There were about 20 minutes left before tip-off Friday night for the IU women’s basketball exhibition against Northwood University.
As the Hoosiers trotted back into the locker room, the IU band began playing the fight song. As the trombones and trumpets began the, “Indiana, our Indiana, Indiana we’re all for you,” it was tough for Mary Tyndall and Cathy German not to stand up and start clapping along.
It’s a song and tradition the sisters know by heart because they grew up breathing all things IU basketball as they are the granddaughters of Emmett “Branch” McCracken.
But, unlike all their other trips to IU, the sisters weren’t in any cream and crimson attire. Instead, they were sporting the powder blue of Northwood University in support of Cathy's daughter, Grace German — the great granddaughter of McCracken.
McCracken coached at IU from 1938-1943 and again from 1945-1965, being responsible for two of IU’s five banners hanging in Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall.
“It’s pretty cool to see those two banners as our grandfathers,” Mary said as she pointed toward the north end of the court where the 1940 and 1953 banners hang side by side.
In his 23 years of coaching at IU, McCracken amassed 364 wins 210 of which are Big Ten wins, including four regular season Big Ten titles and four trips to the NCAA tournament.
McCracken also played at IU from 1928-1930 and led the Hoosiers in scoring for those three years. In 1960, he was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. From all his successes and contributions at IU, the hardwood floor in Assembly Hall is named Branch McCracken Court.
It was only fitting that Grace German scored the first two points of the ball game on the court named after her great grandfather.
Grace remembers being at games when she was younger with her cousins and how they talked about how they would one day play here. That become a reality for Grace Friday night.
“It was really cool,” Grace said. “A lot of teammates aren’t from Indiana, so I tried to explain Assembly Hall to them. So, it was awesome to share this experience with them.”
Basketball has always been a part of the family. Cathy and Mary both played basketball, and Grace remembers playing for her first team when she was in kindergarten.
McCracken started a McCracken Basketball Camp, which has numerous different locations such as Indiana, Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin. The camp was passed down to Cathy and Mary’s father, and is now run by Cathy’s husband, Todd German.
The hip term “ball is life” applies to this family more than most. Cathy and Mary both agree their favorite memory is just seeing their grandmother, McCraken's wife, decked out in IU colors and being so invested in the games. Grace remembers a time when she was around 6-years-old, and current head coach Mike Davis walked by and said hello to the family and she just thought it was the coolest thing.
Every now and then the family tries to make it to games at IU. The sisters were here when IU unveiled its statues outside Assembly Hall and when they honored the 1953 team during halftime of one of the games. They couldn’t help but feel a little guilty wearing a color not in support of the Hoosiers on Friday, but since Grace is a senior, they said it will never happen again.
At one moment in the game, Grace remembers hearing those familiar trombones and trumpets from the fight song — "We will fight for the cream and crimson and the glory for old IU — and she couldn’t help but look up at the arena she was playing in — the arena she grew up in.
“It was kind of surreal,” Grace said. “I was just really honored to be back and play on this court.”