UK Men's Basketball

UK basketball notebook: Ex-Cat Master recalls 'magical' time as he enters Indiana Hall

Kentucky's Jim Master drove around Middle Tennessee State's Rick Campbell (left) in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament in March 1982 in Nashville. Middle Tennessee beat Kentucky 50-44.
Kentucky's Jim Master drove around Middle Tennessee State's Rick Campbell (left) in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament in March 1982 in Nashville. Middle Tennessee beat Kentucky 50-44. AP

Nowadays, when a player changes high schools in the chase for athletic glory, it's accepted and almost expected. Strictly business, you know. Even on the high school level, sentiment and hometown pride have nothing to do with trying to get a college scholarship and/or pro contract.

But when basketball dreams led former Kentucky player Jim Master to change high schools in the late 1970s, it was unusual.

"I would never recommend anyone uproot a kid," Master said last week. "I'd be the first one to say, don't do it.

"But it was magical for me."

That fateful decision will pay an added dividend in March when Master is inducted into the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame.

The Hall of Fame induction ceremony on March 20 will contain a bit of irony. Two other members of the class of 2013 are David Anspaugh and Angelo Pizzo, the director and screenwriter/producer, respectively, of Hoosiers, the movie tribute to Indiana high school basketball. Hoosiers depicts small-town basketball: the pride it infuses, the passion it evokes and the sense of belonging it bestows.

Master grew up in Plymouth, Ind., which was then a town of about 10,000 less than an hour's drive south of South Bend. He knows all about Indiana high school basketball.

"I lived and breathed it," he said.

Master played his first two seasons of high school basketball in Plymouth. Then he transferred to Paul Harding High in Fort Wayne. His father had an office in Fort Wayne. Plus, Master knew and liked the coach at Harding, Harlen Frick.

Looking back, Master acknowledged the problems that can ruin such a transfer. "I got lucky everything worked out," he said. "Because of my positive parents."

The decision to transfer was Master's, not his parents', he said.

After much success as a high school player (including being named Indiana Mr. Basketball), Master had to choose a college. Ultimately, he considered Notre Dame, which had the advantage of being close to home, and Kentucky, which had the advantage of being Kentucky.

First and foremost, Master wanted to play.

Coincidentally, Kentucky dismissed Dwight Anderson from its team during Master's high school senior season. UK called to make sure Master knew there would be an opening at shooting guard.

"Dwight Anderson leaving had a huge effect," Master said. "Now they had a legitimate void. Had that not happened, I'm not sure I would have gone to Kentucky."

From 1980 through 1984, Master became one of UK's best perimeter shooters in at least the last 30 years. He now considers himself blessed by having played in the best high school and college atmospheres.

With the induction into the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame in March, Master joins great company. Other members of the Hall include Oscar Robertson, Larry Bird and John Wooden.

Initially, Master shrugged off the honor as a tribute to "something I did 32 years ago." Then he thought of his wife, Sheila, and their son, William James Leo Master, 3.

Master thought of those old-fashioned values that fathers want to pass along to sons.

"I've got to be honest," he said. "It makes you feel good."

'Proud dad'

Elston Turner's father did not get to watch his son score 40 points at Kentucky last weekend. As an assistant coach and de facto defensive coordinator for the Phoenix Suns, he was preparing for his team's game in Chicago later that night (the Suns beat the Bulls 97-81, which marked the franchise's 2,000th victory).

"All his games, our video department records for me," said the player's father, also named Elston Turner. "So I did see it the next day."

Not surprisingly, the father has watched his son lead A&M to an 83-71 victory at Kentucky more than once.

"I've watched it (pause to chuckle) over and over," he said in a telephone conversation last week. "Probably seven, eight times already. It's a joy to see as a dad."

Friends and family sent him emails and text messages, the father said. Many called. In turn, he called his son.

"I had to congratulate him personally," the elder Turner said. "I gave him 'my dad's' two cents, then 'my coach's' two cents."

The elder Turner, who scored 1,805 points for Ole Miss (1977-81), was reluctant to thrust himself into his son's afternoon of glory. But when asked how much he worked with his son to develop his son's talents, he said, "Oh, tons."

Since birth, the younger Turner was part of an NBA family. First, his father was a player. Then he was a coach.

"So he's been around it his whole life," the father said. "When he was little, after practice he'd play one-on-one with Bobby Jackson, Mike Bibby, Kevin Martin. You know, pros."

The father also coached his son on basketball fundamentals.

Of course, the father saw his lessons play out in Rupp Arena, but not simply with his son's 14-for-19 shooting. Father noted the late-game passes his son made to thwart UK's ever-increasing defensive attention.

"When I taught him to play, strange as it might seem, dribbling and passing were first," the elder Turner said. "Because when you do that, everybody likes to play with you. Everybody loves playing with people who can get them the ball. You know, a team guy. Shooting was important. But it wasn't like the most important thing."

Yet, the younger Turner impressed with his shooting, especially the range he demonstrated that afternoon.

"I don't know if some of those were shots his coach wants him to take regularly," the elder Turner said. "But the fact is he can make those. That was no surprise to me."

The surprise came from the Rupp Arena crowd, which applauded when the younger Turner went to the bench late in the game.

"The hospitality, the sportsmanship, that was special," the elder Turner said. "I don't know if I've ever seen that. When a guy gets hurt and lays there with his ankle torn up or his knee torn up, when they pick him off the floor, they clap. But this? I think they enjoyed the performance."

The father certainly did.

"Given the performance alone," he said, "and then given who he played against and then given where it was played, all three of those factors make it very, very special."

40-point performances

Thanks to Florida-based sportswriter Chris Harry, here are the 11 times a visiting opponent has scored 40 or more points against Kentucky in the last 50 seasons. UK has an 8-3 record in those games.

Player listed with points, date, site and result:

Pete Maravich (55), 1/24/70, Memorial Coliseum, UK beat LSU 109-96

Johnny Neumann (46), 2/6/71, Memorial Coliseum, UK beat Ole Miss 121-86

Pete Maravich (45), 2/22/69, Memorial Coliseum, UK beat LSU 103-89

David Robinson (45), 1/25/87, Rupp Arena, UK beat Navy 80-69

Pete Maravich (44), 2/3/68, Memorial Coliseum, UK beat LSU 109-96

Ernie Grunfeld (43), 1/10/76, Memorial Coliseum, UK lost to Tennessee 90-88 in overtime

John Mengelt (42), 2/3/69, Memorial Coliseum, UK beat Auburn 105-93

Clyde Lee (41), 1/5/65, Memorial Coliseum, UK lost to Vanderbilt 97-79

Chris Jackson (41), 2/15/90, Rupp Arena, UK beat LSU 100-95

Henry Wilmore (40), 12/5/70, Memorial Coliseum, UK beat Michigan 104-93

Elston Turner (40), 1-12-13, Rupp Arena, UK lost to Texas A&M 83-71

So Maravich averaged 48 points in his three games at Kentucky.

By the way, Kentucky beat Vandy 100-73 when Derrick Miller scored 40 (Feb. 7, 1990), the only time a UK player has scored 40 or more in Rupp Arena.

Highlight material

With UK ahead by four points and less than nine minutes remaining, a Tennessee player drove to the basket Tuesday night. He lost his balance en route and flipped up what could be generously considered a shot.

Nerlens Noel swatted the ball over the courtside seats opposite the Tennessee bench. The crowd roared.

Maybe this sounds picky, but wouldn't Noel and UK have been better served if he merely deflected the shot away from the basket? Then the Cats could have retrieved the loose ball and taken off in transition, where they're most effective.

A former power forward, CBS analyst Clark Kellogg, said that suggestion held merit.

"There's a time and place in the game for the 'intimidating rejection,'" he wrote in an email. "But in most cases, discretion is the better part of valor. And such a thought in this day and age is lost on most of us, especially the young shot blocker!"

Then, Kellogg added, "Highlights are hard to resist :)"

'Ego device'

During his weekly radio show last week, U of L Coach Rick Pitino said he did not tweet. He acknowledged how Twitter can be a useful means of conveying information.

But Pitino also called Twitter an "ego device." Without naming any names or any programs, he dismissed boasts about a sizable number of Twitter followers as ego-driven.

Kansas GPA

Kansas announced its team grade-point averages for the 2012 fall semester last week.

The Jayhawks' basketball team had a GPA of 2.66. Its football team had a 2.83, which the school said was the best since records began being kept in 1986.

Overall, Kansas athletes had a GPA of 2.94.

For comparison sake, UK's basketball team had a GPA of 3.06 in the fall semester. All UK athletes had a 3.034, the school said.

Moral of story

In a column published Thursday, Gail Collins of The New York Times pondered the lessons that could be drawn from Lance Armstrong's admission of using performance-enhancing drugs. The U.S. Postal Service sponsored Armstrong's bicycle racing team. Maybe, Collins wrote, the lesson is that taxpayer money should no longer be used to sponsor sports teams or enterprises.

Then Collins wrote, "Representative Betty McCollum of Minnesota proposed banning the use of taxpayer money to sponsor NASCAR race teams in 2011. And she was voted down, 281 to 148."

Another victory for the sports/entertainment complex.

ESPN has a dream

In observance of Martin Luther King Jr., ESPN promoted what it calls a "quad-rupleheader" on Monday:

No. 6 Syracuse against Cincinnati at 3:30 p.m., Oklahoma State at Baylor at 5:30 p.m., Georgetown at No. 20 Notre Dame at 7:30 p.m. and Texas at Oklahoma at 9:30 p.m.

Happy birthday

To Oliver Simmons. He turned 37 on Friday. ... To Dirk Minniefield. He turned 52 on Thursday. ... To James Lee. He turned 57 on Thursday. ... To Larry Conley. He turns 69 on Tuesday. ... To North Carolina State (and former Alabama) Coach Mark Gottfried. He turns 49 Sunday.