Matt Roberts quickly fell in love with Indiana high school basketball when he moved to the state in 1982, and he has traveled to countless games in the years since.
When he retired in 2014, he decided to combine his passion for the sport with his love of writing and chronicle the seasons of four different high schools.
The end result, “32 Minutes in March,” was recently published — just in time for another basketball season.
One of the teams Roberts followed during the 2014-15 campaign was Center Grove, which was in its first season under current head coach Zach Hahn. The others were Danville, Indianapolis Crispus Attucks and Rockville.
“They were all really different types of schools, and one at each level,” Roberts noted. “So it really worked out well.”
Roberts, who had covered sports on a freelance basis for years, estimates he attended upwards of 50 games during the 2014-15 hoop season, about a dozen or so for each of the teams he followed.
Though there were other schools who turned down his pitch, he was pleasantly surprised by how welcome he felt at the schools that did accept. The coaches were all forthcoming throughout, and the athletes were generally kind and cooperative as well.
“I was surprised at how nice and approachable the kids were,” Roberts said. “Some of these kids are going on D-I scholarships, good athletes. They’ve been good athletes their whole lives. But they were still just kind of goofy kids, and that was comforting to me to see that.”
Hahn said that he didn’t have a problem opening his doors to the first-time author because he was eager for people to see how he runs his program.
The coach also said that the experience benefited him as well.
“It was a good process to go through,” Hahn said, “because he questioned me and asked me things that maybe I wouldn’t think of myself as far as a reflection standpoint goes.”
Roberts self-published his work through BookLocker.com, which is selling the book through its website, and he is making an effort to get local independent bookstores to carry it as well. He also has a series of promotional appearances set up around the area.
Over the years, Roberts has noticed plenty of changes in the high school game here — particularly the growing influence that AAU coaches and the like have on many players.
“A lot of people, both in and outside of Indiana, think it’s still farm kids shooting at a barn door,” Roberts said, “and it hasn’t been that way for a long time.
“(But) even though it’s changed, the passion is still there in Indiana basketball.”
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Matt Roberts’ new book, which chronicles the 2014-15 boys basketball season at Center Grove and three other Indiana high schools, is available for purchase at booklocker.com and wordsbymattroberts.com.
Roberts will also be making some appearances locally to sign and promote the book. A list of his upcoming tour stops:
Saturday, Nov. 19: Strange Brew Coffee House, 4800 W. Smith Valley Rd. in Greenwood, 1-3 p.m.
Friday, Dec. 2: Center Grove High School, before and during boys basketball game vs. Southport (7:30 p.m. tip)
Thursday, December 15: Viewpoint Books, 548 Washington St. in Columbus (time TBA)