Friday, April 5, 2013

'Undoubtedly the Greatest High School Basketball Player' from Western Kentucky and More

As of 1952, per John C. Miller of the Evening Citizen of Cairo, Ill., "undoubtedly the greatest high school basketball player to come out of this four state area of Western Kentucky, Southern Illinois, Southeast Missouri and West Tennessee" was Phil Rollins of the Wickliffe High Tigers.

"Coaches, players and sportswriters have been singing his praises since he earned a regular position on his team as a freshman and every bit of the praise and more is deserved," Miller wrote in an article posted at the (fantastic) West Kentucky Genealogy Facebook page (5 stars, highly recommended). "One sports editor dubbed him 'Mr. High School Basketball' as a junior and in his final year he most definitely has lived up to this rating."

Wrote Miller, Rollins was "the best floor man ever seen in high school or college in this area," the holder of the state's four-year scoring record (2,478 points) and the only junior ever selected to Chuck Taylor's All-American high-school squad. The only off key in the entire article is that Rollins's Wickliffe teams never played in a Sweet Sixteen. The Tigers advanced to the First Region final each of Rollins's last three seasons--but lost to Paducah Tilghman in 1950, state-runnerup Cuba in 1951 and state-champ Cuba in 1952. According to the (fantastic) Bob Mays/Ideal Rocket Oil Company Kentucky prep-sports-history site (5 stars, highly recommended), Wickliffe consolidated with Bandana, Barlow-Kevil, Ballard County and Blandville highs to form Ballard Memorial High before the 1952-53 academic year. 

I feel like an idiot for never having heard of Phil Rollins. He's 79 and, as of 2011, anyway, remained an ardent follower of the Cardinals. Here's hoping Mr. Rollins is getting ready to enjoy a very, very happy weekend.

1 comment:

  1. Incidentally, I should point out that, contrary to what I wrote here, Dave Kindred wrote of Page 135 in 1975's Basketball The Dream Game in Kentucky that, by 1956, "the NIT was no longer the tournament. Once strictly an invitational, the NCAA prospered when it dropped its tournament format to admit automatically certain conference champions. Too, the NCAA expanded the number of entrants, making it truly representative of all regions of the country. And the NIT, laboring under the heavy burden of the point-shaving scandals that seemed to breed in New York, lost its position of eminence."

    This is helpful. In the next edition of the AP stylebook, there should include an entry that defines the precise dates of, one, when the NIT stopped being bigger than the NCAA tournament and, two, when it stopped being roughly as big a deal in terms of identifying the national champion. That wouldn't immediately eliminate squishy, handy-to-my-point characterizations like I conveyed in this post, but it would provide a credible basis to discredit them.