Writer / Suzanne Huntzinger
Photographer / Brian Brosmer
Basketballs rain down from the sky and bounce to the court, new uniforms and new shoes appear in each player’s locker, and new equipment magically appears in the athletic office. Santa can’t come every day to the basketball court, but the Center Grove Hardwood Club tries to make it happen as much as possible.
The Center Grove Hardwood Club, founded in September 2014, was the slam-dunk solution to provide funding and support to Center Grove’s basketball program from youth programs to varsity. The athletic department previously funded Center Grove’s basketball program, and the program used whatever budget the department had available for their needs.
The athletic department held fundraisers and did their best to stretch the budget however they could. But Coach Zach Hahn, a former all-star from Butler University, had bigger ideas. Hahn, in his rookie coaching job at Center Grove, recognized the basketball program needed support and fundraising assistance to grow. He suggested one cohesive body could handle those needs for the entire program.
That’s when Billy Bemis, self-professed basketball junkie and Center Grove parent of four, became involved. Bemis reached out to other Center Grove parents and established the Center Grove Hardwood Club and became its president. The club’s mission is “to provide the proper funding, leadership and support to the Center Grove Boys Basketball program in order to facilitate state-championship-quality teams on an annual basis and generate a winning atmosphere surrounding the entire program, both on and off the court.”
With that, the members quickly secured the sponsorship of Indy Honda and Aldi Foods. But the winning shot was the creation of Hardwood Club membership levels. The club solicited memberships at the $25, $100, $250 and $500 levels, as well as sponsorships.
“The CG Basketball program was once a separated and divided program at all levels, from our youth league to varsity team,” Hahn says. “Now it has become a unified force that built strong bonds between players, involved parents and the community.”
With the new season in full swing, the Hardwood Club is busy with fundraising events such as its Bowling for Basketball and Indoor Tailgate events. The club is creative in extending its support beyond the court.
“We try be involved with as many facets with the kids as possible,” Bemis explains. “Every few years, we invite a speaker to come and talk to the kids about a hot topic. This August, we invited an anti-drug speaker to talk to all eighth-grade through 12th grade kids about his battle with addiction and how to avoid it.”
The Hardwood Club has also extended its support to other community interests.
“The Center Grove Police Department needs funds for their K-9 unit, so Hardwood Club is contributing to the K-9 department,” Bemis says.
The club hopes its interests in the community go both ways.
“We need to continue to get the community involved as much as possible so that they can take pride in our basketball program as much as the parents, players and Hardwood Club members do,” Hahn says.
“We’re not just narrowly focused,” Bemis adds. “We want these players to know our efforts are not just to let them play. They witness all that goes into making a basketball program happen and all that it takes for them to have that basketball experience. Hopefully, surrounding the kids with service will influence them to become service minded and take that with them when they leave.”
Hahn is doing his part to make sure the kids recognize and appreciate all the Hardwood Club’s support has provided them.
“At the beginning of each season, I have Billy Bemis come in and speak to our parents and players about what the club is all about and how it benefits these young men and our program,” Hahn says. “We also put the Hardwood Club logo on just about everything possible now to make it visible in the community. It’s currently on our poster picture, shirts to hand out at games, youth program warm ups, middle school warmups, basketballs that get stamped, high school shooting shirts, banners on the wall in both gyms and more.”
Now that Hardwood Club has the basketball program on solid ground, they’re focusing on their vision for growth.
“I’d love to see the entire school community at the Saturday night games,” Bemis says. “Cheer, band, kids from other sports like football and cross country. Our goal is to experience the successes that the football, band and choir programs have had. We can if we all support each other.”
Hahn says he’s already seen a difference in the program.
“We see our strengths as being longer, more athletic, highly skilled and versatile in many positions” he says. “Our middle school and youth programs have strengthened and bought into our offensive and defensive philosophies, which will only continue to help build a great tradition in the CG Basketball Program. We have seven varsity players returning from last season who we look to for continuing the strong tradition of competing and excellence we began two years ago. The future looks bright.”
For more information on becoming a member of the Hardwood Club and supporting the Center Grove Basketball program, go to www.cghardwoodclub.org.