tournament with the Barry Buccaneers.
If so, it would be more payoff for the countless hours Rory spent in the driveway with his sons, working on their shooting forms.
“Generally, we’re pretty good shooters in Indiana,” Rory said. “We’re all brought up being taught the proper form — feet, arms, elbows. We love to score.”
Rory and Jill attended nearly every Barry game last season, and they plan to be even more involved this time around, traveling all around the country.
During games, Jill is definitely louder than Rory.
“Mom will let the refs know if they’re messing up,” Sawyer said.
Jill said it’s all part of the passion Hoosiers have for hoops.
“When Sawyer made that shot against Auburn, I don’t even think we clapped,” she said. “I think our jaws just dropped.
“Most of the time, I’m just nervous and sick to my stomach. Even if it’s just a scrimmage, I live it for them.”