North Daviess hosts Washington in an early regular season matchup Saturday in boys high school basektball, but the real celebreties of the evening will be two men who starred on the basketball court in a time when basketball in Indiana truly was king.
North Daviess will honor Indiana Basketball Hall of Famers Lloyd Bateman and Larry “Bud” Graham. The ceremony will be held between the junior varsity and varsity games between the Cougars and Hatchets with the unveiling of a banner showing both men’s Hall of Fame accomplishments.
Indiana has a long and illustrious tradition of basketball, and that tradition started in small towns like Plainville and Odon with players like Bateman and Graham. Nearly 60 years ago Bateman and Graham scorched Southwestern Indiana baskets on a nightly basis as two of the most prolific scorers many had ever seen in this state.
Bateman was the largest Midget of all at Plainville in the mid 1950s, standing at 6-5, which would be make him a seven-footer in today’s game. Bateman was the first Indiana prep player to eclipse 2,000 points for a career finishing with 2,078 points. Bateman’s final point total is a higher total than some of the giants in Indiana High School basketball history, including George McGinnis, Oscar Robertson and Kent Benson, all of whom were named Mr. Basketball.
Jerry Osmon, a former teammate in Plainville with Bateman, and long time friend for more than 50 years spearheaded the campaign to get Bateman into the Hall of Fame before his induction in 2008. Getting into the Hall of Fame is something that wasn’t as easy as some might think. Each player had to have a ground swell of effort to show statistics and records that a player obtained. Osmon said he was working on that campaign for Bateman for 10 years prior to the 2008 induction.
When you throw around Bateman having more points than some of the greats in the history of Indiana, Osmon explained that at that time, the schools in Southwestern Indiana were overlooked, because nobody saw them much.
“A lot of these players have had the luxury of playing in Indianapolis, or other big cities where they had a lot of press coverage,” Osmon said. “When you’re trying to get someone in like Bud Graham or Lloyd Bateman, and they played in Daviess County where you are 75 miles north of Evansville and 100 miles south of Indianapolis, in those days there wasn’t much press coverage at all. That’s what made it so difficult to get him in.”
Norm Beasley, a former teammate of Graham’s in Odon explained that Graham’s love for basketball was nearly unparalleled. Graham, a great scorer in his own right, stood at 6-2 and competed extremely hard each and every game. Including having 35 rebounds in one game, Beasley said. Graham amassed 1,387 points and 929 rebounds in his career at Odon on his way to the 2012 induction into the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame.
“The thing about Graham is he played as much as he could possibly play, and I don’t just mean during the season,” Beasley said. “He simply made it happen, he was very successful and every step of the way he was able to perform and perform well. Bud has come a long way. He had the respect of his teammates. I played with him; we had some very intense games and won a lot of basketball games. I never once heard one of our teammates be critical of Graham — he was by far the most popular of our teammates. If we had a popularity contest, Graham would have won it every time.”
Bateman was the first player from Plainville and other area schools, Odon and Elnora, which later consolidated in 1968 to become North Daviess High School to be elected to the Hall of Fame.
Bateman paired with his coach at Plainville, Kenneth “Tot” Nelson, had great success during their four years together, compiling a record of 82-14, including a 65-55 win over Washington in 1956, Bateman’s sophomore year. One thing that always stood out to Beasley about Bateman’s time at Plainville under Nelson was the ability to get the whole team to buy into the team concept with Bateman.
“I think it’s amazing that Nelson saw the prospects for Bateman, and he spent the time to give this boy something to be really proud of,” Beasley said. “Bateman worked his tail off for Tot Nelson, and the team that they played for all played their roles very well. They gave Bateman the opportunity to score the way that he did. They convinced the team that we have to go through Lloyd (Bateman), and he could score. He had excellent touch around the basket.”
Beasley said there is one thing that should be remembered about Bateman and Graham — they worked as hard as anyone he was ever around on a basketball court.
“The thing about Bud Graham is he didn’t come from a silver spoon in this mouth, and neither did Bateman,” Beasley said. “They earned each and every one of their basketball accomplishments.”
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