Frank Ramsey, a Kentucky men’s basketball national champion, All-American, and UK Athletics Hall of Famer, died yesterday. He would have turned 87 on Friday.
Ramsey was a key contributor on Kentucky’s 1951 national championship team and one of the stars of the 1954 team that went a perfect 25-0 but declined an invitation to the NCAA Tournament.
In Wildcat Memories: Inside Stories from Kentucky Basketball Greats by Doug Brunk, Ramsey discussed his upbringing and his experience with playing for Adolph Rupp. In honor of this basketball great, here is an excerpt:
I was born in the little town of Corydon, Kentucky, which had a population of about 300. Joseph Chandler—the father of Albert Benjamin (“Happy”) Chandler, who went on to become Kentucky’s Governor—lived two doors up from us. He was the postmaster and most every day he would push me in a wheelbarrel on his way to the train station to pick up the mail. Once we reached the train station he’d put the mail in the wheelbarrel and I’d walk back home with him. When I was five years old we moved to Madisonville and I’ve lived there ever since.
Kentucky is unique because it’s a collection of many small towns. Consequently you get to know practically everybody in town. When I was growing up, the population of Madisonville was probably 5,000. At that time, if you misbehaved at school you had to watch out when you got home because the teachers knew you and they knew your family. If you got in trouble at school the teacher would call your family. Because of this we didn’t have any major behavior-related problems in the schools then. The discipline was there.
[. . .]
During my junior and senior years at Madisonville High School, the UK basketball team had won the NCAA Championship twice. There was no television at the time so we all listened to the games on the radio. Lexington was a four-hour drive from Madisonville. I’d go up there to visit friends of mine I grew up with who were playing football at UK. When Coach Adolph Rupp offered me a scholarship to play basketball there I jumped at it. At that time pro ball wasn’t even in the future thinking of basketball players like me. We went to college to get an education, in addition to playing the sport. At the same time, since UK was a land grant college, every student had to serve two years in the Reserve Officer Training Corp (ROTC). I served with the Army Military Police Corp at an army prison and at Fort Knox.
There were only about 5,000 students at UK when I attended so I didn’t have the sense that I was playing for the entire state. At that time UK was the biggest university in Kentucky and it had the greatest coach in Adolph Rupp. I was playing for the school and for the team. As basketball players we didn’t get any special treatment. We didn’t have luxurious living quarters like the players do now. We lived in the dorm like everybody else and ate in the dining hall like everybody else. We were normal students. One semester our basketball team had better than a B average. A lot of the people I attended classes with went on to become governors, bankers, doctors, lawyers, and politicians, and I’m still friends with them.
[. . .]
Coach Rupp and Coach Lancaster were hard-drivers but they were fair. As a coach you’ve got to be a hard-driver. Kids expect a certain amount of discipline. If you don’t have discipline on a team, whether it’s basketball, football, baseball, or soccer, you’re not going to win. One thing Coach Rupp had was respect from his players. I don’t think it was fear, but we all wanted to please him and we wanted to win.
[. . .]
I may have earned a bachelor’s degree in business from UK, but I earned a doctor’s degree athletically. I played baseball and I played basketball for one of the greatest coaches ever. Coach Rupp dealt in fundamentals. He taught you how to play the game of basketball. That afforded me a living in the NBA after I completed my military service, and I later used the business education I received at UK to open a bank. I’m grateful for that.