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Kentucky Wildcats Morning Quickies: Farewell Frank Ramsey Edition

One of the greatest athletes ever to play for the Kentucky Wildcats has passed, but Frank Ramsey will live in our collective memory forever.

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Good morning, ladies and gentlemen of the Big Blue Nation, and welcome to the Tuesday Morning Quickies.

Today, we will discuss the recent passing of Kentucky basketball great Frank Ramsey. Ramsey passed away on Sunday at 86 years old. He was born in Corydon, but was raised in Madisonville.

Ramsey helped the 1951 Kentucky Wildcats to a victory over the Kansas State Wildcats for the NCAA Tournament championship in Minneapolis — as a freshman. Unfortunately, 1951 became the focus of the greatest scandal in basketball history, the famous point-shaving scandal that caught up several Kentucky greats including Ralph Beard, Alex Groza and Bill Spivey.

Ramsey was scheduled to be co-captain of the 1952-53 team along with Cliff Hagan, but there was no schedule played that year due to allegations of point-shaving at the behest of gamblers by some college basketball players, including several at Kentucky. You can read all about this difficult period at Jon Scott’s outstanding site. It is well worth the time investment for younger Wildcats fans to familiarize themselves with this dark period in UK history.

But Ramsey was not part of the scandal that engulfed college basketball and Kentucky, and despite the lost 1952-53 season, Ramsey returned to Kentucky for his senior year, once again as co-captain with Cliff Hagan, for the 1953-54 season. Kentucky went 25-0 in 1953-54, but declined a bid to the NCAA Tournament because the NCAA did not allow graduate students to play in the tournament, and Ramsey, along with teammates Cliff Hagan and Lou Tsioropoulos had all graduated due to the lost previous season, but were still eligible under NCAA rules for regular-season play.

Ramsey won virtually every basketball honor that counts: All American (3 years, consensus first team in last season), all-SEC first team 3 years, NCAA Tournament champion, Naismith Hall of Fame inductee, seven-time NBA champion with the Boston Celtics, and his jersey hangs high in Rupp’s Rafters. Just to round out the legacy of the man, Ramsey also played baseball for UK and was an all-SEC performer. He also served in the U.S. Army as a 1st Lieutenant in the Military Police Corps.

Frank Ramsey was truly one of UK basketball’s greatest players and arguably greatest athletes, and must be mentioned anytime someone thinks about putting together a “Mount Rushmore” of Kentucky all-time greats. Ramsey was a beloved figure for Kentucky fans of the last century, and his playing career encompasses greatness, scandal (of which he had no part), and even the hypocrisy and corruption of the NCAA and New York legal establishment of the time. Perhaps as penance his greatness, he was destined to live in the “interesting times” of the fabled Chinese curse.

Godspeed, Frank Ramsey. You will live forever in our memory.

Related: Madisonville Messenger tribute to Frank Ramsey.

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