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Former UK Men’s Basketball All-American Billy Ray Lickert Dies

Billy Ray Lickert with Adolph Rupp.

LEXINGTON, Ky. – Billy Ray Lickert, a Helms Foundation All-American in 1961 and three-time All-Southeastern Conference player for the Kentucky men’s basketball team, died Wednesday. He was 78.

Lickert became the 12th player in program history to amass 1,000 career points and was a three-year letterwinner (1959-61) under legendary coach Adolph Rupp. He was inducted into the UK Athletics Hall of Fame in 2010 and was drafted by the Los Angeles Lakers in the fifth round of the 1961 NBA Draft.

“Billy Ray Lickert was a Wildcat in the truest sense,” UK Athletic Director Mitch Barnhart said. “He lived the dream that so many people in our state share in wearing the Blue and White and our program and university are better for it. We extend our deepest sympathies to his family and friends.”

Lickert was a state-wide name after winning the 1957 Kentucky Mr. Basketball award before becoming an All-SEC and All-American player at Kentucky. He grew up just across the street from UK’s campus as a child and told Oscar Combs, a friend of Lickert’s and member of the local media, in a recent podcast interview that he always dreamed of playing at Kentucky.

“I was a Wildcat,” Lickert told Combs in the “Conversations with Oscar Combs” podcast. “Every kid back in those days, you had aspirations of being able to play for Kentucky. That’s what everybody – all my friends – then wanted to do.”

He averaged 14.7 points per game in 73 appearances over three seasons for Kentucky. Lickert totaled 1,076 career points and earned All-SEC third-team honors in 1959, second-team recognition in 1960 and was a first-team selection in 1961. His senior season he averaged 16.1 points per game en route to his All-America status.

Asked by Combs in the recent podcast interview how he would like to be remembered, he hoped fans would think of him as a “good basketball player” who gave it his all.

“When I’m talking about a basketball player, I’m thinking about all this talk today about position-less players. Well, that’s what I considered myself to have been,” Lickert told Combs. “I could play multiple positions, I could play defense, I could rebound for my size. So I would like to be remembered as a good basketball player who gave it all and represented the university and my family as best I could.”

Lickert, a Lexington native, is also a member of the Kentucky High School Basketball Hall of Fame after leading Lafayette High School to a state title in 1957.

Survivors of Lickert include his wife, Sue, and his sons, Dick and Doug.

4 comments

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  1. TrueBlueJohn

    I know that this is an odd statement to make, but Lickert was a player that I hated in high school, but loved in college. In 1957, the two schools that were favorites to win the Sweet Sixteen were Lafayette and Pikeville. Ralph Carlisle, the Lafayette coach, knew that he would meet Pikeville somewhere in the tournament. Pikeville had a feared press where the ball was constantly double-teamed, and Carlisle practiced from December on with six men on defense to simulate the press. Sure enough they met in the semi-finals, and Lafayette won a close game. It took me a long time to get over that game. When Lickert signed with the Cats, I had to learn to quit hating him and start loving him.

    I always hate to hear of one of my heroes passing, may he rest in peace.

    1. TrueBlueJohn

      As an added thought, in January 1957 there was a major flood on the Big Sandy river, and Pikeville’s gym floor was flooded. As a result, Pikeville had to practice on a nearby school, and every game was an away game.

  2. Larry Vaught

    Good stuff here on Billy Ray

    1. TrueBlueJohn

      Larry, being an old codger who grew up in the 1950’s in eastern Kentucky, I have a lot of great memories of the basketball being played at that time. John Bill Trivette was coach at Pikeville at that time, and he had a theory that you rose or fell to the level of your competition. So he would schedule the best teams in the state home and home. I could walk a couple of blocks and watch some of the best players ever to play in the state. Billy Ray Lickert of Layfayette, Billy Ray Cassidy of Inez, Lincoln Collingsworth of Salyersville, Johnny Cox of Hazard, Kelly Coleman of Wayland, Charlie Osborne and Carroll Burchett of Flat Gap, Howard Stacey of Dixie Heights, Corky Withrow of Central City, Larry Conley of Ashland to name a few. He was also one of the first coaches in the state to do home and home with the black schools. So I had the privilege to see the great teams coached by the legendary S. T. Roach of Dunbar. What great time to grow up.

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