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Hinkle Magic Jimmy Lafakis

Hinkle Fieldhouse from above.

I. THE ATHLETIC EXPERIENCE

THE MICROWAVE

When Paul Jorgensen seized the long rebound, he entered a different dimension. He zipped down the court, leaving potential Villanova University defenders in his wake. Without blinking, the 6’2 guard made a business decision. He knew his next move. What he couldn’t have expected, however, was how the shot would etch his name in Hinkle Fieldhouse lore.

Jorgensen stopped.

32 feet.

Pulled up.

Rose up.

Drained it.

Paul Jorgensen celebrates after his three-pointer.

“Hinkle Magic” is real, folks.

The sellout crowd burst into pandemonium, the fans fostering a frenetic frenzy. The Bulldogs took a 48-40 lead over the No. 1 Wildcats and never relinquished the advantage. For the second straight year, Butler toppled top-ranked Villanova in Hinkle.

But that shot. That seemingly impossible shot. The shot’s degree of difficulty is through the roof. No coach would recommend it. But Jorgensen felt it, and when he feels it, watch out.

“When I get hot like that, you know how it goes,” he said. “Shooting was the first thing I thought about. I didn’t even think about anything else. I just remember shooting it from deep, and thank God it went in.”

No shot in that game became more famous than Jorgensen’s heave.

“Hinkle loves a couple of three-pointers,” he said. “They love a guy who plays with passion and energy. Once the crowd starts going and getting wild, I start feeding off of it. I start feeling more confident, and I feel like I can do anything. I start talking junk, talking to the refs, talking to everybody.”

I was present for that shot. My family and I drove down to spend New Year’s Eve weekend in Indianapolis. Our trips became centered around Butler basketball. That family atmosphere is truly important to me, but I will touch on that later.

The reason why those trips were all about Butler? I served as a sports reporter and photographer for the Butler Collegian, Butler University’s student newspaper, for four years. I have traveled to 10 states and to the Bahamas to cover Butler athletics. I packed about as many amazing experiences as a college student can in that amount of time… but no place means more to me than Hinkle Fieldhouse. For me, nothing else compares.

Photo by Zach Bolinger.
Photo by zach bolinger.

If you count all of the photos I have taken inside Hinkle, the number is in the tens of thousands. I can say that for sure. It might even be in the hundreds of thousands. Here’s all I know: I got to watch magic happen, and I clicked a button to document it.

I have fond memories of photographing Jorgensen’s shot. My shutter speed was lower than I would have liked it to be, which caused the photos to be a bit brighter than I wanted. I found beauty in the imperfection of my work and am still overjoyed because I was present to witness and document that iconic game. I tweeted some of my photos shortly after the shot, which was one of my favorite parts of covering games in Hinkle.

Before the season, I affectionately called Jorgensen “The Microwave” because of his ability to get hot at any time. I felt vindicated on that day.

That story, intertwined with so many others, helps build Hinkle’s fabric. The revered building came to be in 1928. The National Historic Landmark has stood the test of time, with recent renovations enhancing yet preserving the building’s trademark charm. It has held countless historic events. Scenes from the movie Hoosiers were filmed in the fieldhouse. Hinkle hosted United States presidents, Olympic basketball trials, NBA All-Star Games… the list goes on and on.

Paul “Tony” Hinkle, the famous basketball, baseball and football coach at Butler, once said, “If only the fieldhouse could talk, the stories it would tell.”

My photo of HINKLE Fieldhouse (background image) WITH TONY HINKLE'S QUOTE.

I will tell some of those stories.

THE FUTURE

The next story starts with a player who didn’t even foresee himself in a Butler uniform. Sophomore forward Jordan Tucker started his collegiate career at Duke University. Because he is a self-described “basketball junkie,” he watched that Butler-Villanova game on television. He witnessed the atmosphere from afar, and made his own business decision.

Just a few weeks later, he took his official visit to Butler. He watched Butler’s No. 2 all-time leading scorer, forward Kelan Martin, drop 37 points against Marquette University in a 94-83 comeback victory.

The game was played on a frigid Friday night in January. The stands were packed, and Tucker had a front-row seat to the action.

He committed to Butler that weekend.

“This is what I like,” Tucker said. “I wanted to come to a basketball school where the fans really care.”

Fast-forward to just over a year later, and the Hinkle faithful watched the former Top 100 recruit put on a show of his own. The St. John’s University Red Storm came to town, and Tucker embraced the chance to play some friends from back home. On January 19, 2019, he, just like Jorgensen, established his first signature Hinkle moment.

Tucker received a high ball screen at the top of the key, crossed over and drove right on St. John’s forward LJ Figueroa. Figueroa raced to get back into position, but his efforts proved futile. With the ball in his right hand, Tucker immediately snatched it back between his legs.

Figueroa lost control.

His rear end met the floor.

Tucker paused.

Rose.

Fired.

Pure.

Tucker finished the game with a career-high 24 points on 8-17 shooting, (6-11 three-point) six rebounds and two assists. The Bulldogs proved triumphant, knocking off the New York foes 80-71. I have dubbed that particular game “The Arrival.”

“I was eager to break out because I knew it was there,” Tucker said. “I wanted to prove to myself and everybody else that I was mentally tough enough. There was going to be a message sent against St. John’s. I wanted to play really well and I wanted to win for us. I wanted to win so bad for us.”

Jordan Tucker with Lisa Byington in hinkle fieldhouse.

Although he has only participated in 11 games in Hinkle, Tucker understands the significance of the building and its history. In a sense, he has developed an imaginary contract with Hinkle.

“It’s magical,” he said. “I feel like it gives you what you put into it. I’m mad superstitious, so I feel like it knows how many hours I have put into that gym. It pays you back.”

THE EXAMPLE

When you hear “Hinkle Fieldhouse,” there’s a good chance basketball immediately comes to mind. I will return to the hoops hype, but I want to bring attention to another sport played in Hinkle: volleyball.

Anna Logan lives five minutes from Butler. It is common for students to walk to their elementary schools or middle schools from their neighborhoods. It is not as customary for Butler students to walk to campus from their homes. Because the redshirt junior has not obtained her driver’s license, she frequently gets her steps in from walking to the arena.

The Bishop Chatard alum is an outside hitter on the volleyball team, and has cemented a status as one of the most decorated players in her squad’s history. All of the success was just a dream back when she played volleyball on the Hinkle court at camps.

“I thought that was so cool,” she said. “Growing up here, we used to come here as a family. It was really cool to share sporting events with my brothers and parents.”

After Butler volleyball matches, young fans have the chance to receive autographs from the players. Logan’s mini-fan club flocks to her after the final point. Several of her young admirers attend St. Thomas Aquinas School, just a short drive from Hinkle. When they mob her, they know they will get those autographs and pictures.

Anna Logan with young fans.

“It’s a cool feeling, knowing that kids look up to you,” Logan said. “Even though the only reason they know you is because they went to your grade school. It’s nice to see them look up to me as a role model.”

After one Friday afternoon game back in 2016, I witnessed a mob of adoring fans chase Logan down the Hinkle hallway. She was hustling to her astronomy exam, but her admirers wouldn’t quit. I thought of a rock star at a concert. I will never forget that moment. It was truly remarkable.

Once she committed to play volleyball down the street, the rest of her story became history.

“I knew that I’d be comfortable at Butler,” she said.

THE GRIT

When you examine Michelle Weaver’s tenure, it’s impossible to gloss over her persistence. Referring to her as a gritty player is apropos. During Senior Day against Villanova University, head women’s basketball coach Kurt Godlevske announced nicknames for each of his four seniors. He called Weaver “the grit.”

The Bulldogs began the guard's first two seasons 10-21 and 6-25. Those years were gritty, but they certainly were not pretty.

“We could have quit,” Weaver said. “We could have transferred and left, but we stuck it out. We pushed through the adversity, and we ended up doing really well.”

Performing ‘really well’ this past season is somewhat of an understatement. Butler finished 23-10 (11-7 Big East), the team’s best season in decades. The Bulldogs reached the Sweet 16 of the National Invitational Tournament, falling to the University of Cincinnati in a hard-fought game. Weaver played in 33 games, starting them all.

Butler was picked seventh in the Big East preseason poll. Weaver helped her team finish third. The Big East stayed stunned.

“No one expected us to do that well this year,” she said. “No one expected us to make the postseason. We went above and beyond what everybody thought we were going to do.”

That pack of Bulldogs also saw Godlevske earn Big East Coach of the Year recognition. Weaver’s senior leadership guided her team to that uncharted territory, the rarefied air nobody expected to see. She was a fieldhouse fixture over the past four years.

“To play basketball in a place like Hinkle, you almost can’t put it into words,” she said. “To be able to be one of the things that people talk about when they think of Hinkle, that feeling is really special. You always want to end on a high note. What a way to go out.”

Michelle Weaver on Senior Day.

THE FIRE

For the past two years, Weaver shared a backcourt with Whitney Jennings. Jennings, a Logansport native, earned IndyStar Miss Basketball honors back in 2014. Although her prolific career with the Berries made headlines around the state, she decided to start her college career far away from the comfort of home.

Jennings committed to the University of Iowa, but after two years, she felt an urge to head back to her old stomping grounds. Hinkle was calling, and she felt the need to answer.

Carol Jennings, Whitney’s mother, attended Butler. Her father, Doug, played basketball at Indiana Central, which is now the University of Indianapolis. Her father would tell Whitney stories of how he used to play in Hinkle against Butler back in his day.

Those first two seasons at Iowa were successful, but she didn’t waste any time molding her first major Hinkle memory. In her first game, she poured in 30 points against Austin Peay University at home. With that performance, Whitney effectively stated, “I’m back.”

Michael Jordan-esque.

She went on to score 1,049 points as a Bulldog. She scored her 1,000th point in Hinkle, thanks to something Indiana kids always practice in the backyard- a free throw. The shot essentially buried any hopes Northeastern University had of winning the game, and the Bulldogs went on to win their first game in the NIT.

“We were in the fourth quarter, and there was a timeout called,” she said. “I had 28, and I needed one more point. The coaching staff told everyone, ‘Whitney needs one more point to get to 1,000.’ Everyone was aware of it, and it was pretty cool to do it in front of friends and family."

The moment became even more special because Whitney didn’t think she would play another game in Hinkle after her Senior Day against Villanova. Butler hosted their first two NIT games, which offered two more chances for the seniors to play on their home court.

That Villanova game dripped with drama. The Bulldogs won 62-60 in overtime, but not before Whitney heaved up a 30-foot hoist to beat the shot clock. The shot banked off the backboard and right through the net. Godlevske called her “the fire” following her performance.

After the Senior Day ceremonies ended, over 40 members of her friends and family gathered for a photo. The moment marked the clan’s camaraderie.

“To be able to look in the crowd and see so many familiar faces all the time made Hinkle that much more special to me,” Whitney said. “They’ve been so supportive during my whole basketball career.”

Whitney Jennings with her family.

Her story shows the strong marriage between the Butler athletic experience and the family ties that come with it. Hinkle exudes a family-friendly atmosphere. Young children can indulge in massive buckets of popcorn and shoot on the fabled court after basketball games. It’s a bucket-list destination for sports fans everywhere.

During my first year at Butler, I met some gentlemen from Ireland who wanted to check out Hinkle. We posed for a picture next to my photo that is engraved in the Hinkle wall.

I feel like everyone who has ever entered that building is a part of my family. My extended family, but family nonetheless. Now, I will tell more stories of why the Hinkle family is so significant.

**************************************************************************

II. FAMILY TIES

THE SUPERFAN

John Seal (‘70, ‘75) played basketball for Tony Hinkle in the late 1960’s, but the joy of his journey continues to this day. Seal is a fixture at Hinkle, consistently attending all sorts of basketball games and volleyball matches. His effervescent smile and bellow for a laugh illuminates the arena.

His jolly nature is a byproduct of embracing the Butler Bulldogs. After 41 years of marriage, he lost his wife Myrna to cancer in 2010. Before the Butler men’s basketball team made its first run for the national championship, Seal received a message.

He did not know that it would change the course of his life.

John Seal in Hinkle Fieldhouse.

“I got an email from the athletic department asking if I would like to go on the team plane to San Jose,” Seal said. “It was our first game in 2010. Since then, except for a couple of occasions which were unavoidable, I haven’t missed a game.”

Home or away.

One of those unavoidable occasions was his daughter Courtney’s wedding. Because Myrna was no longer with the family, Courtney wanted a destination wedding. The Seal family packed their bags and traveled to Florida.

“We were sitting on the beach when we played Evansville, which was the 2011 run,” John said. “Andrew Smith had hit a layup, but they waved it off. He missed the two free throws. We had sang the War Song prior to him shooting those. That’s the only time I’ve sang it prematurely, before it was supposed to happen. So I remember that really, really well.”

At first, I wondered if Seal slept in Hinkle. Since the championship runs, no Butler fan has attended more games than he has.

“I don’t remember the exact number, I’d have to go back,” he said. “It’s probably nearing 350. I’ve missed two or three at the most.”

Seal now works as a part-time instructor in the Andre B. Lacy School of Business, helping young Butler business professionals build their burgeoning businesses. As an instructor, he both offers and receives teaching moments. The most important lesson: once he lost Myrna, Butler helped to fill that space in his life.

“It’s a lot of fun,” he said. “I love the kids. Butler always has such good kids. I feel so blessed to have Butler as part of my life. It’s easy to give back to.”

THE COACH

Terry Johnson served as an assistant coach under current Boston Celtics head coach Brad Stevens during both of Butler’s Final Four campaigns. Although he now coaches at the Ohio State University, Hinkle left a lasting impact on Johnson and his family.

He grew up in Anderson, less than an hour away from the fieldhouse. He played his final high school game inside Hinkle. That game marked the end of one chapter, but it is truly where Johnson’s story began.

“It’s a cathedral,” Johnson said. “That’s the place you want to play in. An Indiana kid’s dream. You want to be in Hinkle.”

Terry Johnson speaks to young campers in Hinkle Fieldhouse.

His wife, Kristen, graduated from Butler in 2006. Terry and Kristen married in 2008. They now have three young sons, Jalen, 6, Jordan, 6, and Caden, 3. On the date he professed his vows to his wife, Terry knew where he would begin his special day.

“The morning of my wedding, we were in there playing basketball,” he said. “When you’ve got keys to Hinkle Fieldhouse, you can do what you want.”

Jalen and Jordan, the twins, took their first steps inside Hinkle. They took those steps because they were spending time with their dad. The family now lives in Columbus, Ohio, but those memories of watching their boys run around in Indianapolis will last a lifetime.

“It’s still a blur right now, but I just think about how much fun we had as a group,” Terry said. “That place will always be a part of me.”

THE SWISS ARMY KNIFE

Corey McPherrin (‘77) now serves as the morning news anchor for WFLD-TV in Chicago. When he attended Butler, he was a Swiss army knife: he swam, he performed radio broadcasts for sporting events, he was the president of the Sigma Chi fraternity, he wrote for the Collegian. The man did it all, but he can now truly appreciate Hinkle’s significance from the outside looking in.

With Corey McPherrin in September 2015 at Butler university.

“I’ve always had a real love for the building’s history,” he said. “It’s the special aura, ambience and character of the building that hits me. There’s no building that means more to me. If you’re a sports fan and you dig college basketball, you’re nuts if you don’t go there.”

McPherrin’s daughter, Margaret, also attended Butler and graduated in 2018. During the final semester of her senior year, they attended several basketball games in Hinkle together. The bond between father and his only daughter was strengthened through trips to the fieldhouse.

“When she decided to go there, that was one of the happiest days of my life,” Corey said.

When he makes the trip down Interstate 65, he thinks of his fond memories as a Bulldog.

“When the place is full and rocking, you can just feel the Butler pride,” Corey said. “The powers that be made the right decision to let this thing live. I’ve been in love with the place. I’m proud that it still exists.”

With Corey McPherrin in December 2018 at saint louis university.

THE SEASONED VETERAN/THE TORCHBEARER

Rick Donovan (‘90) earned a reputation as a hard-nosed bruiser on the men’s basketball team. His son, Campbell Donovan, now plays on the team. Campbell is a walk-on sophomore guard, currently the team’s only walk-on.

The Donovan family comes from Fort Wayne. In two years, Rick and his wife Sabrina have not missed a single men’s basketball game.

Rick Donovan in Hinkle Fieldhouse.

“Tradition leads the way in my mind when I think of that place,” Rick said. “The continuity over the years is something that people have grown to rely on and love. It’s stayed constant for generations.”

There’s even more tradition to be discovered within the Donovans’ roots: daughter Ali (‘11) was a cheerleader for the Final Four teams.

“I don’t know how much more luck a kid could have, being a part of those runs,” Rick said.

Campbell attended dozens of games both at Hinkle and beyond as a young boy. Although he was not born for his father’s tenure as a Bulldog, he had the opportunity to watch his sister cheer. He’s grown since those days, though. His knowledge of the tales of his dad’s toughness motivates him to succeed.

“It’s in our blood,” Campbell said. “It gets me through some tougher games. If I’m having a tough day, I think, ‘If my dad can do it, I can do it.’ I see pictures of him and he looks like some dude that will throw you down to get a rebound.”

Kelan Martin and Campbell Donovan in Hinkle Fieldhouse.

Rick gets there early before every game to watch Campbell run out of the locker room. I see him either before or after every game at Hinkle. I see him at almost every game on television. The camera knows how to find him. It’s like clockwork.

“You’ve just got to be there to live it,” Rick said. “You can’t expect it. We are proudest of the fact that Campbell continues to work hard.”

Rick reminds his son of how lucky he is, especially regarding the facilities at Hinkle. They have certainly received a facelift since Rick and former Butler player and coach Thad Matta left their legacies as teammates. The seats have changed, the court has changed and so much more has changed. Over 90 years later, though, some things haven't changed.

The rims are still 10 feet high.

“At the end of the day, no matter how nice the weight room is, no matter how glazed the court is, it’s still Hinkle,” Campbell said. “That’s what makes it special to me.”

Butler vs. Northern Illinois: December 8, 2018
hinkle fieldhouse.
Hinkle fieldhouse from above.

Credits:

Jimmy Lafakis, Zach Bolinger

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