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“It’s an exciting time,” Bird said last week. “I’m sure all their friends will be calling and there will be a lot more excitement around campus. They did what they had to do. The next step’s a bigger step for them. We’re all proud of them, no matter what happens.”

It’s never been easy.

Bird, a native of French Lick, Ind., acknowledges Indiana State doesn’t have the money for a national recruiting base. Nine of the 14 players on the current roster are from Indiana or Illinois.

There were other obstacles, too.

Kelly started at Iowa, then transferred after his mother died so he could be closer to his family in Indiana. Then last season, he tore ACL in his left knee.

Carter was recruited by former coach Royce Waltman and has played for two coaches since coming to Terre Haute. Coach Kevin McKenna resigned in June after three seasons to become an assistant on Dana Altman’s staff at Oregon. Lansing was promoted the next day.

“I did not see that coming. I thought if anything, he’d take (Altman’s job) at Creighton, but when they filled that, I thought he was going to be here,” Carter said. “He explained it was the best move for his family. But I think we really rallied together after that, and it made us a better team.”

The discussion over the years hasn’t changed, though.

As soon as Indiana State looks like it might be good enough to make the tourney, Bird’s name starts popping up.

It happened in 2000 and 2001 when Menser and Waltman helped Indiana State make back-to-back NCAA appearances, their first since 1979.

“I never took that as dismissing our team, it’s really just an indication of how great that (run) was,” Waltman said. “Anytime you play in the game that changed the game, that’s something nobody’s going to forget.”

Certainly not here.

In a state where basketball is king, every school seemingly has a story. Evansville, in the southwest corner of the state, is the alma mater of longtime Jazz coach Jerry Sloan. Division III Earlham College, on the Ohio border, is where former Lakers coach Del Harris got his start.

The countless stories tales include everyone from Purdue’s Rick Mount to Indiana’s Isiah Thomas, Notre Dame’s Austin Carr to Valparaiso’s Bryce Drew, IUPUI’s George Hill to Butler’s Gordon Hayward.

At Indiana State, it’s all Bird all the time.

Story Continues →