When one thinks of great University of Kentucky rebounders many names come to mind: Jim Andrews, Kenny Walker, Cotton Nash, Dan Issel, Rick Robey, and Mike Phillips were all exceptional rebounders during their time at UK. The player that most deserves to be associated with great rebounding though is Bob Burrow.
Burrow played for UK for only two years (1954-1956). In those two years he accomplished more than any other player in UK history rebounding the basketball: He averaged 17.7 rebounds per game his junior year (which is still a UK record), and 14.6 rebounds per game his senior year. In a game versus Temple in 1955, Burrow grabbed 34 rebounds; simply an astonishing number, I don't care what era one played in.
The 6'7" center/forward from Malvern, Arkansas is without question one of the great players to ever don the blue and white. He was also one of the first junior college transfers to ever play for Kentucky. He matriculated to UK from Lon Morris Junior College in Jacksonville, Texas.
He was immediatley thrust into the starting lineup upon his arrival, and immediatley began producing very big numbers. Burrow was not only a great rebounder, he could also score the basketball at a very rapid rate (his senior year he scored 40, 50, and 34 points in three different games). In his two years on campus his aggregate scoring average was 20.0 points per game, which lead the team both years. He was the original Mr. Double-Double.
Burrow was named All-America both of his years in Lexington. He was also an All-NCAA Regional selection twice (a feat only eleven other UK players have ever achieved). UK's record in his two years were a combined 43-9, excellent by anyones standard. During Burrow's junior year UK was ranked either #1 or #2 for the entire year.
Upon leaving UK in 1956 Burrow was drafted by the Rochester Royals (now the Sacramento Kings) of the NBA. He played one year with Rochester before playing a year with the Minneapolis Lakers where he was coached by another great big-man, Depaul's George Mikan.
His achievements are a vital ingredient of Adolph Rupp's legacy and historical standing. Burrow is truly one of the pillars upon which Rupp's house is built. So it is very appropriate Burrow's jersey # 50 hangs from Rupp's rafters.
I recently had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Mr. Burrow. Here is what the Kentucky legend had to say:
ASOB: You came from Lon Morris Junior College in Jacksonvillie, Texas. How did Coach Rupp convince you to attend UK?
Burrow: "I never saw or spoke to Caoch Rupp before signing with Kentucky! I did talk with (longtime UK assistant) Coach Lancaster and several of the players. I had always heard of UK basketball and could hardly believe that they had offered me a scholarship. I jumped at the opportunity and have never been sorry."
ASOB: Coach Rupp is famous for his "caustic" personality. How was your relationship with The Baron?
Burrow: "I thought Coach Rupp was great. I didn't have any problems with him."
ASOB: You still hold many rebounding records for UK including averaging 17.7 rebounds per game in the '54-'55 season. At 6-foot-7 how were you able to corral so many rebounds? Was it positioning, effort, or something else?
Burrow: "I think positioning, desire, and hard work are essential to be a successful rebounder."
ASOB: What is your favorite on-court memory of your time at UK?
Burrow: "Being ranked number one in the nation for part of the season my first year at UK."
ASOB: You gathered thiry-four rebounds in a game versus Temple in 1955. How did you accomplish such a feat? That's simply an unbelievable number of boards.
Burrow: "I always thought that rebounding was very important; therefore I worked just as hard on that as any other phase of the game."
ASOB: You still attend games at Rupp Arena. Can you compare the atmosphere of Rupp to that of Memorial Coliseum, where you playd?
Burrow: "I think the attitude of the fans is about the same. They were wonderful then, and still are. There are just a lot more fans at Rupp than there were at Memorial."
ASOB: January 8, 1955. UK lost at home to Georgia Tech, UK's first loss in Memorial Coliseum in 129 games. I hate to bring up an unpleasant memory, but what was the post-game locker-room like?
Burrow: "No one could believe we got beat. We were talking before the game and someone said ' You starters better get your points in the first half; the subs will be playing the second half.' Everyone agreed."
ASOB: You played two years at UK earning All-America honors both years. How satisfying is that to you fifty years later?
Burrow: "I am glad that I was able to accomplish so much. Going to UK enabled me to do this."
ASOB: As far as today's players; do you have a favorite player from the last twenty-five to thirty years?
Burrow: "My favorite player is Dan Issel."
ASOB: I know you still attend games. How special is it to look up and see your name, on your jersy hanging from Rupp's rafters?
Burrow: "It is a great honor. I was so thrilled when CM Newton called to tell me that my jersey was going to be retired. My wife, sons, and their wives all attended. It was very special."
I want to thank Mr. Burrow for consenting to my questions. He and his wife Lee Ann have been very nice, and a pleasure to work with.
By the way, I learned after this interview that Brett Burrow of North Hardin High School and Vanderbilt fame is the Burrow's son. It's true; you learn something new every day.