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Magical Moment


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Bill Russell goes up for a shot during his playing days at Columbus High School in the early 1960s. Below: A trading card from 1973 Jennings County graduate Billy Harmon%u2019s time on the Louisville
Submitted Bill Russell goes up for a shot during his playing days at Columbus High School in the early 1960s. Below: A trading card from 1973 Jennings County graduate Billy Harmon%u2019s time on the Louisville

Submitted
Bill Russell goes up for a shot during his playing days at Columbus High School in the early 1960s. Below: A trading card from 1973 Jennings County graduate Billy Harmon%u2019s time on the Louisville
Submitted Bill Russell goes up for a shot during his playing days at Columbus High School in the early 1960s. Below: A trading card from 1973 Jennings County graduate Billy Harmon%u2019s time on the Louisville


Butch Wade recalls a game from 1963 where an undefeated Columbus High School squad was being given everything it could handle by a tough Madison team.

Columbus coach Bill Stearman had set up a play on jump balls on the Bull Dogs’ end of the court where 6-foot-2 guard Bill Russell would tip the ball to Wade or Jimmy Newsom for an easy basket.

But this time, with Columbus leading by just a few points and one second left in the first half, Russell tipped the ball into the basket on the jump ball.

The basket counted, and the Bull Dogs pulled away in the second half.

“Everybody kind of stopped and started looking at each other,”

Wade said.

“There was kind of a ruckus all over the gym at that particular moment. I know as the team headed into the locker room, there were three or four fights in the stands that broke out arguing about it. It was one of those bizarre plays.”

Russell made plenty of plays like that look routine during his four-year starting career with the Bull Dogs and at Indiana University. He found out last week he will be inducted into the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame on March 26.

“I was very pleased that I was considered in all the terrific history of Indiana high school basketball, said Russell, 68. “Tremendous players have preceded me. To be recognized is a magical moment in my life.

“There are so many worthy athletes, so many worthy basketball players in Columbus that preceded me that I wish they would have considered,” he said. “Maybe in the future, they will be considered. I’m pleased that I can represent a lot of those athletes that most likely deserved to

be acknowledged.”

Russell is the only freshman to start for Stearman and graduated as the all-time leading scorer in Columbus history with 1,272 points. He led the Bull Dogs to an undefeated regular season and No. 1 state ranking as a senior in the 1962-63 season.

“We had a team that was made up of good basketball players, and we played as a team,” Russell said. “My sophomore year, we had a lot of terrific athletes, and we did not have the same success. My senior year, it was a great environment to be a part of.

“In the 40s, the 50s, the 60s, basketball seemed to be the magic that kept communities together.”

After graduation, Russell went on to play three years at IU, the first under Branch McCracken, when the Hoosiers were ranked

No. 2 in nation early in the season. Russell started at guard for Lou Watson as a senior, when IU won the Big Ten championship.

“I was a good-sized guard in college,” Russell said. “(A 6-2 guard) doesn’t necessarily hold up in today’s environment.”

“He was a bigger guard than most other teams put on the floor and had an uncanny knack for scoring,” Wade said.

Russell, who also held the school record in the pole vault at 11 feet, 6 inches for several years, still lives in Columbus. He occasionally makes it back to Memorial Gym to see what is now Columbus North play basketball.

“They have talent, they have height, they have size and they have ability,” Russell said.

“They have potential of

maybe winning Columbus’ first basketball championship.

“You have to be lucky, you have to be good at the right times,” he said. “You have to play your bad games at the right times, and you have to play your good games at the right times. You have to have all five kids playing at the same time to win.”

Russell will be one of 14 individuals inducted into the Hall.

“I think it’s a great honor for Bill,” Wade said. “He was one of the only freshmen ever to be pulled up (to varsity). Bill handled it well and performed well.

“Anytime you’re a four-year starter and the all-time leading scorer for Columbus, that’s a

good accomplishment.”

The Russell file

Name: Bill Russell

Age: 68

High school: Columbus

College: Indiana

Resides: Columbus

Occupation: Vice president of sales and marketing for Coca-Cola in Columbus

Family: Wife, Nan; son, Brian; daughters, Allison Stitle and Amy Arterburn; and eight grandchildren

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