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.
By PRICE 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.