Good things come to those who wait.
Nearly 60 years after he last competed on the hardwood for Manchester College and more than six decades since he led tiny Chester Township to an undefeated regular season and to sectional and regional championships, Dick Piper will finally be recognized for his accomplishments with his enshrinement into the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame next Wednesday in Indianapolis.
“I wish this could have occurred a little earlier because not too many people are around who saw me play,” joked Piper, a long-time Howe resident and former coach and headmaster at Howe Military School (now The Howe School). “But it’s a very great honor. I’ve received congratulations from many of my former players at Howe and others. I’m thrilled.”
Piper was a 6-0 senior guard on the 1947-48 Chester Township (located just outside North Manchester) squad which won its first 27 games. During that run, the Panthers won the school’s second (and last) sectional title and whipped state powerhouses Kokomo and Marion to claim Chester Township’s only regional crown.
“Even though we were undefeated, nobody gave us a chance to beat either Kokomo or Marion,” recalled Piper, who scored 30 points in the 76-54 triumph over the Giants in the regional finale. “For a school our size (150 students, half of which were girls) to beat teams like that was almost like winning a state championship. It made our season.”
Alas, Chester Township’s magical season came to an end the next week at the Muncie semi-state with a 65-54 loss to Portland. “That was very disappointing because I feel we had the better team,” said Piper. “We had a pretty big team for those days with a lineup going 6-5, 6-5, 6-2, 6-0 and 6-0. But our coach (Gerald Faudree) never let us fast-break, which really held us back. We could have been better.”
Piper was the first Chester Township player to eclipse the 1000-point barrier (1057), averaging 15.7 markers a game. As a senior, he tallied 474 points with a clip of 17.9 a tilt. Piper was named all-sectional and all-conference in each of his final three seasons, and was voted all-regional and all-semi-state as a senior. The Panthers were 61-10 during his career.
“I wouldn’t trade my time at Chester Township for anything,” said Piper. “We received great support from the community.”
When his prep days were complete, Piper matriculated to nearby Manchester College in 1948. He played basketball and football for the Spartans for two-and-a-half years before enlisting in the Air Force, where he spent the next four years of his life. During that time, he married Barbara Boxer, who was one year behind him at Chester Township. The couple has been together for the past 61 years.
Upon leaving the service, Piper returned to Manchester to earn his degree and finish a splendid hoops career. Piper became the first Spartan player to score 1000 points and was All-Hoosier Collegiate Conference selection as a sophomore (1949-50) and a senior (1955-56).
After college, Piper coached basketball at Laketon High School for five years, then moved on to Howe Military, where he skippered the Cadet roundball program from 1961-72. “We didn’t win any tourneys, but we did win more than we lost,” said Piper of his days on the Howe Military bench. “The main thing I got out of coaching was developing relationships with the players and other coaches.”
Piper became the headmaster at Howe in 1972, a post he maintained until his retirement in 1999. He stayed on at Howe to perform some official duties until he retired permanently in 2002.
Joining Piper in the Hall of Fame class of 2013 are LaVern Benson (Crispus Attucks), Phil Dawkins (East Chicago Washington), Gene Demaree (New Marion), Chuck Frantz (Clarksville), Scott Haffner (Noblesville), Bob Heady (Frankton), Jim Master (Fort Wayne Harding), Carl Meditch (Indianapolis Tech), Alan Nass (Huntingburg), Bill “Fig” Newton (Rockville), Dan Palombizio (Michigan City Rogers), Robery Rousey (Anderson) and Chad Tucker (Cloverdale).
The awards banquet and induction ceremony will take place at the Primo Banquet Hall, located at 2615 National Avenue in Indianapolis. A reception is scheduled to start at 5 p.m., followed by dinner at 6 p.m. and the induction program at 7 p.m. Tickets are $50. For more information, contact the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame at (765) 529-1891.