UK Basketball: Q & A with Former Wildcat Great Jim Andrews

LEXINGTON KY - NOVEMBER 30: A general view of Rupp Arena during the Kentucky Wildcats game against the Boston University Terriers on November 30 2010 in Lexington Kentucky. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

One of the most unsung, underrated Kentucky Wildcat players of all-time is 6'11" center Jim Andrews, who played for the 'Cats from 1970 to 1973.  Originally from West Virginia, but later recruited out of Lima, Ohio, Andrews was a highly skilled big man and one of the top rebounders in UK history. 

In his three years with Kentucky, the 'Cats posted a 63-21 mark, with Andrews scoring 1,320 points (29th all-time in UK history) and grabbing 783 boards (t15th all-time) -- Andrews made 1st Team All-SEC in both his junior and senior years.  Proving he was a clutch player, Andrews was named All-NCAA Regional twice ('72, '73).  Andrews posted -- get this -- 43 double-doubles in his career (three his sophomore season, 19 his junior year, and 21 his final season).  As a matter of fact, Andrews averaged a double-double both his junior and senior years -- 21.5 & 11.3 his junior season, and 20.1 & 12.4 his senior year.  An excellent shooter, Andrews made over 56% of his shots from the field in both of his final two years with the 'Cats.  Currently, Andrews' 56.3% career field goal percentage ranks 13th in the UK record books.

Andrews was drafted in the 7th round of the NBA draft by the Seattle Supersonics (now, Oklahoma City Thunder), but instead went to Italy and played several years.  He later was a para-professional on the UK staff, and helped develop big men Rick Robey, James Lee, Sam Bowie, and Melvin Turpin, among others.

Andrews still closely follows the 'Cats, his passion for UK never waning.  I recently had the opportunity to talk with him about his time at UK, as well as get his thoughts on this year's 'Cats.

ASOB: Before we get into your thoughts on this year's team, let's begin with a few questions about your time at UK -- I love the story of how you ended up at Kentucky, why don't you share with us how Joe Hall found you.

Andrews: "Well, it's really Joe Hall's story.  (Chuckling) We were at an event one night, and he told the story like this -- 'I was going to up to Findlay, Ohio to see another player, and I stopped in Lima because I needed gas.  I asked the guy at the station if he knew of any ball players in the area, and he said, yeah, there's a big 6'10", 6'11" guy who averages about 36-points and 22-23 rebounds ... and he's playing tonight.'"

ASOB: So Hall went and watched you play; did he offer a scholarship that night?

Andrews: "I really don't remember if he did or not, but what they did is invite me to the UK vs. UT game -- I was considering going to Tennessee to play for coach Ray Mears -- but I saw when I went to the game, that it would have been a big mistake, I didn't want to play that style of play, I liked the up-and-down game of Kentucky."

ASOB: What other scholarship offers did you have besides Tennessee?

Andrews: "I had lived in Michigan for two-and-a-half years before moving to Ohio, and Ohio State was interested but my meeting with (Ohio State coach) Fred Taylor did not go well.  I remember my high school coach keeping all the letters he got, it was somewhere around 500.  UCLA was interested, but that was just too far from home, and being from West Virginia, I was interested in them.  There were a lot of schools, but I felt most at home at Kentucky."

ASOB: You're one of only a few UK players who played for both coach Hall and Rupp.  Did Rupp's retirement come as a surprise to you?

Andrews: "I was recruited with the understanding that coach Rupp was going to retire after my sophomore year.  Of course he tried to fight it -- he tried to get the legislature to change the law, which was (mandatory) retirement after 40-years or age 70.  What Kentucky did is extend his contract two years, so no, I was not surprised, I was expecting it.  But (Rupp retiring) didn't make any difference; I played for three different high school coaches in four years, so it didn't bother me."

ASOB: Your senior year in 1973 you guys lost to a very good Indiana team in the NCAA Tournament.  Bob Knight had been at IU only a couple of years, was that a big rivalry for you guys?

Andrews: "Outside of Tennessee, IU was our biggest rival.  We played them at Louisville for our home games, and the next year at Bloomington.  My first year (1970-'71) when we played up there we played in their old field house ... George McGinnis played for IU and Larry Steele broke his arm, so Larry Stamper played in his place.  It was a great game, but they threw in a long shot to beat us."

"Yes, my senior year year we played IU (in the NCAA Tournament) -- I've replayed the last three minutes of that game in my head over and over -- we had played them earlier in the season and they beat us (64-58).  We were young and inexperienced, but we had really grown up for the second game.  But we missed three layups, and I mean three easy layups, that would have probably won the game for us.  It was just a very close game, and if we'd have won we would have went to the Final Four." 

ASOB: Do you have a favorite memory, or game, from your time at Kentucky?

Andrews: "Well, I'll tell you ... we were playing Tennessee and it was bitterly cold outside, so they let the students into Memorial Coliseum the night before the game to spend the night.  For some reason they gave out oranges to the students (laughing)."  The next night at the game, "when the (UT) guy on the unicycle came out, several hundred oranges came out of the stands ... the game was delayed about half-an-hour to forty-five minutes while they cleaned up the oranges and floor.  I ended up hitting the game-winning shot on a play coach Rupp called for me."

ASOB: Ok, let's get into this year's team -- Josh Harrellson; have you ever seen anybody improve as much as he has from beginning of the season to the end?

Andrews: "No, not like he has.  I think, from what I've read, that he was challenged.  He obviously has the ability, it was the desire (to be good) that he needed.  But no, I can't recall anybody at his level improving as much as he has.  And let me tell you, somebody (in the NBA) is going to pick him up.  He'll be a role player ... every team can use role players.  He'll have to keep up his work ethic, and I think he will." 

"I'll tell you, DeAndre Liggins is his equal (as far as improving).  What Josh has done is pull his game together and I think he was inspired by DeAndre.  I think he (Josh) looked at what Liggins was doing as far as improving and playing hard and decided he could do the same thing."

ASOB: What are your thoughts on the UConn Final Four game?

Andrews: "When we had the game against Ohio State, I wasn't that worried.  The thing about OSU is when they didn't shoot well from the outside, they didn't win.  So I thought the pressure they got from UK, they haven't seen before.  UConn though, won't be intimidated.  The intangibles are what will win this game -- Let Liggins do his thing (on Walker), I think double-teaming would be a mistake, but they need to give help side defense.  And I think this is a game Terrence Jones can have a good game -- He's way overdue."

Mr. Andrews is now a sales executive for Wells Fargo Insurance Service in Lexington.  I want to sincerely thank Mr. Andrews for taking the time to recount his days with the 'Cats, and share some thoughts with us about this year's squad.

Thanks for reading and Go 'Cats!

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