Sports Xtra: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar answers Beech Grove request

Posted at 9:41 PM, Apr 29, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-29 21:41:37-04

BEECH GROVE — Ally Hockett is as disappointed as any high school senior that the school year is ending like this. So Ally reached out for advice.

It just so happened she reached out to an NBA legend.

"Hi Alley. This is Kareem Abdul-Jabbar," Kareem Abdul-Jabbar said in the video message. "I really don't think you need any advice from someone who graduated college when Neil Armstrong first stepped on the moon."

After reaching out to the hall of famer, she quickly shared it with classmate Josh Copenhaver.

"I reached out and asked if you could give me some encouraging words," Hockett said. "And then I mentioned the basketball team. I said, 'They've been through a lot this year having lost their coach.'"

Matt English lost a lengthy battle with cancer in December 2018. His team was going for their first regional championship last March before the rest of the tournament was called off.

"I know you're going to miss all of your friends at Beech Grove High School, especially the basketball team which has been through so much lately having lost their coach and having their season canceled right after winning sectionals," Jabbar said.

"I was in shock. It was really cool," Mike Renfro said.

Renfro was Matt English's assistant and is now the program's head coach.

"I know I thought and our kids thought we had a shot to win the whole thing this year," Renfro said. "It was disappointing in the end. It was one of the hardest things I've had to do is tell our kids that we weren't going to the regional."

"I love the team motto, though — 'We before me,' Jabbar said. "It's a lesson we can all live with."

Pretty cool to get a message from Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

"Yes. I think my heart stopped for a minute," Hockett said. "I just kind of started shaking."

Copenhaver didn't believe it at first.

"At first, when Ally sent me the video I thought it was a joke," Copenhaver said. "Like, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is one of the all-time NBA greats. Like why would he mention Beech Grove High School and the basketball team."

Clearly, there's more than basketball being taught at Beech Grove High School. Matt's legacy was the lunch pail and hard hat he urged players to bring. Those items were center stage when the team went on to win back-to-back sectional championships.

"More than anything I think he'd be proud but I think he'd be really proud of the boys because we worked very, very hard to get where we are today," Renfro said.

A feeling these days felt school-wide.

"It's more than basketball," Copenhaver said. "It implements life lessons in everything that we do."

"We have been through things that no other class has been through," Hockett said.

And now, a class with hall of fame status.