Re-writing records, winning games and cutting down nets. About the best three things you can do as a Wildcat but the next best thing to those three are getting placed up in the rafters by having your jersey retired.
Throughout the years, 43 former players, coaches and contributors have received this recognition. According to former UK sports information director Russell Rice, the first jersey ever retired for the Kentucky basketball program was Layton “Mickey” Rouse, an All-SEC guard who was the captain of the 1940 team.
At the annual banquet following the season, Coach Adolph Rupp surprised Rouse when he presented him with his entire uniform. Following the 1949 season, Rupp honored the four seniors from the back-to-back national championship teams, Cliff Barker, Ralph Beard, Alex Groza and Wallace “Wah Wah” Jones, along with 1948 team captain Kenny Rollins by retiring their jerseys and stating that their numbers would never be worn again by a Kentucky player. It was then that they were labeled as “the Fabulous Five” after Rupp announced that there would never be another team that “fabulous.” However, with the streamlining of jersey numbers by the NCAA, the jerseys were retired but the numbers remained active.
Two contributors and four coaches have been selected for the basketball program’s highest honor, which include Cawood Ledford, the radio “Voice of the Wildcats” for 39 years, and Bill Keightley, the dedicated equipment manager known as “Mr. Wildcat." The four coaches who are also in the rafters are Adolph Rupp, Joe B. Hall, Rick Pitino and in 2022, Orlando "Tubby" Smith.
An individual must be a member of the Hall of Fame and be 10 years removed from a UK Athletics Hall of Fame career to be eligible for jersey retirement. A committee consisting of Hall of Famers, media members, campus representatives, and current coaches and administrators elects new inductees each year. A subcommittee also considers possible jersey retirements.
Here is the current list of retired jerseys hanging in the rafters of Rupp Arena.
Basil Hayden (1920-22) no number
Burgess Carey (1925-26) #56
Carey Spicer (1929-31) no number
Adolph Rupp (1931-72) - Head Coach Forest “Aggie” Sale (1931-33) no number
John “Frenchy” DeMoisey (1932-34) - #7 Layton “Mickey” Rouse (1938-40) - #4
Kenny Rollins (1943, 47-48) - #26 Alex Groza (1945, 47-49) - #15 Ralph Beard (1946-49) - #12 Wallace Jones (1946-49) - #27 Cliff Barker (1947-49) - #22 Bill Spivey (1950-51) - #77 Frank Ramsey (1951-52, 54) - #30 Cliff Hagan (1951-52, 54) - #6 Lou Tsioropoulos (1951-52, 54) - #16 Billy Evans (1952, 54-55) - #42 Gayle Rose (1952, 54-55) - #20 Cawood Ledford (1953-92) - Voice of the Wildcats Jerry Bird (1954-56) - #22 Phil Grawemeyer (1945-56) - #44 Bob Burrow (1955-56) - #50 Vernon Hatton (1956-58) - #52 Johnny Cox (1957-59) - #24 Bill Keightley (1962-2008) - Equipment Manager Cotton Nash (1962-64) - #44 Louie Dampier (1965-67) - #10 Pat Riley (1965-67) - #42 Dan Issel (1968-70) - #44 Joe B. Hall (1973-85) - Head Coach Kevin Grevey (1973-75) - #35 Jack Givens (1975-78) - #21 Rick Robey (1975-78) - #53 Kyle Macy (1978-80) - #4 Sam Bowie (1980-81, 84) - #31 Kenny Walker (1983-86) - #34 Richie Farmer (1989-92) - #32 Deron Feldhaus (1989-92) - #12 John Pelphrey (1989-92) - #34 Sean Woods (1990-92) - #11 Jamal Mashburn (1991-93) - #24 Rick Pitino (1990-97) - Head Coach Tony Delk (1993-96) - #00 Orlando "Tubby" Smith (1998-2007) - Head Coach
When I look at these sort of things throughout the record books, it makes me wonder who is next to fall into that same category in the coming future. Off the top of my head, I'd have to go with either John Wall or Anthony Davis as the next likely name to go into the rafters of Rupp Arena. Oscar Tshiebwe will definitely be up there one day, but he has his waiting period he has to go through first. John Wall changed the program, but I wonder how high up his stats in his one season rank up. Davis is about a big of a lock as you need with him bringing in a national championship back in 2012.
Only time will tell...