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Guest post: Kentucky fan still remembers Wah Wah Jones as the greatest UK player ever

Vaught’s note:Price Hutson, 80, became a Kentucky basketball fan in 1945 when he started listening to games on the radio and says he celebrates “their wins and dies with their losses.”  He says the point-shaving scandal in 1951 “almost did me in” but his high school teammate, Gayle Rose, was playing for UK along with Frank Ramsey and Cliff Hagen so “I was able to forgive the past mistakes.” He says he has remained a UK fan “except for several years ago when there were some coaching changes that  needed to be made.” Seeing former UK great Wallace “Wah Wah” Jones at last week’s Big Blue Madness revived these memories for Hutson.


Watching the Big Blue Madness last Friday night.  It was great to see all the players introduced from the previous NCAA Championships.  It was especially good to see Cliff Hagen who was introduced as a player on the 1951 Kentucky NCAA Championship team. Cliff Played his high school basketball at Owensboro and I was fortunate to have played against him when Paris High beat Ownesboro  at Southside Gym in December 1949.

However,  what surprised me most and saddened me as well was when they announced Wallace “Wah Wah” Jones who represented the 1948 and 49 UK teams that won Kentucky’s first two NCAA championships.  Wah Wah had to be practically carried onto the floor.  It broke my heart to see him in that condition.  I remembered him as a member of the Fabulous Five that all us old people still  rate against every other Kentucky basketball team.

Wah was the most popular of the players on those teams.  He was an All-American football player under “Bear” Bryant at Kentucky and was an All-American basketball player under Adolph Rupp.  He, also,  played first base on the baseball team.

Coach Rupp Recruited Wah and a fellow Harlan High teammate, Humzey Yessin, to come play basketball at Kentucky in 1945.  The next year, after World War II,  when  the veterans such as Lou Groza and Cliff barker came back to play at UK Rupp let Humzey go.  When Humzey left so did Wah Wah.  Wah told Coach Rupp that if Humzey didn’t have a scholarship Wah was going to go to Tennessee and play with his brother, Hugh.   Coach Rupp had to go down to Harlan and give Humzey a scholarship to get Wah back to Lexington.  Rupp made Humzey the student manager.

When the 1951 scandal broke that some of the UK basketball players were shaving points for gamblers while playing for Kentucky I was so relieved when I found out that Wah was not one of them.  Groza and Ralph Beard were the culprits on the 48-49 teams.   There were others implicated on the 50 team.  I think that if Wah had been implicated it would have shaken my faith in UK basketball for a long time.

All this took place a long time ago in a different life.  But the memory of that time and Wah Wah Jones whose athletic ability and character  are indelible in my memory.  In my opinion he was the greatest of the great.

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  1. Steve Schuppert

    When I was a student at uk I had a job in a liquor store on Southland Drive. Wah Jones was a customer there. I told Mr. Jones that I wanted to take my day to the Alabama football game but I couldn’t afford to do it. I explained to him that Dad loved Paul Bryant. Mr. Jones went out to his car and brought back two tickets to the game on the fifty yard line and told me to go as his guest. Mr Jones was a terrific gentleman and a very kind man.

    1. larryvaught

      Steve, great story. Kind that makes you proud to be a Wah Wah fan

  2. Tom

    I was born in 1947 in tiny Wickliffe, which to my knowledge has produced only one UK basketball player, Kenny Rollins, who passed away recently. Kenny was also a military veteran, starter on the Fabulous 5, and pro player. I got to meet Kenny at a reunion a few years ago and he was as classy a man as you could meet. My late father knew Kenny and often spoke about him and Wah Wah being the 2 starters the gamblers knew not to approach.

    1. larryvaught

      Tom thanks for sharing. Kenny one of the best guys ever. And apparently Wah Wah is same way

  3. Cathouse

    I don’t know if Mr. jones was UK’s greatet basketball player but he was UK’s greatest athletic.

  4. Dell Morgan

    My father played with Mr. jones on the 1942 Harlan team that was state runner up. Mr. Jones was quite an athlete as a freshman.

  5. TheProfessor


    With the addition of Price Huston to the Vaught’s Views family of contributors, the site has moved up to an all time lofty level. Thanks for bringing Price’s memories to the Big Blue Nation in a way that they will live on in the collective minds of this and future generations of fans.

  6. lunchbox

    this was a great thing for cal to do.when he 1st came here i was wonderin if he would care about uk & the fans as much as the players.we hav a players 1st program but its good to no our coach also cares about what makes uk great. the players like wah wah, the 80 yr old men that pass down their stories an the blue blooded fans make uk special place

    1. larryvaught

      I think involving Wah Wah is one of the best things he has done lunchbox. And TrueBlue, with you on not remembering but have heard so many great Fabulous Five stories. Appreciate Professor getting Price Huston involved with us here and hope he will share more memories in the future. Also thanks Dell for sharing. Must have been some team back at Harlan

  7. TrueBlueJohn

    I was just a little too young to remember anything about the Fabulous Five, but my dad would tell me stories about them, and especially about Wah Wah. He was his favorite player because Wah Wah was from the mountains. I know a lot of people played two different sports, but I wonder how many of them became All-American in two sports?

  8. Hugh Ward

    When I was a student at UK, I had several friends who worked in the radio/TV announcing “business” in and around Lexington. I had the pleasure of meeting Wah several times, as he was the “analyst” when Earl Boardman was announcing games. (At that time, there were several stations that had their own announcers). Wah also would appear on Channel 27 for a time. Wah was a very classy individual, full of stories, and in the parlance of us Kentuckians, “a good-ole boy”, who all the positives that cliche portrays. I don’t think he ever met a stranger. On one occassion, Wah introduced me to Alex Groza, who came to the TV station for an interview.

    It also was good to see Cliff Hagan again. Although he was several years ahead of me, I watched Cliff (and Frank Ramsey) play in high school.

    I think that knowing the former players, seeing and meeting them, and ensuring that the history of basketball and the part played by players such as these is what makes UK special in the basketball world. I compiment Coach Calipari for his efforts in ensuring that the former players remain connected to the program, that they return as often as possible, and that the younger fans continue to be aware of the fact that UK basketball is not just the team this year, but last year, ten years ago, fifty years ago, etc. All of them and all of us are what make UK basketball SPECIAL.

    1. larryvaught

      great story Hugh. Thanks for sharing those memories

  9. Tom

    Dad said that Alex Groza visited Kenny and they walked past his Standard Oil service station. I imagine he was the tallest guy anybody had ever seen in Wickliffe! BTW, Kenny was signed by Rupp after attending his tryout camp, which was legal in those days. Per dad, Coach Ed Diddle at Western had the first shot at Kenny at his tryout camp, liked him, but was overloaded at guard, so his loss was Rupp’s gain.

    1. larryvaught

      Was a huge gain Tom, maybe one of the worst mistakes that Ed Diddle ever made

  10. george d sieg jr

    I joined the Navy and was in boot camp in Bainbridge Maryland starting Oct. 6th, 1952.
    I played on the basketball team that included who I believe was Wah Wah Jones. My boot camp was shortened as I was sent to another base. I never knew what became of Wah Wah or a friend of his from Ky. It appears to be somewhat of a mystery.

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