Even the youngest of UK fans know Louie Dampier. The 6'0", 167 lb. long-range sharpshooter is best remembered as being a member of the iconic Rupp's Runts.
The Southport, IN native starred for UK from 1964 to 1967. His #10 jersey hangs in Rupp's rafters with all of the other UK greats. Dampier was a two-time All-America, earning those honors in his final two years at UK.
He currently ranks #12 on UK's all-time scoring list with 1,575 points in 80 games played. At the time of his graduation he ranked 3rd on UK's scoring list behind only Alex Groza and Cotton Nash. He carries a career 19.7 points per game average. He is also #8 in all-time free throw shooting percentage at 83.4%.
Dampier was a two-sport star at UK. He also played baseball for Coach Harry Lancaster.
Upon graduating from UK he was drafted in the 4th Round (38th overall) of the NBA draft by the Cincinnati Royals (now the Sacramento Kings). He chose instead to play for the ABA's Kentucky Colonels. He spent 9 years with the Colonels, averaging 18.9 points per game for his ABA career. The Colonels won the ABA Championship in 1975 with a team that included Dan Issel and Artis Gilmore. Dampier is also included on the All-Time All-ABA team.
The NBA and ABA merged in 1976, and Dampier was selected in the dispersal draft by the San Antonio Spurs. He played 3 years with the Spurs, playing behind George "Iceman" Gervin. In his three years in San Antonio, Dampier averaged 6.7 points per game. He retired from professional basketball in 1979. Dampier later was an assistant coach for the NBA's Denver Nuggets for three-and-a-half years.
I recently spoke with Dampier, and he was kind enough to answer a few questions for A Sea of Blue:
ASOB: Being from Southport Indiana, why did you choose to go to UK?
Dampier: I really didn't want to attend UK. I wanted to go to Indiana, but Branch McCracken (IU Coach) didn't want me. My uncle Louie took me to IU and met with McCracken while I looked around the facilities. McCracken came out and told me I had a scholarship, but I didn't feel like he really wanted me. So that's when I visited Kentucky. I really felt like they wanted me. Coach Rupp and everyone were very friendly. Coach Rupp seemed very genuine. So that's how it all started.
ASOB: You made 50.8% of your shots at UK. Considering you took mostly outside shots, what do you attribute your incredible accuracey to? Were you a "gym rat?"
Dampier: No, I wasn't a gym rat. I was a seasonal athlete, I played baseball, so I just shot whenever I could. In those days we couldn't get into the gym, I shot around whenever I could.
ASOB: Do you remember the game-plan going into the National Championship game versus Texas Western?
Dampier: Honestly, we didn't have one. We had played Duke the night before, and the next day we played Texas Western. Back then the games were played on back-to-back days. We really didn't know much about them. We did know about their "karate" defense. We knew they were very aggressive defensively. If we had had more time we would have been more prepared.
ASOB: What is your overall impression of Coach Rupp, and did you enjoy playing for him?
Dampier: I was fortunate. I really enjoyed playing for him. I was a starter from the beginning so I never had to go through what the reserves went through -- the discipline and "verballizing", but not enjoying playing time. Rupp didn't like to play many substitutes. I did enjoy playing for Rupp.
ASOB: Who was the best player you played with at UK?
Dampier: Pat Riley.
ASOB: Who was the best player you played with while in the ABA?
Dampier: Dan Issel.
ASOB: Who was the best player you played against in college?
Dampier: I don't have an answer for that. I looked more at the team we were playing, not the individuals.
ASOB: Who was the best player you played against in the ABA?
Dampier: Rick Barry and Julius Erving.
ASOB: Was the '75 season with the Kentucky Colonels the most memorable season you had?
Dampier: Yes, of course. It was the only championship I ever won at any level, high school, college, or pro.
ASOB: Did you enjoy your 3 years with San Antonio?
Dampier: Yes. I enjoyed my time with the Spurs. I really enjoyed my time there, except for having to practice against George Gervin. Gervin was a small forward when he played for the Squires, so I didn't have to guard him (in the ABA). But I had to guard him in practice. I was really lucky to be drafted by the Spurs and not one of the other NBA teams, because I already knew all of the players (the Spurs were one of four ABA franchises to merge with the NBA).
ASOB: What are your impressions of Gervin?
Dampier: He is a great personality, and fun to watch. He was always coming up with new moves.
ASOB: Do you follow UK basketball? If so, what are your impressions of Billy Gillispie?
Dampier: Yes. I liked the results at the end of the season. Early on the players weren't buying into Gillispie's plan. I really felt sorry for Crawford. Early on he seemed to always be in the doghouse, but by the end of the year he was as reliable as anyone.
ASOB: Can you think of a player from the last twenty years or so that reminds you, of you?
Dampier: I don't really look at it that way. But I'd say Cameron Mills, because of his shooting.
ASOB: What do you think of the 19'9" three-point line in college?
Dampier: It's too close. It needs to be moved back a foot or so.
I would like to thank Mr. Dampier for spending time answering my lame questions. He is truly a UK legend, and his time with me is greatly appreciated.
Thanks for reading, and Go Cats!