By MATT KOESTERS
INDIANAPOLIS — The 1977-78 Clarksville boys’ basketbal team gave the school its first-ever sectional championship. And 34 years later, it gave Clarksville another first — its first graduate to be enshrined in the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame.
Chuck Franz, a 1979 graduate of Clarksville High School and a member of the 1981 Indiana University men’s NCAA national championship basketball team, was honored at a banquet in Indianapolis Wednesday.
“I look at it and I think it’s special for all of the people of Clarksville, not for only me,” Franz said in a recent phone interview. “I have four brothers and sisters that graduated from Clarksville from 1960 all the way to me in 1979. There’s lots of family and friends that had a lot to do with it.”
Though Franz was a member of the historic 1977-78 Generals, he broke out as a star during the following season when the Clarksville squad repeated as sectional champions despite having Franz as its only returning starter. During that season, Franz averaged nearly 33 points per game with a shooting percentage of 53.7 percent.
Despite his sudden fame his senior year, Franz handled the attention with humility and dignity, said former Clarksville coach Paul Love.
“You just don’t get any better than what he was,” Love said. “He handled the fame that got by complimenting his teammates, as you expect a gentleman to do, such as he was. He couldn’t put up those kind of numbers without the support of his teammates. It was whatever it takes to win.”
And despite the passage of years, Franz still recognizes that the Generals’ success wouldn’t have come without the likes of teammates Jimmy McMale, David Snelling, Kenny Jones, Scott Bostock and Gary Bullock.
“I think it was the guys I played with, all of those guys I mentioned,” Franz said. “Without those guys and the roles that they played on that team, without Coach Love laying down, once we did get into season, the roles each of us would have, [we wouldn’t have won the ‘79 sectional championship].”
And though Franz was the squad’s lead scorer, the others could put it through the strings when they needed to. During a game against Madison that season, the Cubs decided that Franz would not score against them. It was the only time that Franz scored less than 20 in a game that year. The rest of the squad shot 65 percent from the field to pick up the slack.
Still, it is Franz who is best remembered for that team’s success.
“Obviously, Chuck Franz left his mark on Clarksville High School long before he was ever chosen to be inducted into the Hall of Fame,” Clarksville Athletic Director Khelli Leitch said. “With that said, we are extremely proud to have someone represent our school for such a prestigious honor. for Clarksville to have someone such as Chuck be as successful and accomplished as he has become just goes to show what our school system and community is all about. Chuck was a great representative of Clarksville High School when he was in school, and he continues to be a great representative for us as an alumnus and, for that, we will be forever grateful.”
Before the ‘78-’79 season, Franz was regarded as a role player on a team laden with senior talent. All five of the ‘77-‘78 team’s starters averaged double-digit scoring. With the explosion in offensive production his senior year came an explosion in attention from major collegiate programs like Purdue, Kentucky and Indiana University.
“Once he heard IU was in the game, he would have signed with them at any point in time, because he was a kid from Indiana and he wanted to play for Bob Knight,” Love said.
And play for Bob Knight he did. Though Franz was not a starter on the ‘81 national championship team, he knew his role and helped the Hoosiers prepare for the competition.
“We were a very close-knit group and we all just never lost sight of the goals which were the Big Ten Championship first, and then getting into the tournament,” Franz said. “We knew we had the talent if we could gel together to be the national champions.”
Franz graduated from the Kelley School of Business in 1984 with a degree in computure technology. Today, Franz is the vice president and chief information officer for the Cook Group, based in Bloomington.