Lloyd Bateman

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Lloyd Bateman

Postby rlee » Mon Dec 24, 2007 6:25 am

He was a man among the Midgets
By Cliff Guilliams
Evansville Courier-Press

This is how it began.

In 1953, a dirt poor eighth-grade kid named Lloyd Bateman picked up a basketball for the first time after his family moved to Plainville, Ind.

Lloyd Bateman of tiny Plainville High School was the first Indiana schoolboy to total 2,000 career points in the late 1950s. In March, the 6-foot-5 Bateman, who now lives in Bicknell, Ind., will be inducted into the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame.

It started as entertainment to pass time, but helped him become accepted by a gang of basketball-playing farm kids.

During the next five years, Bateman mastered what to do with the ball well enough to earn enshrinement next March into the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame in New Castle.

In the late 1950s, Bateman was one of 80 students attending Plainville High School. His style was considerate, shy, yet overpowering.

He became Indiana's first prepster ever to score more than 2,000 points (2,078) with a career-high 53 in three quarters against Lyons as a sophomore. The 2,078 is more than household names like Oscar Robertson, Glenn Robinson, George McGinnis, Billie Keller, Jimmy Rayl and Kent Benson amassed.

Big Lloyd, as he was called, was a man among Midgets (Plainville's nickname).

Bateman stood a shade over 6-foot-5 and weighed 230 pounds. His feet were nimble, the mammoth hands quick as a juggler's. He was handsome in a blushing, Paul Bunyan way of being bigger than life.

However, his greatness was authentic.

There was no 3-point shot. As a freshman in 1954, he averaged 16 points per game, then 22, 27 and 25. Despite being double- and triple-teamed, he often scored in the 30s or 40s, grabbed 30 rebounds many times and blocked/altered countless shots.

During that stretch under coach Kenneth "Tot" Nelson, the Midgets went 81-12, won the rugged 1956 Washington Sectional by defeating Petersburg, Montgomery, Loogootee and Washington, and once reached the Final Four of Terre Haute's prestigious Wabash Valley Tournament consisting of 120 teams competing from Indiana and Illinois.

In 1968, Plainville consolidated with Elnora and Odon into North Daviess High School.

Bateman said he never believed Hall of Fame induction was possible. "I never even dreamed of it," said Big Lloyd. "Some good friends of mine did all the work. They talked it up, said their case to the people in charge and made it happen. This is just great — brings back memories."

Bateman was a player far ahead of his time that time literally forgot.

But Jerry Osmon didn't.

The retired North Daviess coach and athletics director was a Plainville neighbor and teammate of Bateman. Along with Hugh Schaefer, Osmon in 1997 began lobbying for Bateman's rightful induction.

"Part of Lloyd being snubbed for so long starts with being from Southern Indiana," said Osmon. "Lot of times we don't get the credit deserved down here. I had no idea how many hoops you had to jump through when it comes to getting someone nominated and all the material that must be submitted. About four years ago, we went to the (Hall of Fame) board of director's meeting and stated Lloyd's case.

"Hugh (Schaefer) and I went up there a lot. Lloyd is too modest ever to do such a thing. Two years ago we took (Loogootee and the state's all-time winningest coach) Jack Butcher with us. (Former IHSAA commissioner) Gene Cato also spoke. Their voices were heard.

"They made an impact. We couldn't be happier for Lloyd. He was every inch a team player and represents what a Hall of Famer should be."

Former prep star and coach Joe Todrank also was in Bateman's corner.

"It's wonderful to hear about a small town hero from our part of the state making it into the Hall of Fame. He (Lloyd) is most deserving and will be joining other small town guys like Jack Butcher, Gene Tormohlen, Don Buse, Roger Kaiser, Larry Bird, Danny Bush, Gene Cato, Charlie Denbo, Gus Doerner, Dick Farley, Jim Jones, Bob and Steve Lochmueller...."

Bateman's father was a farm laborer, often moving the family in order to secure employment during Lloyd's elementary days. That caused him to miss much of one school year. Having to repeat a grade, an IHSAA rule disallowed his participation after his 20th birthday on Feb. 10 of his senior season.

Lloyd credits most of his success to Nelson, who worked with him five days a week.

"He was a wonderful boy and great player who wanted to do it and worked hard to become the player he was," said Nelson, 86, who coached at Lynnville before Plainville, then moved on to coach at Newburgh and Castle for nine years. "Lloyd was totally consumed with the game.

"I think the one thing that helped him most was developing his left hand. He could shoot a hook shot with either. That made him more unstoppable. His field-goal percentage was well over 60 percent."

Bateman was a purist. Practice became his work and labor of love. Although a big man at the time, his demeanor was mild, according to Nelson.

"He was a gentleman. Never a self-promotor or grandstander," said Nelson. "Not his nature. Could be why time nearly forgot him. Lloyd making the Hall of Fame is a great accomplishment. For him and all the boys he was with."

A resident of Bicknell, Bateman, 69, retired from E. Bierhaus & Sons in Vincennes. Along with his wife of 47 years, Carolyn, he leads a quiet life, but stays active working three days a week at Rural King in Vincennes.

Nelson said Bateman received more than 60 scholarship offers, including ones from Indiana, Vanderbilt and Evansville.

"Going to college wasn't his thing," said Nelson. "He enrolled at Kentucky Wesleyan because they had a summer job for him. He stayed one day, left and joined the military. That's the way it was."

Bateman played one of his last games in the Army.

"They only played one," he recalled. "I haven't picked up a ball in 40 years."

Anything he would have done differently? "Yes," said Bateman, who occasionally takes in an area high school game. "I think I should have gone into officiating. It would have kept me active around basketball and the kids. I would have liked that."
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