In the long and rich history of Kentucky basketball, only 26 players have been selected All-SEC three times. Mike Casey is one of them. The sharpshooting 6'4" guard out of Shelby County, Kentucky had a spectacular career wearing the blue and white, graduating with 1,535 points to his credit (13th all-time).
Casey was a part of what some consider to be the best recruiting class in UK history. The class included 11 players, most notably: Dan Issel, Mike Pratt, Casey, and Terry Mills. Unfortunately, Casey suffered a severely broken leg between his junior and senior year. Because of this, he had to redshirt what would have been his senior year, potentially costing UK a National Championship in 1970.
Casey, Kentucky's Mr. Basketball in 1966, finished his career averaging 18.7 points per game, in 82 games played. The 18.7 points per game he averaged for his incredible career ranks ninth in UK history, only one-tenth of a point below Jamal Mashburn. He also led the Wildcats in free throw shooting in 1968 at 82.3%, and in assists in '69, with 4.6 per game.
One bit of information lost to history is the fact that Casey carries the honor of being the only man to out-score Dan Issel at the collegiate level: In their sophomore year Casey averaged 20.1 points per game to Issel's 16.4. His junior year his average dipped just a bit to 19.1 points per game. After redshirting what would have been his senior year, Casey came back to average 17.0 points per game. His final year he also shot an exceptional 50.4% from the field.
He also boasts this honor: Adolph Rupp -- "Casey was the best money player I ever coached. When there was money on the table, you wanted Mike Casey to have the ball in his hands." (Editor's Note -- I asked, he doesn't have any eligibility left)
Quite a flattering statement coming from a man who coached 28 All-Americas in his illustrious career. Perhaps one of the reasons the Baron was so fond of Casey was because Kentucky's record during his three years was an excellent 67-16, an .807 winning percentage.
Interesting side-note -- Casey's Shelby County team defeated Louisville Male 72-67 for the Kentucky State Championship in 1966, which was the same night that UK lost to Texas Western in the National Title game.
I recently had the great pleasure of speaking with the Wildcat great on a variety of issues, here's what he had to say:
ASOB -- You were Mr. Basketball out of Shelby County in 1966, did you consider playing your college ball anywhere else? Other than UK who came after you the hardest?
Casey -- "Well, U of L came after me. I had over 200 offers, so there were a lot of teams. U of L and Duke came after me first, and I took my visit to Florida, but I wasn't too impressed with them."
"I had it in my mind to attend UK after watching the Fiddlin' Five in 1958. I told my dad, 'If I ever play college ball, I want to go to UK'."
ASOB -- Coach Rupp didn't do a lot of recruiting when you played. Did coach Hall recruit you?
Casey -- "Coach (Joe) Hall and coach (Harry) Lancaster were my primary recruiters. I met coach Rupp between my junior and senior year in high school, and he told me to work hard and hopefully have a good senior year."
ASOB -- Coach Rupp once called you "the best money player I ever coached." He obviously had an affinity for you, did you feel the "love" while you were playing for him?
Casey -- "He treated my fine, but there wasn't any favoritism. He kept you at arms length. The only time you ever saw him was if there was a problem. You wanted to stay on his good side."
ASOB -- You were an essential member of one of the greatest UK recruiting classes in history (Dan Issel, Mike Pratt, and Casey). Did you feel any added pressure to perform?
Casey -- "No sir, I didn't look at it that way. I thought I could play at Kentucky."
ASOB -- I know that game tape wasn't as prevalent in the late '60's as it is today, because of this, did coach Rupp prepare the team to combat the opponents strengths, or did he coach you to take advantage of UK's strengths?
Casey -- "We always had game film. He would send out scouts ... we always had film. He (Rupp) did whatever he had to do."
"Somedays we would watch film before practice, sometimes after practice. But, back then teams only had one or two guys you had to worry about, and everybody knew what seven or eight plays that Rupp ran. He did put in the stack offense to take advantage of Issel's scoring ability."
ASOB -- You shot 50.4% from the field your senior year, which is outstanding for a guard. Do you feel that shooting the basketball is a lost art?
Casey -- "Oh yeah. The fundamentals aren't there. They hold the ball wrong, and many don't follow-through."
"I was watching Nick Calathes the other night. He wasn't following-through with his shot and he missed a couple of free throws. Later, he got to doing it (following through) and he made five of six."
"They don't work on anything anymore, they just want to play. We would shoot with our hands across the seams of the ball, you don't see that anymore."
ASOB -- You had a terrible car accident in the summer between your junior and senior year (He had to redshirt what would have been his senior year). Did the broken leg you suffered adversely effect your performance in your senior year?
Casey -- "Yes, I lost my quick first step. I should have sat out another year." (That possibility wasn't available to him)
ASOB -- Coach Gillipsie has now coached 60 games at UK. What type of job do you think he's doing so far?
Casey -- "First of all, I think he's in over his head. I think he has no clue as to what's going on in the game."
"I just don't think he knows what it means to coach at UK. I hate to say it, but a change has to be made, and soon, or we're going to lose what UK is all about. Ask (Richie) Farmer, or (John) Pelphrey, or (Deron) Feldhaus what it means to play at Kentucky. Ask them what that "Kentucky" across their chests means. Somehow we've let that go. If we lost we came out fightin' mad; we weren't going to lose two in a row. It's beyond me why (Mitch) Barnhart and (Lee) Todd put up with it."
ASOB -- With the way the season is turning out, can you tell us what type of pressure the players are under?
Casey -- "They're under tremendous pressure because of the prestige ... getting embarrassed on national TV. This (the South Carolina game) isn't the first time."
ASOB -- Let's end on a high note: What is your favorite memory of coach Rupp?
Casey -- "Him saying that I was the best "money player" that he ever coached was special. I appreciate it as time passes. For him to put me in the upper-echelon of players ... that was pretty special."
I want to sincerely thank Mr. Casey for his time, and for answering my questions in such an honest manner.
DISCLAIMER: AS WITH ANY INTERVIEW SUBJECT, THEY DO NOT NECESSARILY EXPRESS THE VIEWS HELD BY A SEA OF BLUE.
For previous interviews with former Wildcat greats:
Thanks for reading, and Go 'Cats!