26 Jun MY OLD KENTUCKY HOME
*Dedicated posthumously to “King” Kelly Coleman
Kentucky, The Bluegrass State, home of Daniel Boone, Paul Hornung, Oliver Lewis, Alonzo “Lonnie” Clayton, William L. Kean, birthplace of Abraham Lincoln, Muhammad Ali, George and Westley Unseld, Garrett Augustus Morgan and “King” Kelly Coleman, although not necessarily in that order. Who are Oliver Lewis, William L. Kean, Paul Hornung, Louis Stout, Garrett Morgan and Westley Unseld? I will answer that question later. First, meet 6’ 3” 210 pounds “King” Kelly Coleman who in 1956 from Wayland H.S. averaged 46.8 points per game in his senior year. This story is about basketball. Kelly got his nickname “King” from an imaginative sportswriter to describe his prolific scoring. Even Adolph Rupp the legendary coach of the Kentucky “Wildcats” said: “He can do more with a basketball than Cliff Hagan.” For those of you who are not aware of Cliff Hagan, a 1954 UK All-American and 1958 NBA Champion, St. Louis Hawk – you better look it up on www.google.com.
Kelly was a gunner supreme and had a bag of tricks – behind the back dribble and through his opponents’ legs for a driving layup. Fans came from long distances to Eastern Kentucky and to Lexington Memorial Coliseum to watch Kelly perform and he did not disappoint. Kelly scored a record 68 points against Bell County in the 1956 state tournament that stands to this day. Moreover, he tallied 4,337 points in his 4 year high school career. Coach Ralph Carlisle of Lafayette Lexington said:”Gosh Almighty he was just the best.”
One of the best stories this writer has heard about Kelly was on the night he scored 75 points against Maytown and had 41 rebounds to boot. A Maytown player complained to his coach that he could smell alcohol on Kelly’s breath and that he was certain Kelly was drunk. The coach told the player “find out what brand Kelly was drinking and I’ll get you some.” At this point Kelly had scored over 50 points on his way to 75.
Basketball in Kentucky is more than a game; it is tantamount to a religion. It is played in all four corners of the state from Appalachia in places named Carr Creek, Pikeville and Hazard to Hopkinsville, Owensboro and Daviess County in the west to Cynthiana and Covington in the North. Get this: Elisha Justice from Shelby Valley High – Pikeville, a senior guard in 2010 set the state record for career steals and holds the school record for career points (1,940) and assists (602). The school won the second straight state small school title with Elisha Justice repeating as the tournament’s MVP.
Why basketball means so much to Kentucky residents is unclear, but the game has become central to the identity of many of its denizens. For mature citizens, the mention of a few names such as Adolph Rupp, Ralph Beard, Corky Withrow, Billy Ray Lickert, Cotton Nash, Larry Conley, Pat Riley, Rex Chapman, Rajon Rondo, John Wall, Anthony Davis, Demarcus Cousins and Karl-Anthony Towns to even the most casual fan would engender immediately one word – basketball. In Kentucky basketball has reached a level of parity with Indiana as a great basketball state. For almost 80 years the Kentucky High School All-Stars have play the Indiana All-Stars. This All-Star Game is played in the summer with one game each state.
Now the answer to that question I promised. Oliver Lewis, an African American jockey was the first to win the Kentucky Derby during its inaugural race at Churchill Downs in Louisville on May 17, 1875. Alonzo “Lonnie” Clayton, African American at age 15 in 1892 became the youngest jockey to win the Kentucky Derby. William L. Kean is the legendary coach at Louisville Central H.S. with a win-loss record of 856 – 83. This is a 91.2 % win rate and he ranks 20th among thousands of coaches in the all-time National High School Records. Paul Hornung dubbed the “Golden Boy” is from Flaget H. S. in Louisville and known worldwide as an all-purpose back at Notre Dame (1956 Heisman Winner) and NFL Green Bay Packer. Garrett Augustus Morgan was an inventor born in Paris in 1877 and held numerous patents and is famous for conceiving the traffic light and gas mask. Louis Stout is the former Commissioner of the Kentucky H.S. Athletic Assoc., a 3 time All-State basketball selection from Cynthiana and Board Member of the Kentucky Sports Authority. He has written “Shawdows of the Past – A History of the Kentucky H. S. Athletic League” – a must read. George and Westley Unseld are brothers from Louisville. George played college ball at the Univ. of Kansas in the mid 1960’s and was a Louisville Councilman representing District 6 for 10 years. Westley played at the Univ. of Louisville in the late 1960’s and was a NBA All-Star and later an Executive with the Baltimore Bullets.
Adolph Rupp, the legendary coach of the Kentucky “Wildcats” deserves special mention.
Rupp’s teams since the 1940s through the mid-1970s ruled the SEC and he was the winningest coach in the country. Sportswriters labeled his 1958 NCAA Championship Team as “The Fiddling Five” (because they were slow in getting started), with Johnny Cox as its star. Rupp added to this moniker by stating: “Those boys might not be concert violinist, but they sure can fiddle.” And the 1966 team staring Pat Riley (NBA Player & Coach) and Larry Conley were known as “Rupp’s Runts”. Because you hip-hop readers might be misled, let it be known that Pat Riley at 6’4” had “hops” and was a deadly baseline jump shooter. Pat had 80 scholarship offers because of his 30 points per game and H. S. All-American designation at Linton, in Schenectady, New York. He was also an outstanding football quarterback in high school.
The following is a list of Kentucky’s basketball immortals:
1956 – “King” Kelly Coleman – Wayland – Kentucky Wesleyan – ABA
1956 – Corky Withrow – Central City – Georgetown College – (MLB) St Louis Cardinals
1958 – Ralph Richardson – Russell County- Eastern Kentucky Univ.
1958 – Harry Todd – Earlington – Western Kentucky Univ.
1959 – Louis Stout – Cynthiana – Former Commissioner KHSAA
1959 –Pat Doyle – North Marshall – Univ. of Kentucky
1960 – Jeff Mullins – Lafayette (Lexington) – Duke Univ. NBA
1961 – George Unseld – Seneca (Louisville) – former Louisville Councilman District 6
1962 – Mike Silliman -St. Xavier (Louisville) (W. Point & ABA) & Larry Conley –Ashland (ABA & Raycom)
1963 – Clem Haskins – Taylor (Campbellsville) – NBA & Mike Redd –Seneca (Louisville)
1964 – Westley Unseld – Seneca (Louisville) – NBA (*50 Greatest Players)
1965 – Butch Beard – (Breckenridge) – NBA
1967 – Jim McDaniels – Allen County-(Scottsville) – ABA *4th All-Time National H.S. Rebound Avg. per game at 28
1969 – Ron King – Central (Louisville) – ABA KY. Colonels
1971 – Pat Talent – Maytown (Langley) & his brother-Bob Talent
1972 – Jerry Thurston – (Owensboro)
1974 – Jack “Goose” Givens – Bryan Station (Lexington) – NBA
1976 – Darrell Griffith – Male (Louisville) – NBA
1977 – Jeff Lamp – Ballard (Louisville) – NBA
1979 – Dirk Minniefield – Lafayette (Lexington) – NBA
1981 – Manuel Forest – Moore (Louisville)
1986 – Rex Chapman – Apollo (Owensboro) – NBA
1987 – John Pelphrey – Paintsville- Asst. Coach U. of Florida
1988 – Richie Farmer – Clay County – KY. Comm. of Agriculture
1998 –J. R. VanHoose – Paintsville-3,095 career points, 2,069 rebounds, 500 block shots – Marshall Univ.
1999 – Rick Jones – Scott County (Georgetown)
2000 – Scott Hundley – Scott County (Georgetown)
2002- Rajon Rondo – Eastern H. S. (Louisville) – NBA
2004 – Chris Lofton – (Mason County) – Turkish Prof. Basketball League
2008 – Darius Miller–(Mason County)
2008 – Scotty Hopson – Univ. Hgts – Hopkinville
2009 – Jon Hood – N. Hopkins – (Madisonville)
2010 – Elisha Justice – Shelby Valley – Pikeville – Univ. of Louisville
2011 – Anthony Hickey -Christian County
2012 – Nathan Dieudonne – Trinity
2013 – Dominique Hawkins – Madison Central
2014 – Quentin Snider – Louisville Ballard
2015 – Camron Justice – Knott Central
2016 – Quentin Goodin – Taylor County
2017 – Taveion Hollingsworth – Dunbar
2018 – C J Fredrick-Covington Catholic
2019 – Isaiah Cozart – Madison Central
2019 – Dontaie Allen – Pendleton County – Univ. of Kentucky
To demonstrate what this game can do for individual development, let’s take a look at Scott Hundley, “Mr. Basketball” in 2000. Scott matriculated at Vanderbilt University which is one of the best colleges in America and labeled “The Harvard of the South.” He was elected Captain of the Sweet 16 Team and chosen for the Sixth Man Award Southeastern Conference in 2004. After graduation, Scott earned his Master’s Degree in Special Education from Georgetown College in 2005.
Yesterday it was Adolph Rupp and Joe B. Hall at the University of Kentucky. Also, there was Ed Diddle at Western Kentucky with 11 appearances in the National Invitational Tournament. Keep in mind that in the 1940s, 1950s and early 1960s the NIT was more prestigious than today’s NCAA Tournament. Rick Pitino formerly at the Univ. of Louisville coached basketball for 22 seasons at Boston Univ., Providence, UK, N.Y. Knicks and the Boston Celtics. Moreover, he was an outstanding high school player at St. Dominic in Oyster Bay, New York. Rick received a scholarship to the Univ. of Massachusetts. This is the same school attended by Julius Erving (Dr. “J”) and Al Skinner former, Boston College Head Coach. Read Rick’s book written with Pat Forde entitled “Rebound Rules: The Art of Success 2.0”.
Next, there is John Calipari at the Univ. of Kentucky. Calipari has a 76.1 winning percentage that includes stops at the Univ. of Massachusetts, Memphis and the New Jersey Nets. Calipari in 2019 signed a 10-year contract valued at $86 million with a bevy of perks. It is essentially a lifetime contract.
In 1956 Corky Withrow from Central City scored 3,136 career points and was on the High School All-America Team with Kelly Coleman, Oscar Robertson and Jerry West. In 2016 the two-sport legend published his book: Uncorked! with Sherrill Williams and Charles Thurman. You can purchase a copy on Amazon.
“King” Kelly Coleman passed away on June 16, 2019. He played college ball at Kentucky Wesleyan. As a freshman on the varsity in 1958 he scored 639 points for a 26.6 average per game that was 6th in the country. He set a national record for freshmen in varsity competition. In 1960 the “King” was drafted by the New York Knicks of the NBA. Why Kelly never played one minute in the NBA is a story for another day. With all due respect to the great players mentioned on these pages, including those who have make it to the NBA, not one can match what “King” Kelly Coleman accomplished on the high school hardwood.
The Mountain Sports Hall of Fame will be located in Wayland, KY. They are in the process of restoring the Wayland High School gym where “King” Kelly Coleman played. As a 501(c) 3 non-profit organization they are seeking donations to restore the gym and other projects. They can be reached by mail at 2501 King Kelly Coleman Hwy, Wayland, KY. 41666 and by E-Mail at firstname.lastname@example.org Visit the website at www.mtnsportshof.com
James A. Johnson of James A. Johnson, Esq. is an accomplished attorney and basketball cognoscente. Jim concentrates on Sports and Entertainment Law, Insurance Coverage and serious Personal Injury. He is an active member of the Massachusetts, Michigan, Texas and Federal Court Bars. Jim can be reached through his website www.JamesAJohnsonEsq.com or by E-Mail email@example.com