Sincerely, Charlie


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.


Hall with his girls after winning state championship in 2003.


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.


Indiana All-Star Devin Davis of Warren Central High School poses with game director Charlie Hall after receiving the series Most Valuable Player Award against Kentucky on Saturday at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. (Photo by Gannon Burgett for The News-Sentinel)


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


Very special letter of recommendation Charlie wrote for me my senior year.


(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.)

LB Holds the Keys


By now, Lawrence “LB” Burnett should be a name everyone knows in the world of basketball in Kokomo. I’ve learned and taken away so much from him in the past year. For myself, working my way into the player development field – I couldn’t have asked for a better example than him. Lawrence is from Chicago, Illinois – a land foreign to Kokomo natives in the sense that our styles of basketball are very different. I’ve lived in Kokomo all 32 years of my life, and played hoops about 25 of those years. There have been tough ball players produced here; too many to name individually, but in my opinion the culture of basketball overall in the area has always been a bit passive. And that is not necessarily a bad thing – we produce jump shooters, it just comes with the territory. But since the day I met LB, he’s been on a mission not to change – but add to the culture we have here in mid-central Indiana.


LB (left) and assistant coach Stacey Pollard listening in on coach Matt Moore’s gameplan during a timeout.


In my observance of him I notice that our styles of teaching are different – that’s the reason I believe I’ve always admired his methods. LB is tough man!! And his ability to transfer that toughness into his players is incredible. You can’t buy toughness, sit up on your mantle and claim to have it – it is totally and completely a mentality, a way of life. The way in which he builds that mentality up in kids is quite unique, and effective. With him, you will be respectful, you will listen, and you will perform. After taking careful consideration of the order in which he demands these things, I realize that a kid performs simply because he has taken the time to listen; a kid will listen because he has learned a respect for authority; and respect is taught while they are young and impressionable. In a deeper evaluation of that philosophy it is actually love, that produces these results. LB through his faith, love and passion for connecting with young people is truly a good man. By everyone that I’ve seen interact with him on a regular basis, he has made a great impact on their lives and earned their respect.



LB has produced and helped along many talented ball players that have a “go get it mentality. The fruits of those gentlemen’s labor are seen in the signing of overseas contracts, and some who have even made their way to the NBA. “Go and get it”, as much as it is about pure desire to be successful by one’s own will, it’s also about the mechanics. The most valuable lesson I’ve learned from LB, is his teaching of counter moves. Out on the basketball court the environment and landscape is changing constantly. He prepares his players to the maximum, how to react to those changes and attack the basket. I especially love to incorporate this mindset into shooting the basketball, because there is nothing more rewarding to me than figuring out a way to rise up into my jump shot in reaction to what a defender has given me. Much of what I teach, more so for the older students is the art of deception, element of surprise, creating space and believe it or not closing down the space. Being a smaller guard, you have to find little ways outside of your athletic ability alone to create an opening to take your jump shot. LB’s emphases on making multiple moves work to your advantage – work! One is never going to just have a clear path to anything, even in life. Learn to create your own way!!


LB (middle) with two of his young guys..


If you’ve not yet made it a point to meet LB, please do this coming basketball season. There are very few people who know what it takes to get to the next level the way he does, and will actually give you the keys to making it happen. Take full advantage of having a man like that right here in Kokomo.

Giant Man, Giant Voice

As a Kokomo, Indiana kid just learning the game of basketball in the 90’s, the Carver Community Center was the hub of all basketball activity in the area at that time – at least in my eyes. I can still remember the smell of gym shoes, concession stand food, feeling the gentle breezes flowing through the open doors on hot summer days, and the aroma of a freshly waxed basketball court. I can even remember the very first time I’d seen the Michael Jordan painting on the east side gym wall, all lit up with lights that changed color around it. As significant an impact the senses of sight and smell have on the fondest of my early stage basketball memories – I’d have to say my sense of hearing is what I’m most thankful for in this instance. I’ll never forget the first time I heard the biggest voice this side of Heaven!


In the summer months, when you’d enter the front doors of the Carver Center for basketball camp, this great big voice that I described was already going. When you’re a kid 6’4” seems like a giant – who am I kidding, to me that’s still a giant; Phil “PC” Cox was that giant to me. I say this knowing full well that, “We Love This Game!!” was not created by coach Cox it was created by the NBA, but as far as I’m concerned that will forever be his trademark. For so many years I watched him with that chant, lead hundreds of kids in breaking it down at the end of the day at Carver basketball camp. I as well as so many others I’m sure, can still hear that echoing in our minds.


Speaking of an echo, Phil has a voice that can shake the rafters of Kokomo’s Memorial Gym. I’ve heard Phil rock the house singing the National Anthem countless times, in front of thousands of people. I’ve heard him singing beautiful songs in praises to the Lord on Sunday mornings, as I made my way to Sunday school class at Mt. Pisgah when I was small. He has used that “giant voice” of his for so much good in his life. For those of you who have read along with me as I’ve written about my journey in basketball, you know how often I express how thankful I am for how basketball has giving me the opportunity to meet extraordinary people. Phil Cox is absolutely one of those special people. His passion for investing in young people through basketball, gave me the chance to be close to him.  Because of him I learned a lot at a young age on a level not many get the chance to witness. In 1972 Phil Cox was Indiana’s Mr. Basketball, fresh off a state championship at Connersville High school – and for those of us fortunate enough to be able to play for him, we had access to a perspective on the game that was quite unique.


A young and multi-talented Phil Cox on the cover of a magazine with a microphone in one hand and basketball in the other.


The passionate Phil Cox pumping his fist in excitement.


Over the years I experienced a ton of basketball with my ol’ coach, traveled a long way. AAU tournaments, Middle school basketball where I competed against his teams, and then eventually high school basketball – one thing always remained constant and that was Phil’s passion and desire for teaching. Boy, if it took you several times to get something right he’d sure let you know about it – and at the very top of his lungs. But when you got it right that very first time, his smile, his reassurance and celebration of you did wonders for building up your confidence. I’ve always appreciated his passion for the game, even more so his compassion for people and even more than that for being so down to earth – all while being basketball royalty in the great “basketball state”. I know that has more to do with the Man Who lives within him – if you’ve ever met Phil the love of Jesus is all over him.


Cox with former Wildkat standout Alan Arnett.


I’m so thankful for knowing Phil Cox the man. The time he took to spend and invest in us kids means more to me than he will ever know. It was not all about basketball with him – great life lessons have been gained from knowing him, lasting relationships were made through him, entire families came together all for one purpose. As a grown man, I understand now that all those years he chose to be a part of something bigger than himself, he made the decision to fill us up with his knowledge and wisdom of the game – and of life because he loved us. And with that in mind, I know how detrimental that can be to a man’s family. From all different angles but especially emotionally and financially, it can take a real toll on a relationship. So as much as I am thankful for Phillip Cox, I am even more so for his wife Darlene. Darlene, thank you for being such a strong woman and sticking by him all these years while he builds up young men like myself. It takes such a selfless woman who often goes unseen and unnoticed, to keep a strong man standing – otherwise he would surely fall.


Phil and his lovely wife Darlene.