Rick Robey thrilled to join seven others in Kentucky Athletic Hall of Fame induction class

jsmith3@herald-leader.comJune 7, 2012 

LOUISVILLE — Drinks and dinner hadn't been served, but former University of Kentucky star Rick Robey felt like he'd already had his dessert.

"This is the icing on the cake," said Robey, one of eight new members inducted into the Kentucky Athletic Hall of Fame on Thursday night at a ceremony.

"As a child, you always have dreams of this kind of stuff happening to you and it does, and it's a good thing. What a moving moment."

As he stood at the podium at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in front of hundreds of friends and family, the New Orleans native talked about his first trip to Lexington for a recruiting visit.

When he landed, all he saw was one little white house that had a sign that said: "Welcome to Wildcat Country."

"I found the first pay phone I could find and called my Dad and said, 'Where'd you send me?' " Robey recalled. "Now, I look back on these last 38 years ... What a great decision I made back then."

In his four-year career at UK, he played on two Final Four teams and won a championship in 1978. He was the third pick overall in the 1978 NBA Draft and played eight seasons in the NBA, winning a title with the Celtics in 1981.

"So many great things have happened to me not only collegiately, but professionally," Robey said. "Getting my jersey retired at Kentucky and then this. Amazing."

Not surprising in this basketball-happy state, half of Robey's class has basketball ties.

Included are Robey; Bobby Watson, a former UK guard on Adolph Rupp's 1951 championship team and successful high school coach; former Louisville star Angel McCoughtry; and longtime college coach Hugh Durham.

Just a day before a potential Triple Crown winner races down the stretch in the Belmont Stakes, two horse racing giants, Claiborne Farm owner Seth Hancock and the racetrack Churchill Downs, were inducted into the hall.

Lee Corso, a sports broadcaster and football analyst for ESPN, and Homer Rice, a former college coach and athletic director, round out the class, which was introduced at the annual banquet.

Corso, a fixture on ESPN's College GameDay since it started in 1987, said he was happy to be back in the state that got his coaching career started.

"It's been over 40 years ago since I was head coach at Louisville and it's a tremendous honor to come back to the state of Kentucky," Corso said. "Louisville was my start as a head coach and if it wasn't for Louisville, who knows where I'd be now?"

Being honored on Thursday is the start of what surely will be a big summer for McCoughtry, Louisville's all-time leader in scoring, rebounding, steals and blocked shots.

"Words can't describe what this means to me," said McCoughtry, who was the No. 1 pick in the WNBA Draft.

Soon she will have another honor, getting to represent her country as one of 12 players on the U.S. women's basketball team.

Whether it's playing in London or Atlanta or overseas in the winter, the Maryland native said she always thinks of Kentucky as "a second home."

"They love their athletes here," she said. "It's the best state for basketball. I'm so glad I got the opportunity to play in the state of Kentucky."

Jennifer Smith: (859) 231-3241.Twitter: @jenheraldleader.Blogs: ukfootball.bloginky.com; ukwomen.bloginky.com.

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