When a third of a team is made up exclusively of your grandsons, you’re likely to have a rooting interest.
That’s the case with Bob “Biggie” McEwen, 77, of New Washington.
The Clarksville Generals, who won their first boys’ basketball sectional since 1986 last week in Crawford County, features sophomore Evan Guenthner, junior Calvin McEwen and seniors Bailey and Aidan McEwen. All his grandsons.
The quartet — and the team, ranked eighth in Class 2A — travels to the Southridge Regional on Saturday in search of a regional championship and will face off against No. 10 Linton-Stockton around 1 p.m. in Huntingburg.
“It makes me feel good that they’re able to play really well together,” Biggie McEwen said. “Their success doesn’t really have anything to do with me. The only thing I try and tell them is that they all need to keep their head in the game and play on both sides of the court. If they score 20 points and give up 30 to the guy they’re guarding, that isn’t going to do anybody any good.”
McEwen, who moved with his family to New Washington in the late-1970s as work brought him to Clark County from Michigan, was an outstanding prep basketball player in Montana at Anaconda Central High School, which captured the Class B state championship in 1951.
The stories that captivate McEwen’s grandkids often involve the contrast between basketball in Indiana and in Montana, a vast, sprawling state that ranks fourth in land area in the United States. Where a road trip for the Generals might mean a trip to Sellersburg or Henryville, one for Anaconda Central might mean a journey to Great Falls or Billings — a few hundred miles away and by train.
Other teams might be made up of American Indians, as well as white players, and the gyms varied widely in size and quality, Biggie said.
“Just the experiences he has and shares with us, he knows what it takes to win a state championship,” said Calvin McEwen, who is Clarksville’s starting point guard. “What it took for him to get there is alot different than what we have to go through. I know it means a lot to all of us that he’s up there supporting us.”
Biggie is a familiar sight to most Generals’ fans, as he and wife Peggy are often at Clarksville games.
There are other family members involved in the Generals’ march towards a potential state title. They include Brian McEwen (Aidan and Calvin’s father), who serves as an assistant coach under head coach Jason Connell; daughter Cyndi (McEwen) Guenthner (Evan’s mother); son Bob McEwen (Bailey’s father, and a high school basketball official), and son John McEwen, who serves as Clarksville’s volleyball coach.
John said the family’s love of basketball all originated from Biggie. Bob and Brian starred at New Washington in the 1980s and now get to watch their sons play on as the third generations of McEwens finding basketball success at the prep level.
“Biggie started it all and passed on his love for basketball to the rest of his family,” John said.
Along the way to their most recent success, there were a few stumbles for the Generals. When Clarksville, which had dropped its previous three games (including a sectional loss last season) to cross-town rival Providence, finally defeated the Pioneers in the opening round of the sectional on Feb. 26, Bailey McEwen’s first thoughts went to his grandfather.
“Four years ago, he was wondering how we were all were going to do playing together, and I told him, ‘By the time we graduate, we are going to win a sectional,” Bailey recalled. “My freshman and sophomore years, we weren’t that strong and last year we were better but came up short to Providence. This year, we were able to go to Crawford County and get it done and it meant a lot to all of us to keep that promise.”
Biggie offers honest assessments of his grandson’s games, which are mostly — but not completely — positive. Example: “Calvin is an exceptional shooter, but sometimes he has that hiccup when he gets the ball and won’t shoot it. I hate that.”
But even when his kids or grandkids point to him as being an influential presence in their life and for having some responsibility in their success, he downplays that — although he expresses pride in their accomplishments.
“I’m happy for the kids,” he said. “I know they’ve worked very hard to get where they are and that hard work has paid off. I think their coaches get them ready to play, and they’ve stepped up when they’ve had to. It’s been fun to watch.”