Visions of the movie "Hoosiers" run through every young boy or girl aspiring to become the the next Bobby Plump playing high school basketball in Indiana. Freshmen Gabe Miller and Scott Bushong are no different.
Miller and Bushong are not far removed from the Hoosier scholastic basketball lore as only a year ago, they were basking in its spotlight. But as first-year players on the men's basketball team, the two former Carroll Chargers are put into new situations and new challenges to overcome in a college environment.
But according to Miller and Bushong, having each other around has made the transition from Carroll High School to Ball State easier.
"Coming to the same college, we know each other, and we know we can get through the hard times together," Miller said. "When it's getting rough and you're down in practice, we just push each other through it."
Growing up in the Fort Wayne area, the two not only went to the same high school, but the same elementary and middle schools. Not to mention they lived only four miles apart. And according to Bushong, the proximity in which the two lived helped fuel their desire for basketball.
"We grew up playing ball together," Bushong said. "We were basketball buddies. Every drill we were partners, pushing each other."
Together the duo led the Chargers to a sectional and regional championship in their sophomore year, but Miller said the highlight of his career did not come until their senior year.
As Carroll entered the 2000-2001 season as one of the favorites for the state title, the Chargers went on to reach the Indiana High School Athletics Association State Tournament Semifinals where they lost to Penn High School 57-52 in overtime.
Miller averaged 21.8 points and 4.4 rebounds per game and Bushong averaged 10 points and eight rebounds over the course of the season.
"All our hard work had finally paid off," Miller said. "We made it to the final four. Our goal was a state championship, but it still meant a lot."
For their efforts both were named to the All-Northeast Hoosier Conference first team, and Miller was named All-State and played for the Indiana High School All-Star team. Miller did not see much playing time while on the All-Star team due to a knee injury, which he said is "perfectly better now."
But now, years after learning to shoot a layup and far from home, the two take a backseat from the spotlight they were used to in high school to a learning role on a talent-rich Ball State squad. Bushong is a walk-on to the Cardinals, and he said he is not expecting a lot of playing time.
"It's different, but it's nothing I wasn't expecting," Bushong said. "Right now my job is to make it as hard for 'T' Smith as possible. But it's hard. He's a big boy.
"I just have to play hard. If I don't show coach I can play hard, I won't get the minutes in a game."
And with Miller a possible being redshirt freshman, his role changes as he may watch from the sidelines. But like Bushong, he said his role is to make the team better since he will practice with them.
"They are exactly the type of players you want on your team," Ball State head coach Tim Buckley said. "Their attitudes never change. Every day they come in and work hard."
Despite their limited roles on the team as a walk-on and probable redshirt, Buckley said they have made an immediate impact on the team.
"Scott came in and right away used his ability to 'bang' down low, guarding 'T' Smith," Buckley said. "Gabe is a player we see as having a real future, he's just got to work on his strength a little."
But which player is better? Miller has more awards and been in the limelight more, but Bushong does a lot of the "dirty work" that a team needs and he said he likes getting the "garbage buckets."
"I would have to say that Gabe has got the advantage," Bushong said. "I'm more of a defensive player, but he's got me by a little bit."
But the quiet Miller wouldn't give a nod to either one of them.
"Scott's a post player, and I'm more of a wing player," Miller said. "I can't say, we're just different types of players."