BY DEAN HOCKNEY
KOKOMO, Ind. – In a story published in the Sports Journal in 2016, Jimmy Rayl explained that the second of his famed 56-point scoring games at IU almost did not happen. He told the story while sitting in his living room with the actual basketball on a shelf above his head.
… about that 56-point basketball in his living room – he actually had two 56-point games while playing for the Hoosiers, and both are still the single-game scoring record at IU. The amazing part is he did it without the benefit of the 3-point line which came along long after his playing days.
But the 56-point outing nearly didn’t happen.
“There is no question it almost didn’t happen,” Rayl said matter-of-factly, explaining that he and Indiana head coach Branch McCracken, a two-time national champion at IU, did not quite see eye-to-eye during a workout and he decided he was done with practice.
“He told me that if I left the court I would never play for IU again,” recalled Rayl, who indeed left practice. “I had a buddy who was a sports writer, and he got wind of it and was going crazy and called Branch to get me back on the team. He told me that McCracken agreed that if I went to practice and apologized to the team, I could play that Saturday. I did and they let me come back.”
That Saturday – Feb. 23, 1963 – Rayl had 32 points by halftime in his second 56-point game of his Hoosier career. The first came against Minnesota in January 1962.
“(McCracken) took me out with a minute and 20 second to go,” said Rayl. “I walked off the floor and 10,000 fans were booing. But they weren’t booing me, they were booing Branch for taking me out with 56 points – they wanted to see me break the record.”