It’s usually the case that the best of the best in their craft make it to a Hall of Fame of some sort. Those individuals possess an intangible quality about them that set them apart from everyone. In the case of Charlie Hall, he couldn’t have a more fitting last name because the ‘Hall is exactly where he deserves to be; the Indiana basketball Hall of Famer is at home in the enshrinement of the greatest players, coaches and minds the state of Indiana has ever seen. Charlie is a bit before my time, but I’d heard the stories of how Charlie “the Snake” Hall could really play. As a coach, I witnessed the magic of his ’02-’03 Lady Kats basketball team as they made their undefeated run to a state title. There is an indisputable value Charlie brings to everything that he touches, that’s been evident in his time as director of Indiana All Stars. I’m pretty sure I know the reason why – he’s blessed me and touched my life with his remarkable character.
It’s been 14 years since I’ve graduated from Kokomo. Often I think about when I was in high school and the wonderful time I had while I was there. Every year of school I had a weights class first thing in the morning. At the time, Kokomo’s facility was probably one of the nicest high school weight rooms in the state of Indiana. At the very center of that room was a small table, and at that table sat Mike Wade and Charlie Hall my weights instructors. Mike Wade I credit and forever indebted to for giving a little guy a chance; for believing in me enough to start me at shooting guard in competitive high school basketball, getting the chance to compete against some of the greatest competition in the state. Across from him sat Mr. Hall. In the many interactions I had with Charlie over the course of my time at Kokomo, he was such a pleasant man to talk to. What was most striking about him was that he always gave me the sensation of being full. From the age of 18 to now, it’s taken me this long to fully understand why it was I felt that way. When he and I would speak, he was always saying something that revealed something about me. A special quality that I possessed, something that he saw in me – that I could do, or noticed something that I didn’t think anybody could see in me. To anyone, especially a young man, that does so much for their self-esteem – not only that, it has great influence on that person’s next move or step in life. A single moment can leave a lifelong, lasting impression.
I’ll never forget – my senior year it was a Friday morning in weights class, and it was basketball season. When class was over and we were making our way down the steps to the locker room, a good friend of mine was asking me about the game coming that night. We were playing Richmond in Richmond, and facing a tough ball player in Dominic James. Up to that point I had seen no one as impressive or explosive as Dominic. Standing at 5’10”, the guy could literally jump up and look down into the basket. That night he went for 37 points against us and caught an alley-oop dunk with his elbows at the rim. In a losing effort we took that game into double overtime and lost on a buzzer beater 3 point shot. In the middle of telling my friend about how incredible James was, a voice from behind me says, “he doesn’t have anything on JC though!” When I heard it I looked back to find Mr. Hall standing there; so I smiled thinking he was just joking around, but he was genuine in what he said. Those are the kinds of things that set Charlie apart from everyone else to me; I received from him a regular dose of encouragement whether he realized he was doing that for me or not. I knew that I didn’t hold a candle to James, but that night against Richmond I had 12 points on 4 three pointers, and two of those shots were a huge reason we were able to battle and stay alive in overtime. Those words instantly gave me the feeling that I could do anything – and that night I made special moments and many other big moments throughout the season.
When my time came to an end at Kokomo, Charlie your kind and inspiring words did not stop there. In a final send off to me you wrote me a very special letter that I still look at to this day. And so because I just have such a high regard for you, I wanted you to know what I thought of you. Thank you sir
(You can find a small bit of the Richmond game footage in the tribute video to Ricky “Minnesota” Cardwell starting at the 3:43 mark.)