Regrettably, Kentucky Wildcats basketball legend and Dixon Bank President Frank Ramsey did not get to play his true senior season at UK.
The Wildcats were forced to surrender their entire 1952-1953 season due to being involved with the CCNY Point Shaving Scandal in one of the darkest hours in Kentucky basketball history.
However Ramsey and the other seniors used this time off to be productive in their academic endeavors.
“This is all happened while we (Ramsey and his teammates) were still in high school,” Ramsey said. “All this came out when we were juniors and our senior year Kentucky was not allowed to play any games at all. We were students, which was great. The seniors all graduated that year, we took our hard courses, and the year we came back we were graduate students.”
While other programs like City College of New York and Long Island University would be forever impacted by the CCNY Point Shaving Scandal, Ramsey and UK bounced right back after a year of not being able to play at all by doing something that very few teams can say they have accomplished: a perfect season.
Ramsey and his fellow seniors all returned to Kentucky after graduation to play as graduate students, and the Wildcats simply dominated that year, roaring to a 25-0 regular season finish.
“At one point we were so good the students didn’t even come out,” said Ramsey. “Except one time we were behind at the half and the students, I guess they had been listening to the radio, filled up the stands at the half.”
The closest any team ever got to taking down the mighty Wildcats was Xavier, and the Musketeers still lost by six points to Ramsey and his teammates.
But a 63-56 victory against LSU at Memorial Coliseum on Tuesday, March 9, 1954, is where the story of this remarkable season would come to an end.
“Because we were graduate students we couldn’t play in the NCAA Tournament,” said Ramsey. “When we were not allowed to play, after beating LSU we chose not to go to the NCAA Tournament while we were undefeated.”
When asked if he wishes his teammates and Rupp would have gone on without him, Cliff Hagan, and Lou Tsiropoulos, Ramsey believes that they made the right decision by opting out of the tournament that year.
“I’m glad we didn’t,” he said. “We (him, Hagan, and Tsiropoulos) were the seniors and we were scoring about 50 or 60 points, the three of us were.”
In fact, the trio was averaging a collective 58.1 points and 31.9 rebounds per game, with the next leading scorer (Bill Evans) averaging just 8.8 points per game.
“We had already beaten the people that had won the NCAA Tournament, who was La Salle and they had Tom Gola, and we had already beaten them,” said Ramsey. “So to me it was a no-brainer. I think everybody else would have liked to have gone but Coach Rupp said ‘No, we’re not going,’ and he was the absolute boss.”
Even though Ramsey did not get to play basketball his true senior season in Lexington, he did get to participate in another sport, as Ramsey also excelled on the baseball diamond in addition to the basketball hardwood. Ramsey played outfielder on the Wildcats’ baseball team, where he made All-SEC three times.
“I just always had trouble with the lefty curveball,” said Ramsey when asked about why he didn’t pursue a professional baseball career.
Looking back, Ramsey says overall he had a very enjoyable experience in Lexington during his college years.
“It was interesting,” said Ramsey. “I certainly enjoyed my years at UK. I met my wife there, made a whole lot of friends, and I really enjoyed being in Lexington and going to UK.”
But UK was just yet another stop on Frank Ramsey’s miraculous journey. The next stop would take him to Boston, Massachusetts…and the NBA.
***Read next week’s article to read about Ramsey’s NBA years***
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