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The home-grown brand of Kentuckian is not necessarily as lean, long and hard-driving as the University of Kentucky's Basketball Coach Adolph Rupp would like, but there are other states: each year dozens of slat-shaped aspirants from all over the U.S. trek to Rupp's office in Lexington, many of them at their own expense, to try out for Rupp's team. The 1948 crop (four Kentuckians, eight outlanders) was particularly potent; it won the national championship, and its starting five went on to the U.S. Olympic squad and later to professional careers. Last year, hurt by graduation, Rupp rebuilt. This year, with big (7 ft., 215 lbs.) Bill Spivey as a firm foundation at the center post, Rupp is ready for another big season.
Last week, after some early-season breathers, Kentucky faced its first big test from a University of Kansas team coached by Rupp's own onetime teacher, Phog Allen.* A record 13,000 fans filled Kentucky's new Memorial Coliseum to watch the duel between Kentucky's Spivey (rhymes with ivy) and Clyde Lovellette, the Kansas skyscraper (6 ft. 9 in.) who set a Big Seven record of 545 points in 25 games last year. Before the game Rupp warned reporters: "As Spivey goes, we go." Spivey went beautifully.
Same as Chemistry. Time after time, Georgia-born Bill Spivey grabbed off Kansas passes intended for Lovellette. Once he stole the ball right out of the Kansan's hands, dribbled the length of the floor to score. By half time, Spivey had 14 points to Lovellette's four and Kentucky led Kansas 28-12. The baffled Lovellette fouled out in the third quarter, after being held to ten points by Spivey's glue-like guarding. Spivey himself had scored 22 points (high for the game). When Lovellette went out, Rupp took out Spivey too ("We wanted their playing time to be even"). From then on, Sophomore Guard Frank Ramsey took over the Kentucky scoring (19 points), as Rupp emptied his bench. Final score: 68-39.
Kentucky's awesome margin against a team ranked seventh in the country (before the game) was the result of rigidly disciplined practice sessions where players speak only when spoken to. Explains Taskmaster Rupp: "Practice is the same as chemistry class. Everybody pays strict attention." While most coaches chart players' shots at the basket during games, Rupp goes further: he has assistants busy jotting down every shot his players make in practice. One of Rupp's favorite maxims: "Shooting is to basketball what putting is to golf."
Nine Plays. Rupp relies not only on a lot of shooting (10-15% more than the average team), but constantly demands "speed and a lot of ball handling." Rupp denies that Kentucky's rapid-fire shooting produces razzle-dazzle basketball. "With our nine basic plays," claims Rupp, "we are probably the most definite [i.e., deliberately patterned] team in the country."
The dazzled Kentuckians who watched Rupp's team win its 88th consecutive home game might well have missed Rupp's "definite" attack, but they were convinced they had watched the No. 1 team in the country.
*Rupp played on one of Phog Allen's first Kansas teams in the early 20s.