Volume 96, Issue 14
Friday, September 20, 2002

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Small town boy makes good
Grozelle cornerstone of 'Stangs basketball

By Jordan Bell
Gazette Staff

Allen Chen/Gazette

HEY, I STILL GOT MUGGSY BOGUES BY A FEW INCHES. Jimmy Grozelle is captain of the basketball team, goes to Ivey and in his spare time saves baby seals.

Sixteen years ago a director by the name of David Anspaugh created an epic basketball movie entitled Hoosiers about a smalltown in Indiana enthralled with their high school basketball team (the Hickory Huskers) and their widely revered basketball god, Jimmy Chipwood.

Jimmy Grozelle, the pint-sized Western Mustangs point guard and captain, was only seven when the film hit the theaters, but the similarities between Grozelle and Chipwood are eerie.

Both grew up in a small town: Chipwood in Hickory, Indiana and Grozelle in Ridgetown, Ontario. They are the kind of quiet, serene towns you pass on the highway, where everyone knows each other and is connected by a certain unspeakable bond.

It's here where Jimmy got his start.

"I moved to Ridgetown in Grade 4," Grozelle said. "I used to watch the old Cleveland Cavaliers – [they played on] the only [TV] station I got living out in the country."

The dedication Grozelle eventually exhibited in the local high school was revealed by Dan Lewis, Grozelle's high school basketball coach in Ridgetown.

"I remember we won a (South Western Ontario Secondary School Association) game and had to come up with a few thousand dollars really quickly to get to the Ontario tournament. The Saturday after we won the SWOSSA final, we had a car wash at the school and Jimmy dressed up in a chicken suit and was jumping up and down on Main Street flagging down cars," Lewis said.

The similarities concerning Grozelle and Chipwood continue. The two soft-spoken stars personify a trait rarely seen in sports – quiet confidence. It can't be described because it's intangible and more just a feeling, in which each player on the team can look into Grozelle's eyes and know he's the one they want to lead them into battle.

"He is an excellent leader," said Mustangs basketball head coach Craig Boydell. "[The Mustangs] respect his game, they respect his energy level and they respect his commitment to the program."

For four straight years, Grozelle has led the Mustangs to the national championship tournament in Halifax and last season was selected for the TSN Award which combines excellence in academics, community and athletics. Grozelle's teammate Kelsey Green said Jimmy has bucked the trend of small players not being able to compete on a grand stage.

"Jim continues to excel in a sport where a lot of people think he shouldn't," Green said. "I expect Jim to leave a lasting impression on the CIS in his final year."

Education is also a tie that binds the fictional and real-life basketball heroes. By no stretch of the imagination is Grozelle strictly a basketball player who will be lost in a frightening reality when the plug is pulled on his career – he's not going to be sitting in front of the local variety store talking about the good old days. Grozelle is currently finishing a Masters degree in business administration at the Richard Ivey School of Business.

And it's at Ivey where Grozelle, like Chipwood before him at Hickory, developed a cult-like following. I like to refer to the group of fans who frequent Alumni Hall and unabashedly cheer for Grozelle as the "Ivey Hooligans." They love Jimmy and Jimmy makes them proud.

In his final year of eligibility, it will be up to Grozelle to carry the Mustangs after the loss of former stars Andy Kwiatkowski, Chris Brown and Chedo Ndur to graduation.

"When I'm in class, I'm thinking about games. When I'm at home, I'm thinking about games. My life at school revolves around when we get to play [McMaster] next or when we get to play Guelph next," Grozelle said.

The irony in Grozelle's story, however, was revealed to me as he and I strolled across campus reminiscing about his days in Ridgetown.

When the topic of Hoosiers was brought up, Jimmy shockingly told me he has yet to watch it in its entirety.

Well Jimmy, I have it on DVD and VHS, so if you ever want to be inspired, drop me a line and watch your life unfold on the big screen.


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