In 1948, University of Kentucky’s basketball team were champions of the Southeastern Conference National Collegiate Athletic Association, collegiate champions of the United States, champions of the world – under coach Adolph Rupp. Many predicted that the 1947-1948 Wildcats would be the greatest and when the season was over, the Kentuckians had proven that these observers were right. Rupp’s Raiders made it through the SEC tournament, the NCAA meet, and won a place on the United States Olympics basketball squad by making it through the Olympic trials in New York. Included in the Olympic division were Alex Groza, All-American; Ralph Beard, All-American and All-Southeastern; Cliff Barker, Wallace Jones and Captain Kenny Rollins, all All-Southeastern selections.
The UK men, along with five others, began to play in the Olympic cage tournament against teams representing other nations. They were the favorites because they were tall, experienced, and had extraordinary ability. According to Coach Rupp, “we changed some things after the Argentina game,” and from that point on they marched to victory with the Kentuckians playing a major role in the march.
The Olympic basketball championship was a wonderful experience and victory for the US team and the Kentuckians. The United States Olympic basketball team went through a two-week tournament with a resounding 65-21 win over France in the finals. Alex Groza was the high scorer for the tournament.
Adolph Rupp’s fabulous five were Alex Groza (center), Ralph Beard and Kenny Rollins (Guards), Wah Wah Jones and Cliff Barker (Forwards). This famous 1948 team won 36 games and lost 3 while sweeping to Kentucky’s first NCAA title. These men participated as a unit in the Olympic games and helped the US team capture the world championship. Rollins graduated after the 1948 season, but the remaining foursome continued to play together, bringing another NCAA title home to Kentucky in 1948 on a record of 36-2.
The University of Kentucky has a great legacy of athletes whom have competed in the Olympics. Explore the Alumni magazine available at exploreuk.uky.edu for others.