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| January 26, 2012

You almost have to feel a little sorry for University of Kentucky basketball opponents who try to shoot anywhere near Anthony Davis.

I don’t know about you, but I enjoy watching him play more than anyone else in the last—well, it has been a long time since we have seen a shot-blocker to match the 6-foot-10 freshman. He set the UK rebound seasonal record several games ago and still has a lot of games left (Wildcat fans hope his last game will come in the Final Four).

Davis, who is 6-foot-10 and 220 pounds, is everything that last year’s pivot wasn’t. Davis comes to play basketball, not fight or wrestle, as DeMarcus Cousins did far too often.

Now let’s pause for a “maybe.” Davis may be the record holder. Most likely Bill Spivey is.

Spivey, two inches taller and much stronger than Davis, who by anyone’s judgment, is a fine basketball player who will just keep getting better and better.

Spivey was even more dominating than Davis, who still hasn’t made an opposing center cry.

Yes, cry. Real tears.

That was what happened  to Kansas center Clyde Lovellette when Kansas and UK met at Memorial Coliseum on Dec. 16, 1950 in the first really big game in the new UK gym. The game also matched Wildcat coach Adolph Rupp and his old coach at Kansas, Phog Allen.

Rupp, Spivey and the rest of the Cats romped 68-39.

Spivey even intercepted a pass intended for Lovellette and dribbled the length of the floor for a basket.

Who counted?

I was a UK student then and if rebounds were even kept by UK in those days, I don’t remember seeing them.

In the NCAA Tournament, rebounds were kept, and Spivey grabbed 29 and scored 22 points as the Cats beat Kansas State 68-58 for Rupp’s fourth of UK’s seven national championships.

There was very little scouting or recruiting by colleges in the 1940s or ‘50s. So how did UK get Spivey?

Fred B. Wachs was general manager of The Lexington Herald-Leader and The Lexington Leader. He pretty much ran Lexington—and that included the University of Kentucky.

An executive of a Georgia newspaper told Wachs about Spivey. Wachs passed the word to Rupp, who sent one of his former players, Buddy Parker of Lexington, to Georgia to take a look at the big boy.

What a prospect!

Parker hurried back to Lexington to tell Rupp what a tremendous prospect Spivey was.

He also told the coach, “You won’t believe this, but his feet are so big that he has trouble finding shoes to fit so he often has to play in his stocking feet!”

Sadly, Spivey never got to show the basketball world how great he was because he was implicated in the point-shaving scandals and was banned for life from the NBA.

If you are a Kentucky fan and want to know more about the Wildcats, I can’t recommend Tev  Laudeman’s “The Rupp Years” enough, because it remains the finest and most complete book about UK basketball after all these years. I do hear from fans that they have lucked out and found a copy.

Try Amazon and used book stores.

Died in Nicaragua

Spivey called, me at The Courier-Journal to tell me that he was going to run for a Kentucky state office. I asked if he had enough money and he told me that he did because he had sold his restaurant in Lexington.

The next time I heard from him he was in Nicaragua, where he died. Guy Strong, a friend of mine who was a teammate of Bill’s at UK, and I sat together at his funeral in Lexington. It took a big, big urn to hold his ashes.

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Category: Earl Cox on Sports

About the Author (Author Profile)

Earl Cox, Sports Columnist
502.897.8910

Earl doesn¹t just write about sports legends, he counts many of them as his
friends. A member of the Kentucky Athletic Hall of Fame, he has been writing
about sports for 60 years. Incidentally, that¹s about how long it’s been
since he¹s cleaned his desk but he knows where everything is.

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