MORE TO THE STORY: JIMMY RAYL DISCUSSED HOW HE ALMOST DID NOT SCORE HIS IU RECORD 56 POINTS

Jimmy Rayl courtesy of Indiana University

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.”

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LEGEND LOST: KOKOMO BASKETBALL ICON AND 1959 INDIANA MR. BASKETBALL JIMMY RAYL PASSES AWAY AT THE AGE OF 77

Jimmy Rayl accepts the IHSAA Trester Mental Attitude Award in 1959. (Courtesy of the KHS Sargasso)

BY DEAN HOCKNEY

KOKOMO, Ind. – From the day he first touched a basketball, James Rayl only knew how to do one thing – score points. From local parks to Memorial Gym, from the Indiana Hoosiers to the Indiana Pacers, Rayl scored buckets by the dozens and became known as one of the best shooters to ever play the game. He was a legend, both in Kokomo and around Indiana.

On Sunday, at the age of 77, James “Jimmy” Rayl quietly passed away at his Kokomo home. In recent years, Rayl had struggled with several health issues – a stroke and open heart surgery in 2011 slowed the 6-foot-2 sharpshooter. Then during the latter part of 2018, his kidney’s started to fail and he was placed in a rehabilitation hospital. He returned home earlier this month.

Known as the Splendid Splinter, he helped lead the Kokomo Wildkats to the IHSAA Final Four during his senior season of 1958-1959. Averaging 29.6 points per game, the Wildkats finished 23-6. They won sectional, regional and semi-state titles before defeating New Albany 58-56 in the state semifinals. Rayl’s season ended in the state finals, where Crispus Attucks knocked off the Kats 92-54 – but not before Rayl set a state Final Four record with 114 points.

He finished his high school career with a then Kokomo record 1,632 career points and was the first member of the 1,000 Point Club. He scored a staggering 858 points his senior year while setting the North Central Conference mark with 269 points.

Following the state finals, he earned the IHSAA Trester Mental Attitude Award, was named Indiana Mr. Basketball and earned the title of Star of Stars at the Indiana-Kentucky All-Star Series.

“Jimmy Rayl was one of the main forces behind our hashtag #LegacyMatters,” said Kokomo Principal Angela Blessing on Twitter. “KHS sends its prayers to his family.”

“Rest in peace to the greatest Kat of them all,” said Kokomo head boys basketball coach Bob Wonnell. “Our thoughts and prayers to the Rayl family during this difficult time.”

His talents landed him in Bloomington, where he again scorched most nets he shot at. After sitting out his freshman year (frosh were ineligible in those days), he got his feet wet as a sophomore and returned to form as a junior, where he averaged 29.8 points per game to earn All-Big Ten and third team All-American honors. As a senior, he averaged 25.3 points per game and earned the same Big Ten and All-American honors.

“Jimmy Rayl was one of the greatest players in the history of IU basketball and an icon in the state of Indiana,” Indiana athletic director Fred Glass said in a statement.  “All of us with IU Athletics mourn his passing and offer deepest sympathies to his family and friends.”

Amazingly, he still owns the single-game scoring record for the Hoosiers – a feat he accomplished twice. He scored 56 points in a game against Minnesota in 1962 and then did it again in 1963 against Michigan State. He ranks 23rd on the school’s all-time scoring list with 1,401 points and he shot 41.6 percent from the floor and 83.5 percent from the line in 68 games as a Hoosier.

“On behalf of everyone in our program, our thoughts and prayers go out to the Rayl family,” said IU head coach Archie Miller in a statement. “His accomplishments as a basketball player from this state were profound and set an example for others to aspire to.”

“Jimmy was a legend all his own,” said IU Athletics Hall of Famer and former Bloomington Herald Times Sports Editor Bob Hammel in a statement released by IU. “He had a signature jump shot, very high-arced landing in the net with a soft puff. I didn’t see either of his 56-point games at IU but I did see him win a 92-90 high school semi-state game against Fort Wayne South and his future IU teammate Tom Bolyard with a 35-foot buzzer shot, classic Jimmy, high and puff.”

Rayl was drafted by the Cincinnati Royals in the third-round of the 1963 draft but signed with the Indiana Pacers. He played in 101 games for the Pacers from 1967-1969, where he averaged 11.1 points. He averaged 12.0 points his first season and 8.9 the following year. In what many still consider a travesty, Rayl was cut by the Pacers after 27 games; he never played professionally again.

“Pacers Sports & Entertainment is deeply saddened to learn about the passing of Jimmy Rayl, who played on the Pacers’ original team in 1967,” the team said in a statement. “Jimmy, the ‘Splendid Splinter’, was a true Indiana basketball legend. Pacers Sports & Entertainment offers heartfelt condolences to the Rayl family.”

During his career he also played on the 1966 World Cup championship squad and was a member of Goodyear’s AAU national championship squad.

Rayl eventually returned to Kokomo where he worked for Xerox. He married Nancy and they had four children.

His prolific career landed Rayl in the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame in 1989, the IU Athletics Hall of Fame in 1991 and as a charter member of the Howard County Sports Hall of Fame in 2003.

NOTE: Funeral arrangements were still pending at press time; the Sports Journal will post details on its website (www.indianasportsjournal.com) and Twitter page (@Sports_Journal).

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NORTHWESTERN’S KENDALL BOSTIC EARNS STATE RECOGNITION AFTER SENSATION WEEK ON THE COURT

Northwestern junior Kendall Bostic is shown on defense during the Hall of Fame Classic in New Castle. (SJ photo/William Gibson)

INDIANAPOLIS – Crispus Attucks senior Harold Bennett poured in 45 points in a game and Whiting senior G’Angelo Reillo posted a triple-double, and that twosome paces the winners in this week’s IBCA/Subway Player of the Week program.

Bennett and Reillo are joined by Austin senior Drew Buhr, Evansville Reitz sophomore Khristian Lander, Marquette Catholic senior Emma Nolan, Michigan City senior Hannah Noveroske, Northwestern junior Kendall Bostic and North Knox senior Makinzi Meurer as recipients for the week of Dec. 31-Jan. 5 in the recognition program coordinated by the Indiana Basketball Coaches Association.

Reillo is the boys’ honoree and Nolan and Noveroske shared the girls’ for District 1. Bennett and Bostic received respective boys’ and girls’ accolades for District 2. Buhr and Lander are boys’ co-winners and Meurer is the girls’ recipient for District 3.

The 6-1 Bostic, a 2020 Indiana All-Star candidate, displayed tremendous shooting accuracy while averaging 22.0 points and 10.3 rebounds in keying the state’s No.1-ranked Northwestern girls (16-2) to three triumphs. The Michigan State commit scored 23 points with eight rebounds and four assists in an 81-25 victory over Eastern (Greentown). She followed with 21 points, seven rebounds and two assists in a 73-35 decision over West Lafayette. Bostic then tallied 22 points with 16 rebounds and five assists as the Tigers beat George Rogers Clark (Ky.) in the Indiana-Kentucky Challenge Cup at New Castle. For the three games, Bostic was 32-of-37 on field goals – 11-13, 10-12 and 11-12 – and 2-of-2 on free throws.

The 5-11 Bennett scored 45 points to lead the Attucks boys to a 95-81 victory over Urbana, Ill. He also added four rebounds and four steals while helping the Tigers improve to 10-3 in their only game of the week. Bennett hit 18-32 field goals, 3-of-6 3-pointers and 6-of-6 free throws en route to his big game.

Reillo produced a triple double of 30 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists as the Whiting boys dropped an 87-83 overtime decision to Lake Station Edison. A 6-2 guard, Reillo added four steals and converted 14-21 from the floor and 2-of-2 from the line as the Oilers fell to 4-8.

The 6-1 Buhr and 6-2 Lander each averaged 30.5 points, respectively, for the Austin and Evansville Reitz boys.

Buhr opened with 41 points, eight rebounds, four assists and three steals in an 87-80 overtime victory over North Harrison. The Saint Louis baseball signee followed with 30 points, four rebounds, five assists and six steals in an 83-40 triumph over Eastern (Pekin). Over two games, Buhr was 18-of-35 on field goals, 9-of-17 from distance and 26-of-29 on free throws as the Eagles improved to 4-8.

Lander scored 31 points with five rebounds, six assists and three steals, but it was not enough in a 62-61 setback at Bedford North Lawrence. He unloaded for 40 points with eight rebounds, three assists and two steals as the Panthers defeated Terre Haute South 70-54. Lander was 25-of-37 from the floor, 10-of-15 on three pointers and 11-of-13 from the line as Reitz moved to 5-5 for the season.

The 6-2 Nolan tallied a career-high 38 points with 10 rebounds, five assists and three blocks as the Marquette Catholic girls knocked off Hammond Noll 78-55 in their only game of the week. Nolan sank 12-of-23 field goals, 4-of-8 from long range and 10-of-11 free throws as the Blazers improved to 15-1.

Noveroske averaged 30.0 points and 15.5 rebounds in two games for the Michigan City girls (13-4). The 6-4 forward scored 20 points with 14 rebounds and seven blocks in a 51-47 setback at Crown Point. The Xavier University recruit then exploded for 40 points with 17 rebounds and six blocks in an 85-28 victory at Bowman Academy. Noveroske became Michigan City’s all-time scoring leader in the latter game with 1,611 career points, passing the previous mark of 1,609 set by 2009 graduate TaKenya Nixon. Noveroske was 14-of-19 from the field and 12-of-17 from the line in the 40-point game, 22-of-27 and 20-of-31 in both games.   

Meurer averaged 25.0 points and 7.0 rebounds to lead the North Knox girls to two victories. The 5-5 guard opened with 20 points, five rebounds, five assists and five steals in a 43-33 triumph at Southridge. The University of Evansville track signee followed with 30 points, nine rebounds, five assists and five steals as the Warriors defeated Eastern Greene 54-27. Over both games, Meurer hit 14-of-29 shots, including 2-of-4 from long range, plus 20-of-21 free throws as her team improved to 13-5.

This is the 11th season for the Indiana Basketball Coaches Association Player of the Week program and the seventh season it is presented by Subway Restaurants of Indiana, a banner sponsor of the IBCA. Subway, in its seventh season as an IBCA sponsor, encourages athletes to “train hard and eat fresh.”

Winners in the Player of the Week are chosen each week from each of the IHSAA’s three districts. Girls winners will be chosen from now through the week following Feb. 23. Boys winners will be chosen from now through the week following March 23.

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