THE NEWS-SENTINEL EDITORIAL: ‘Splendid Splinter’ Jimmy Rayl authored most memorable prep hoops moment at Coliseum
Jimmy Rayl, who died Sunday at age 77, embodied the spirit of Indiana basketball throughout his storied career, in an era when the sport was an obsession for Hoosiers. And he made a significant impact on basketball fans in Fort Wayne as well.
News-Sentinel.com honors the career of “The Splendid Splinter” — Splinter for his 6-foot-1, 138-pound frame as a high school senior; Splendid for his amazing shooting.
It was one of those amazing shots that stamped his mark on Fort Wayne in 1959, when he led Kokomo’s Wildkats against South Side and future Indiana University teammate Tom Bolyard in the high school semistate tournament in the Allen County War Memorial Coliseum. South Side’s Archers were the defending state champions.
Rayl won the game for Kokomo, 92-90, with a half-court shot at the buzzer. The News-Sentinel listed that shot as No. 1 on its 2004 list of the 10 most memorable high school hoops moments at the coliseum.
“As a spectator’s game, it must have been unbelievable,” Bolyard told The News-Sentinel in 1991. “But that’s a game we should have won.”
Rayl went on to break the great Oscar Robertson’s tournament record by scoring 114 points in the final four at Butler University’s Hinkle Fieldhouse, where Kokomo was runner up to Indianapolis Crispus Attucks (where Robertson graduated in 1956). Rayl won the Trester Award for mental attitude.
He was named Indiana’s Mr. Basketball in 1959, after averaging more than 29 points per game and finishing his high school career with 1,632 points.
Rayl went on to become a two-time All-American at Indiana University, where he set an IU and then-Big Ten record by scoring 56 points in a game against Minnesota in 1962. He matched that total in a game against Michigan State in 1963, and finished his college career with 1,401 points over three seasons. After averaging 4.0 points as a sophomore in 1960-61, Rayl went on to score 29.8 points per game as a junior and 25.3 as a senior for a career average of 20.6 per game. That was before the three-point shot. Rayl was named IU’s Most Valuable Player in 1962.
Bolyard, who scored 1,420 points in his three years at South Side, went on to score 1,299 points as Rayl’s teammate at IU. Also on that Hoosier team was another Rayl rival, New Castle’s Ray Pavy. The two dueled in a legendary high school game known as the “Church Street Shootout,” the final game of the regular season in 1959, when Rayl led Pavy by only 10 points in the race for the state scoring championship. The two players combined for 100 points — 51 from Pavy and 49 from Rayl.
“I’ll tell you this. He shot it like mad from anyplace,” Bolyard said of Rayl in an article in Hoosier Sports Report. “But I think most importantly, he was just a great guy and a great friend and he’ll be missed.”
After graduating from IU in 1963, Rayl was drafted by the Cincinnati Royals of the NBA. He later returned to the Hoosier state to play for the Indiana Pacers in the ABA from 1967 to 1969, once scoring 32 points and averaging 11.1 for his professional career.
Rayl, who was inducted into the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame in 1989, was among the 15 former IU players chosen by fans as members of the Hoosiers’ all-century team in 2001.
We encourage basketball fans everywhere to make a trip to New Castle to the Hall of Fame to honor the memory of a great Indiana basketball player.