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 BigBlueHistory.net 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 Team: Bill 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 Team: Lou 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.