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Jerry Sichting: Indiana Basketball Hall of Famer from Martinsville

Though not an Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame coach like his fellow Martinsville notables John Wooden and Glenn Curtis, Jerry Sichting is yet another purveyor of hoops from the small Hoosier town of Martinsville, Indiana. A former Purdue Boilermaker and NBA player, Jerry Sichting has done his city proud both on and off the court. At 6’1″ and 175 pounds, Sichting was far from the biggest player on the court. However, he didn’t let his small size stop him from playing professional caliber basketball every season. Like his fellow Martinsville basketball heroes, Jerry Sichting also has a place in the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame.

Born in the neighboring Indianapolis town of Martinsville, Indiana in November of 1956, Jerry Sichting was interested in sports right from the start. During his time at Martinsville High School, he played baseball, basketball and football. He didn’t slouch in either Martinsville sport, either: he was the quarterback for the Martinsville Artesians, and in his junior year (1974) he led the team to a 10-0 record. By the end of his high school career, Sichting had earned ten letters in his three sports, but basketball was by far his best endeavor. During his three seasons with the Artesians, he racked up a 53% field goal completion rate and an 83% free throw completion rate. His senior year at the Martinsville school was one of his best ever: his team went 21-2 and he average 21 points on his way to a berth on the 1975 Indiana All-Star team.

Video of Martinsville, Indiana native Jerry Sichting (12) playing in a 1987 game with the Boston Celtics against Detroit

 

After his graduation from Martinsville High School, Jerry Sichting moved north to West Lafayette, Indiana, where he enrolled in Purdue University. Once a Boilermaker, it took Sichting a few seasons to really leave his mark. He maintained his excellent shot percentage from high school during his freshman year, racking up a completion rate of 82% on free throws and 55% on field goals. By his senior year, Sichting had helped Purdue to a Big Ten Conference title tie with Michigan State. Though the Boilermakers didn’t make the NCAA Final Four Men’s Basketball Tournament that year, Jerry Sichting and his team did make it to the 1979 National Invitation Tournament final match. The team lost to Indiana University, 53-52, but Sichting left his mark on Purdue basketball by the end of his senior year. Upon his graduation, Jerry Sichting was named to the All Big Ten First Team and had the highest career free throw percentage of all Purdue players (with 87% accuracy) and the most consecutive free throws made (34, a record later broken).

With such sterling accomplishments at an Indiana college and a strong high school career, Jerry Sichting was a natural selection for the NBA. Though Sichting was selected by the Golden State Warriors in the 1979 draft, he ultimately ended up with the Indiana Pacers, where he played five seasons of Indianapolis sports. His best Pacers season almost equaled his college heights; he maintained a 53% field goal completion rate in the 1983-84 season. In 1985, Sichting joined Larry Bird on the Boston Celtics, where he was a part of that team’s 1985-86 championship season. After he left the Boston Celtics, Jerry Sichting’s NBA career petered out. He joined the Portland Trail Blazers in 1988, went to the Charlotte Hornets for the 1989-1990 season, and played one game with the Milwaukee Bucks in 1990 before retiring.

Video of an infamous fight between Martinsville, Indiana native Jerry Sichting (12) and Ralph Sampson of the Houston Rockets during Game 5 of the 1986 NBA Finals

 

Jerry Sichting’s retirement from the NBA didn’t signal his retirement from professional sports. Though the famous Martinsville person was forever finished playing basketball, he remained in the ranks of the NBA as a broadcaster for the Boston Celtics from 1990 to 1995. He also did the pregame show on a few Purdue University games and ran the Jerry Sichting Basketball Camp in Massachusetts. However, life behind the sports desk wasn’t enough for Sichting; in 1995, he became the head of scouting and development for the Minnesota Timberwolves. He left Minnesota in 2005, when he became an assistant coach to Marquette University and helped lead the Golden Eagles to three consecutive appearances in the NCAA Tournament. Sichting is currently back in the lineup of the Minnesota Timberwolves, this time as an assistant coach, a position he’s held since 2008.

A notable basketball player from Martinsville, Jerry Sichting hasn’t matched the achievements of fellow Martinsville natives John Wooden and Glenn Curtis, but those men are still considered paragons of college basketball. Jerry Sichting performed well as a player for Martinsville High School, Purdue University, and, later, the Indiana Pacers. Though he was never a superstar, Sichting had his hands in a number of championship games and title matches, including the 1979 NIT Tournament and the 1986 NBA Finals. Even after his career as an athlete was finished, Sichting never lost his love for the sport; he has a successful broadcasting career and was an accomplished head coach with Marquette. Jerry Sichting may not have the star power of John Wooden, but he’s a fondly remembered staple of the Martinsville sports scene.


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