Kentucky Wildcats History
The Teams of Tradition
The Fabulous Five
One frequently asked question tossed at basketball historians and
sports authorities is, "Who were the ‘Fabulous Five’ of Kentucky?”
The answer is Alex Groza (center), Ralph Beard and Kenny Rollins (guards),
“Wah Wah” Jones and Cliff Barker (forwards). This famous 1947-48 team,
captained by Rollins, won 36 and lost 3 while sweeping to Kentucky’s
first NCAA title. The Fabulous Five then went on to participate as
a unit in the Olympic Games, helping the USA team capture the world
championship. Rollins graduated after the 1948 season, but the remaining
four starters continued to play havoc with collegiate basketball and
captured another NCAA title for Kentucky in 1949
with a record of 32-2.
Before the 1957-58 season began, Coach Adolph Rupp commented about the upcoming
season, ‘They might be pretty good barnyard fiddlers, but we have a Carnegie
Hall schedule, and it will take violinists to play that competition”.
When the Wildcats became notorious for, as Rupp put it, “fiddlin’ around
and fiddlin’ around then finally pulling it our at the end,” the team
was tagged with the nickname “The Fiddlin’ Five.” The ‘Fiddlin’ Five”
became Rupp’s fourth national championship team when it defeated Elgin
Baylor and Seattle in the title game at Louisville’s Freedom Hall, 84-72.
After the game Rupp said, “Those boys certainly are not concert violinists,
but they sure can fiddle.”
The Fiddlin' Five
During the Coach Rick Pitino era, several of his teams
adopted various nicknames -among them Pitino's Bombinos and the Untouchables.
But no team captured the hearts of Wildcat fans more than “The Unforgettables”
of 1991-92. After battling probation for two seasons, the ‘92 squad
set our to make its presence felt in postseason play. Led by seniors
Richie Farmer, Deron Feldhaus, John Pelphrey and Sean Woods, the Wildcats
advanced all the way to the East Regional Championship to face Duke.
In what many have labeled the “greatest college game ever played,” Christian
Laettner drained a shot at the buzzer that kept UK our of the Final
Four. Athletics Director C.M. Newton summed up their accomplishments
during a postseason ceremony in which the seniors’ jerseys were retired,
“Today, our program is back on top, due largely to four young men who
persevered, who weathered the hard times, and who brought the good times
back to Kentucky basketball. Their contributions to UK basketball cannot
be measured in statistics
or record books.”
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