The city of Jeffersonville has some of the richest tradition in all of Indiana high school basketball history: two state titles between boys and girls, former professional players, fans that rarely miss a game and a gym that’s full of historically great games.
Every Friday night, there was hardly ever an open seat in sight within William S. Johnson Arena. If you got there within 30 minutes of tip off, you’d be forced to sit in the nosebleeds. Now, it’s hard to find a bad seat in the gym with at least 50-percent of the seats unoccupied.
Red Devil basketball is something that people used to take huge pride in.
All of that seemed to end after the last star player, Darryl Baker, graduated four years ago in 2013. Head coach Chad Gilbert accepted the athletic director position at Charlestown High School and a team that consisted of three all-conference players ended up barely reaching .500 for their overall record.
In 2015, Joe Luce was hired to take the reigns over. After inheriting a roster full of seniors, Luce went 19-13 in his first season.
“I wouldn’t have taken the job if I didn’t think Jeff could win a state championship again,” Luce told The Hyphen in 2015.
But more importantly, Luce has shown the passion to revive the once-powerhouse program. This season, the unranked Red Devils opened the season with a win over the seventh-ranked Southport Cardinals in front of a crowd that barely filled up the bottom section of the gym.
The Lady Red Devils are also having a fantastic season. After playing an extremely tough schedule to kick-off the year, they have already posted a win over Bedford North Lawerence, their first win over the Lady Stars since the 2010-11 season — the same year Jeffersonville won the state championship.
Again, the gym for that game had more open seats than filled ones.
This year officially marks the beginning of a new era of Red Devil basketball. Both teams are succeeding with young talent who show nothing but pride in putting on a Jeffersonville uniform.
They deserve a sold out gym or even 75-percent capacity, but will the fans return?