Candy Stripes, Cody, and Calbert

“I was so close to Cody I could smell his sweat.”

That’s what my son Jackson said after watching sophomore Cody Zeller and the No.1 Indiana University men’s basketball team warm up on the hardwood Saturday night before they won against Iowa, 73-60.

Thoughtful friends with tickets sent us driving up Interstate 69 to Bloomington, Ind. Neither of our children had been to Assembly Hall. After eating at the Scholar’s Inn Bakehouse, we arrived early at the hallowed home of the Hoosiers.

My boys were beside themselves with excitement.

The IU floor was covered in cream, crimson, and candy stripes. A great many fans in the sold-out crowd of 17,474 were wearing candy stripes, too.

I was thrilled to see Calbert Cheaney, IU basketball’s director of operations and a former Harrison High School player, who was featured along with Harrison teammate Walter McCarty on our second magazine cover in May/June 2002. (Both played for the Boston Celtics.) Cheaney was honored Saturday for breaking the Big 10 scoring record playing at IU 20 years ago, a record he holds still today.

We saw Christian Watford, the senior from Birmingham, Ala. (whose buzzer-beating three-pointer felled then-No.1 University of Kentucky in December 2011) on his knees praying with his father Ernest before tipoff.  Watford’s epic shot was played on the scoreboard during the pre-tip festivities.

As I write, IU still is No.1 and the memories of Saturday’s game will be long in our minds. Zeller, whom we featured in March/April 2012 along with his ball-playing brothers, scored 22 points and had 10 rebounds in the win. Sunday morning, eager to catch SportsCenter’s report, we spotted ourselves in their game coverage. Our kids are absent from the shot. They had run to the restroom to change into their new IU apparel.

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