Photos: Hoops Hysteria, Indiana Style

A photographer goes straight to the heart of one of the country’s great basketball hotbeds: the Hoosier State.

From Indianapolis’ Hinkle Fieldhouse to Bloomington’s Assembly Hall, from Milan High’s bandbox to the Final Four-ready RCA Dome, Indiana is home to countless legendary basketball venues. But the state’s passion for hoops isn’t limited to formal games played in front of hundreds or thousands of fans. Sometimes, the best basketball is played when few—if any—are watching.

Earlier this year, photographer Elijah Hurwitz set out to capture Indiana basketball in places “where it offers a way out of boredom or a way out of town. Where it offers a way to build bonds and rivalries. And often, where it’s simply a way to pass the time when there’s nothing else to do.” In his rich, intimate shots of driveway pickup, prison ball, and the state’s intensely loyal fanbase, Hurwitz illustrates the state’s hoops passion, which he first experienced as an undergraduate at Indiana University. As it happens, this year’s Hoosiers have returned to their place among the nation’s top programs, reaching No. 1 for the first time in 20 years—and giving a new generation of Indianans a team to emulate and obsess over for years to come.

Three Amish siblings in Goshen shoot hoops in the backyard of their farm house as laundry dries. There are nine brothers and sisters in all, and their father is a horseshoe blacksmith.

Indiana State Prison inmates cheer for their teammates during a scrimmage against a local college. Because it’s a maximum security prison, only inmates on good behavior are allowed to participate.

The prison team huddles between plays, coached by fellow inmate “Teddy” in the green hat.

An inmate soars for a dunk at the prison yards, originally constructed when Abraham Lincoln was president.

Zach and Chad pose in front of their home hoop in Bowling Green while younger brother Cameron plays in the yard.

A field in Shelbyville

Two brothers practice in front of their roadside home in Bremen.

A girl shoots on a makeshift basket in a rough section of Gary, the former murder capital of the United States.

Friends use a football to play a game of horse in Michigan City. Their basketball was stolen by someone in the neighborhood.

A boy whose LaGrange house doesn’t have a basketball hoop practices his shooting form.

A front yard in Wabash

Ward gives a haircut at his Bloomington barbershop. The walls display nearly every IU basketball schedule back to 1980s.

A Washington welcome sign 

Jack Butcher, the all-time-winningest Indiana high school basketball coach, at his home. On the wall are framed pictures of his three sons, all of whom he coached. 

A statue of Larry Bird in a parking lot in his hometown, French Lick. Bird went on to win NBA championships with the Boston Celtics, play for the Olympic team, and coach the Indiana Pacers.

Ticket takers at IU’s Assembly Hall await eager fans at the first game of the season.

A father and son await the first game of the Hoosiers’ season from the top-most row of Assembly Hall (capacity 17,472).

The Hoosiers huddle before their first game. Ranked No. 1 for the first time in 20 years under coach Tom Crean, expectations are high this season.

Michigan City, Indiana

Warsaw, Indiana

Anderson, Indiana

Batesville, Indiana

South Bend, Indiana

Bloomington, Indiana

DOES IT FEEL LIKE POLITICS IS AT A BREAKING POINT?

Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

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