From the Editor: This is the third in a series of short essays from A Sea of Blue member oldcat'69, who played as a walk-on on Kentucky's freshman team in 1965-66 during the Adolph Rupp era.
Bob Tallent was aptly named! The boy could shoot the eyes out of the basket. He wasn’t very fast, and he wasn’t very tall, and he couldn’t jump very high, but he could shoot! He was a third-string sophomore on the Rupp’s Runts team in ’65-’66.
As the Runts’ first string was working on a 1-3-1 zone one day, Tallent, on the opposition, kept getting the ball on the right baseline in the very corner. And he kept hitting jump shots, one after the other. He made at least seven in a row. It might have been eight or more, but I counted the last six, and he’d already made one or two before I started. Every single one of them would have been threes today. I was impressed.
Someone else was impressed, too. Coach Rupp stopped the scrimmage, walked out to the free throw circle, gathered the team around him and said, “Son, I’ve been coaching this game for over 30 years, and that’s the best exhibition of shooting I’ve ever seen.” Then, he got on the first string for not figuring out how to stop Bob from getting the shot.
So, if Bob was that good, why didn’t he get more playing time and why isn’t his number retired in Rupp Arena? Well, he was a bit of a free spirit, and he didn’t like to play defense all that much. Coach Rupp really didn’t like free spirits, probably because he didn’t understand them. And he really, really wasn’t fond of guys who didn’t like to play defense.
Some time later that year in a practice, Coach Rupp had stopped a scrimmage to make a comment about what was going on. Bob Tallent happened to have had the ball when play was stopped, so he just curled it under his hand and sort of trapped it at his waist, just like millions of players have done hundreds of millions of times. Unfortunately for Bob, however, he decided, as Coach Rupp was still talking, to roll the ball off his waist and take one dribble. Which made noise, which interrupted Coach Rupp, which ticked him off, which resulted in Bob getting kicked out of practice the rest of the day.
The next year, Bob was released from the team and eventually transferred to George Washington, where he played and eventually coached (Forty, how many years?). I was not allowed in to practice that year, since my usefulness to the program, limited as it was, had expired the year before, so I don’t personally know what transpired between them. I do seem to remember, however, that it involved lack of playing time. I also remember that Bob’s mother later stated that no other boy from the eastern part of the state would ever go to UK again, presaging Alex Legion’s mom, I guess.