MIDDLETOWN, Ohio – It’s out with the old and in with the new as an entire city celebrates the legendary past and bright future of Middletown High School basketball this weekend.
With its most famous alum, Hall of Famer Jerry Lucas, on hand, the Middies prepared to play their last game in 65-year-old Wade E. Miller Gymnasium against rival Hamilton Friday night and open the new state-of-the art Wade E. Miller Arena Saturday afternoon against Lima Senior.
While the current players appear most excited about opening the new arena, Middletown first paid homage to its past, and rightly so.
There is an aura to the old gym, opened in 1952, that comes from winning seven state titles and memories of the glory days with Lucas. Now 77, the Ohio State and NBA great set the state high school scoring record and led his team on a 76-game winning streak that included two state championships in 1956 and ‘57.
"When you go in there, it's just an instant blast from the past, so it's pretty unique,” said Middletown Athletic Director Aaron Zupka. “Our kids going there (and) our visiting teams going there are in awe just looking around the structure, the architecture. It's just beautiful and still to this day, almost 70 years later, it's held time pretty well."
A special ceremony was planned to honor Lucas and other members of Middletown’s state champions. Lucas went on to win an NCAA title with Ohio State, an Olympic gold medal, and an NBA title with the New York Knicks after beginning his NBA career with the Cincinnati Royals.
But the players couldn’t wait to open the new arena with its huge video screens and booming sound system.
"It's so nice and big and with a whole lot of TV screens,” said senior forward Keion Williams. “We're the only team in the GMC (Greater Miami Conference) with all this nice stuff. The community just keeps giving and giving to us. Wwe just give back to the community and win some games."
"It feels amazing to have a new court after many years of playing in the old gym over there at the Miller,” said junior guard Shandon Morris. “It's going to be real good that I can play here another year after this year."
Zupka assured that the history of the old Miller gym will be carried over to the new arena and the past will not be forgotten. For one thing, Middletown's seven state trophies will be proudly displayed.
Middletown and Hamilton will be wear special throwback uniforms from the 50s Friday night.
LIVE: Follow the festivities on Twitter @midtownmiddies