Exhibition: Transylvania at UKWhen: 7 p.m. Wednesday | TV: FS South

UK basketball players don't remember 1952 scrimmage, but Transy players do

Nobody kept score in 1952 matchup

jtipton@herald-leader.comNovember 1, 2011 

In 1908, when the University of Kentucky was still known as Kentucky State College, KSC swept both basketball games from Transylvania, but the all-time series is tied 7-7. Left to right were: Manager Leo Brewer, Harold Downing, Maury Wilson, Richard Barbee, Walter Fox and Shelby Post.

According to official records, Kentucky and Transylvania have not competed in basketball since March 3, 1911. That 100-year gap closes when the teams play an exhibition game Wednesday in Rupp Arena.

But lost in time is a scrimmage the teams staged in 1952.

As might be expected, this competition made life-long memories for Transy's players. "We country boys got to play in Memorial Coliseum," Bill Ward, 80, said last week. "That was something for us."

That was nothing for UK, even if the Cats did not play a schedule in the 1952-53 season because of NCAA sanctions. "I don't remember a thing about it," Cliff Hagan said Monday. "I don't think it happened."

Then Hagan added, "Maybe it did."

It did.

C.M. Newton, who had just finished his UK career, was the interim coach at Transy. As he recalled, then UK assistant Harry Lancaster called to see if Transy might want to scrimmage. With no schedule to play, UK needed diversions. Adolph Rupp "wanted to keep his guys active," Newton said.

For Newton's players, it was an awe-inspiring opportunity. "We were just a little Transy bunch of guys," Stan Hadley, 79, said.

As Ward and Hadley recalled, no one kept score. No fans attended. No one reported the action. Referees called fouls. Rupp repeatedly stopped play to instruct the UK players.

"It was one of those things you enjoyed going through because you knew players like (Frank) Ramsey and Hagan made you say, 'Jeez, I played against them," Hadley said. "When we came back (to Transy), we were all talking on campus. 'Hey, we played at UK against a big bunch of guys.'"

Hadley, who recalled being 6-foot-1 and "a massive 160 pounds," jumped center against Hagan, an All-American and future Hall of Famer.

When Ramsey dribbled down on a fast break, Hadley tried to position himself in the way. Ramsey flew through him for a score.

"I thought, 'That was kind of dumb,'" Hadley said before adding, "He was a nice guy. He picked me up."

Ramsey did not recall the play nor even scrimmaging Transy.

"We scrimmaged a few teams," he said. "I just remember Morehead."

Hagan said he did not remember the four inter-squad scrimmages that made up that season's official record. So a scrimmage against Transy long ago faded from memory.

For Transy, it was a thrilling chapter from yesteryear.

"Of course, we got clobbered," Ward said happily.

Newton, who went on to coach at Alabama and Vanderbilt before becoming UK's athletics director, recalled the Hagan-and-Ramsey-led Cats as one of Kentucky's finest teams.

"They were so good it was scary," he said. "They moved the ball. They really knew how to play."

Of the scrimmage, Newton said, "I'm sure to Kentucky players, it was not any big deal. To our guys, it was a big, big deal, probably bigger than any game we played that year."

Thanks, UK

Transy Athletics Director Jack Ebel expressed his gratitude to UK for scheduling the game. The guarantee Transy received allowed the school to send its men's and women's teams on a trip to Canada earlier this fall. "And we had money left over," Ebel said.

Ebel noted the "enormous" impact that the guarantee and a fund-raiser dinner Sunday night will have on Transy athletics. Ebel said the amount raised at the dinner had not yet been counted.

The money will be spread among all of Transy's sports, Ebel said. When the Pioneers make a long trip, such as the men's team going to Las Vegas and the women to Los Angeles this coming season, the players must pay a portion of expense.

"It's huge for us," Ebel said of how Transy will benefit financially. "Absolutely huge."

Family affair

Transy — this year's team — practiced in Rupp Arena Monday afternoon. Before the workout, Monna Lane, the mother of Transy coach Brian Lane, gathered the grandchildren in attendance and took their picture at halfcourt. First, she asked no one in particular if taking the picture was OK.

Lane noted that his son, Henry, is a Duke fan. And that father and son waited more than 30 minutes at the recent "Villains" game to get Christian Laettner's autograph. Henry, 10, confirmed.

Don Lane, the former Transy coach and father of the current coach, watched practice.

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