As I was enjoying the evening with my buddy Eric Greulich, we noticed a tall gentleman and a lady. They were greeting the guests, and he was carrying a red, white and blue basketball.
Soon they were at our table, and we had the pleasure of meeting Cory Arnett and his wife, Saysha. They explained to us that a new American Basketball Association (not the orginal ABA that featured the Indiana Pacers) team – the Naptown All-Stars – was coming to Indianapolis and would play its games at Manual High School.
Cory, who was the coach, and Saysha and their children had just moved from Southern California to the Center Grove area, where their kids attend school.
It was easy to hear the excitement in their voices as they told us more about the team, which originally was going to be called the Indianapolis Southsiders.
At some point I asked Cory if he was aware that his team would not be the first pro basketball squad to be based on the Southside. He showed a confused look – like the look he might give a referee if one of his players was called for a charging foul while standing still. I knew I had his attention.
I explained that in the mid- 1930s to the late ’40s, a grocer named Frank Kautsky, whose store was at the corner of Madison and Epler avenues, owned a professional basketball team. Paul L. “Pete” Bailey, principal of Edgewood Grade School, taught Frank about the game and was instrumental in forming the team.
Pete was a player and the general manager of the team for several years. Other players included John Wooden, Jewell Young, Branch McCracken, Frank Beard, Everett Swank, Fred Fechtman and Freddy Lewis, but not the one who played for the Pacers.
Since first meeting Cory and Saysha, they have taken on a more active role in running all aspects of the franchise.
We have met at Lincoln Square Pancake House a couple of times, and I have taken them to meet some Southside business folks and school leaders.
The team is holding tryouts from 10 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturday at Manual, 2405 Madison Ave. The cost is $100. Info: 1-213-984-5003.
After having time to consider the name change from the Southsiders to the All-Stars, I explained to the Arnetts that I thought it was a good idea to include all of the Indianapolis area.
But to me, the team will forever be the Indianapolis Southsiders.