Great granddaughter plays on Branch McCracken Court

Playing on Branch McCracken Court is always a treat for programs like Division II Northwood, which visited Bloomington for a women’s basketball exhibition game on Friday night.

But for 6-foot Timberwolves starting center Grace German, it meant something much more personal.

German is the great granddaughter of McCracken, the former IU player and coach for whom the floor inside Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall was named.

Her mother, Cathy, is the daughter of McCracken’s son, David, and her father, Todd, is the director of the McCracken Basketball Camps.

Playing a game at a place she grew up revering was a dream come true.

“If you’d have asked me when I was six or seven, this would’ve been the school I would’ve gone to,” Grace said. “It was crazy. There was a minute we were standing in our time out, and I was like, ‘My gosh, I’m at IU.’ The fight song was going on, it was great. It was amazing to be back.”

As fate would have it, not only was the Fort Wayne native in the starting lineup, but No. 34 would score the game’s first basket on a nifty post move in the lane.

“It was not what I was expecting. It was not the play we had drawn up,” Grace said.

Her family was on their feet applauding despite the strange circumstances.

“It’s fun to see one of ours on the floor,” said Cathy German, seated alongside her sister, Mary Tyndall. “It’s funny to have the blue color on. Most every other game we wear red.”

Grace tried to explain the significance of the place to her teammates ahead of time, to little success.

“A lot of my teammates are all from Michigan, so I tried to explain what Assembly Hall was like, what it looked like, then we walked in for our shootaround today, they were all like, ‘Whoaaa,'” she said. “I tried to explain Indiana basketball but they didn’t get it.”

She also tried to explain her great grandfather’s critical role in its basketball history.

“I told them and they were like, ‘Oh, that’s cool,'” she said. “Then we walked in and I told them, ‘Those banners.’ It was very cool.”

Grace hadn’t been back to Assembly Hall since she was a sophomore in high school due to her own playing career, but her family has been on numerous occasions, including last year’s dedication of the statues and monuments outside the renovated Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall.

The McCracken coaching legacy is being carried on by David Vogel, the son of Cathy and Mary’s other sister, Virginia.

The Bluffton native is in his first year as a graduate assistant coach at TCU after completing his playing career at DePauw.

But on Friday night, Grace German brought the family full circle to Bloomington once more.

“I’ve never played here before but walking out on the court, I was like, ‘I’m back, I’m home. I know this court,” she said.

8 comments

    1. Ron couldn’t agree more. True stories of bloodlines and how lives reconnect with preceding generations. Branch really put Indiana in the center of the Basketball map and his family is still promoting that after him.

  1. Agree, what a great story! Can’t imagine her emotions when the game started and for her to score their first basket was certainly a memory she and her family will never forget. Stories like this makes the heart grow warm and fuzzy. Very cool.

  2. I didn’t know the German girl was related to Branch, but even I could see she had some basketball skills.
    Branch was a giant of a man, an IU legend, and his legacy lives on.
    This is the type of article that keeps me as a subscriber to the HT.
    Thanks for writing it!

  3. She has a million dollar smile. We need more Hoosiers that “get it.”

    Can we get her in a Hoosier uniform somehow? Grad transfer rule? Maybe she brings the intangible “it factor” leadership to a potential championship women’s Hoosier team? If she starts for a Division II team, she must have enough game to warrant putting her infectious smile and her unique Hoosier lineage into the cream and crimson roster.

  4. What an opportunity that basket could have been. Take an official time out and announce her relationship to IU. Bet she would have had received an standing ovation.

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