LOUISVILLE, Ky. — “I’ve had a lot of really magical moments in my life, but I really have to say that my best times playing basketball were the ones I had growing up in Plymouth.”
Many will remember Jim Master and some of the magical moments he had culminating in his selection as Indiana’s Mr. Basketball in 1980, and later his time as one of the top players on the University of Kentucky’s basketball teams in the early 80’s. His life in basketball will be rewarded this week as he becomes a member of this year’s class in the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame.
“They called me and told me about it and honestly I really didn’t think anything about it after that. I mean all that stuff was 33 years ago,” said Master from his home in Louisville. “I run into (fellow Kentucky alum and also Mr. Basketball) Kyle Macy from time to time and he’s the one who got me thinking about it. He said, ‘Jim this is a really big deal’. That’s when it hit me.”
It wasn’t something that the young player shooting at courts around Plymouth ever thought of.
“You know growing up in Plymouth we all thought about being an All-State player, but something like this never hits you,” he said. “While I was in Plymouth we had two guys, Steve Phillips and Bruce Grimm that were on the All-Star team, and that was what you wanted to be. When I’d go to the court the game would start in my head, and I’d be Steve Phillips scoring points in the All-Star game.”
Master admits that his story of what it took to reach his goals might be a little different than some.
“I really don’t know if it’s about perseverance or all that — I mean there was nothing on earth I loved more than playing basketball,” he said. “I didn’t have to motivate myself to get out there and play. I loved the game. There was no place on earth I would rather be than on the court. You didn’t have to push me to pick up my basketball and get out there.”
Master has other things that motivate him now — his young three-year old son William James Leo — who also reminds him a little bit of himself.
“You know I look at him, and I see a little bit of that five-year old kid with the basketball that I was all those years ago,” he said. “But people who know me understand what I mean when I tell them I really don’t care if he plays basketball or not. I loved the game more than anything. I want him to find something that he loves that much and pursue it the way I did. Whatever it is. If that’s basketball, great. If not, that’s great too.
“He came to me late in life — I turned 51 this year — and I’m going to make the most of every moment. I’m lucky to do what I do. I can take the afternoon off a lot and come home and hang out with son. I’m really working hard to be ‘Dad of the Year’ right now.”
Master is co-owner of Hilliard-Lyons Financial based in Louisville and has been successful at that career for the past 22 years as well.
“To me it’s a lot like basketball,” he said. “The relationships that you build with your clients and the competition of doing the best you can for them. It’s a great career for me, and I’ve been really fortunate to have it for the past 22 years. One of the best parts is that I get to work with my brother (Randy). I think it’s been good for him too, but I know I’ve enjoyed it.”
And also for basketball, it all comes back to home.
“I remember playing out on the courts at Chipman’s house (on South Michigan in Plymouth). We were out there all the time. There was always a game going on. And the Chipmans had lights on their court, man that was the best. It was great for us but bad for the Chipmans because we’d be out there all night,” said Master.
“I think the best year I ever had playing basketball was my sophomore year at Plymouth. It was because I had a chance to play with Randy. That’s the best thing about something like this all the people you remember who helped you. All the coaches you had that taught you.
“I remember Jack Edison once telling a reporter that he wasn’t sure what he may have taught me, but ‘I didn’t teach him that jump shot’. He gave me the credit and didn’t take any and that always meant a lot to me. Probably the biggest influence on me was Whipper (Plymouth assistant coach Bill Snyder). He took a real interest in me. He took me to camps back when not too many people went to camps. I met a lot of coaches and people there that really helped me. He really did a lot for me.
“But most of all I remember my dad, and the first time he ever took me to a Plymouth game. He probably didn’t remember it, but it’s something I’ll never forget. It was hard to get tickets for games then so we didn’t always go. I was probably eight or nine years old. I remember Dad getting tickets and taking me to the old Centennial gym — all the people, the noise, the excitement. It just seemed so loud and a really great place to be.
“I was hooked.”