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UK Basketball All-Decade Team: 1950s Edition

The All-Decade team madness continues.  Let’s welcome back the 1950s with a malt and some Chuck Berry.  I’ll cover the check if you stop yelling at every girl we see at the drive-in – the greasers are starting to notice us.  Thanks to for pics/info.



The only thing missing from UK in the ’50s was team leather jackets and Arthur Fonzarelli as a student manager

Another decade of UK basketball came and went, but not without seeing it all – ups, downs, war, NBA draft picks, and NCAA issues.  The 1950s started on the right foot; Rupp led another bunch to the promised land in 1951, winning the NCAA championship, with Bill Spivey starring as the first “great big basketball player” according to his roommate, C.M. Newton.  In fact, with this championship, UK became the first SEC school to hold both the basketball and football titles at the same time.  Before the decade ended, the Cats won another in 1958.  This would, unfortunately, be Adolph Rupp’s fourth and final NCAA crown.  Apart from continuing the 1940s trend of two titles per decade, conference success also continued – UK won the conference tournament in ’50 and ’52 (the SEC tournament stopped from ’53-’78) and the regular season championship in ’50, ’51, ’52, ’54, ’55, ’57, ’58.

Individual players received a great deal of accolades in the 1950s, as well.  Several players were named to the All-American and All-SEC teams, even National Player of the Year.  UK also witnessed its first basketballer achieve a career average of 20+ ppg (Bob Burrow, who also grabbed more than 30 rebs in a single game).

In between titles, there were moments of darkness.  The Korean War waged from 1950-1953, and while the effect on the team wasn’t nearly that of WWII, it still weighed on the nation and the young men in military service.  A more direct dark time occurred when UK did not play a 1952-53 season due to the infamous point-shaving scandal that exploded across the college scene.  While this cast a shadow on the legacies of some very successful players (and good guys, despite breaking a few rules), it reflects more on the first true, powerful influence of gambling on the college basketball scene, instead of a reflection of today’s notion of a ‘dirty program’.  Rupp chose to skip the 1954 NCAA and NIT as a result of the scandal and won the Helm’s ’54 National Championship instead.


This guy, Nick Englisis, a former UK football player from Brooklyn, is the one who approached and propositioned the UK guys who became involved in the point-shaving scandal.  As Don Henly once said, “you can’t hide those lyin’ eyes.”

Here’s a list of the players from the 1950s (Sorry, pressed on time so no yrs/ppg calculations).

1950s All-Decade TeamBill Spivey (19.25 ppg),  Frank Ramsey (14.77 ppg),  Cliff Hagan (19.16 ppg),  Bob Burrow (20.06 ppg),  Vernon Hatton (15.17 ppg),  Johnny Cox (17.43 ppg), Bill Lickert (14.74 ppg)

1950s All-Name TeamLou Tsioropoulos, Lindle Castle, Houston Nutt (football, anyone?), Linville Puckett, Billy Ray Cassady, Jay Bayless (a magical Jay Bilas/Skip Bayless hybrid!), Carroll Burchett, Herky Rupp.

Article written by Chris Thomas

15 Comments for UK Basketball All-Decade Team: 1950s Edition

  1. GoCats2010
    9:38 pm July 27, 2011 Permalink


    all time name 1st team

  2. davis4uk
    9:41 pm July 27, 2011 Permalink

    Ole Nick Englisis is a dead ringer for Gillispie!

  3. catfan2
    9:43 pm July 27, 2011 Permalink

  4. catfan2
    9:49 pm July 27, 2011 Permalink

    not that they (UL)have a chance……but he’s a new name to me anyway

  5. Theghostofbillspivey
    10:15 pm July 27, 2011 Permalink

    Actually I should make the all century team

  6. blue42
    10:23 pm July 27, 2011 Permalink

    this stuff is awesome

    thank you ksr

  7. Frankoa
    10:50 pm July 27, 2011 Permalink

    Owensboro has produced several UK stars Cliff Hagen….Two-time All American….Bobby Watson a starting guard on an NCAA champion team, Randy Embry 1961 Mr. basketball that started along side Cotton Nash and of course King Rex. Frank Ramsey is from nearby Madisonville.

  8. Frankoa
    10:51 pm July 27, 2011 Permalink


  9. dukesuX
    11:24 pm July 27, 2011 Permalink

    “all-name team” has gotta also include Shelby Linville????

  10. dukesuX
    11:27 pm July 27, 2011 Permalink

    O-boro also produced Kenny Higgs who, butt for the stoooooopidity of Joe B. Hall, sholud’ve been a ‘Cat — instead of a Bayou Bengal – as he dearly wanted to go to UK, along w/his good buddies, Lexingtonians Givens & Lee

  11. bung
    6:49 am July 28, 2011 Permalink

    Good article (also in ’54 we were Undefeated when we refused to play in the nc2a)

  12. Bledsoe's Biceps
    8:05 am July 28, 2011 Permalink

    From all I’ve read, Bill Spivey got royally screwed by the NCAA & NBA. He was never even charged in the point shaving scandal and was simply assumed to be guilty by association. It ended his college career and then he eventually agreed to a very bad deal with the NBA. He got a small sum of money, in return to agreeing to be banned for life.

  13. Fake Mingua Beef Kid
    8:41 am July 28, 2011 Permalink

    I never realized we should have won in 53′ but we declined to go to the tournament without Hagan and Ramsey. They would have been eligible by today’s standards. If we are going to count that bs football championship, we should count 53′ for basketball.

  14. Brian
    10:57 am July 28, 2011 Permalink

    I know Carroll Burchett well. Super nice fellow with some good insights in defense of Coach Rupp’s team integration. He essentially said Rupp was a victim of circumstance; had he gotten black players during the 50’s, he would have been unable to take the team to a restaurant or motel while on an SEC road trip, so he had little choice but to remain all white. Interesting point that I hadn’t thought of.

  15. Jorts
    5:06 pm July 28, 2011 Permalink

    Rupp chose to skip the ’54 tourney because the NCAA had deemed three players (Tsioropoulos, Ramsey, and Hagan) ineligible due to the fact that they had graduated the previous year and were in graduate school. They would’ve gone and won it all had those players been allowed to play.