There have been 49 All-American basketball players at the University of Kentucky. None of them came before Basil Hayden. Also, none of them, other than Hayden, were born in the 19th century. Hayden was born in 1899 and stuck around to the ripe old age of 103 before passing away early in 2003. Needless to say, I don’t remember Basil Hayden and probably few, if any, people on the Internet can remember him.
His statistics aren’t overly impressive at first glimpse. In three years as a ‘Cat, Basil scored a total of 333 points. In the 1920-21 season, his junior year and All-American year, Basil scored just under 10 points per game. This is more impressive than it seems. The average score of a UK game in that 13-1 campaign was 36-19. Accordingly, scoring 9.6 points per game would be the equivalent of scoring 20 or so a game nowadays.
Basil was a 5’11” forward, which really boggles the mind. Since Travis Ford was never All-American, Basil was probably UK’s shortest A-A player. He was the backbone of the 1920-21 team, which won the SIAA Conference Tournament over Georgia 20-19 in Atlanta. For his efforts, Hayden was nicknamed “The Blond Adonis” by the media of his day. Hayden had only two points in the SIAA championship game, but they were the points that tied the game at 19, before Bill King hit a free throw with no time on the clock to make the ‘Cats champions.
This 1921 SIAA Tournament Championship was the first championship in UK basketball history. It doesn’t sound like much now, but who knows? If Basil Hayden hadn’t led the charge, who is to say that all of the players, championships, and great moments would have followed?
Interestingly, Basil is part of another UK tradition. He coached the 1926-27 UK team. That squad went 3-13, and ended Hayden’s UK coaching career. Hayden was replaced by John Mauer, who after three solid seasons, would yield the position to a young high school coach—Adolph Rupp.
(Thanks to Jon Scott for the photo– I can’t say enough about his excellent page at http://www.bigbluehistory.net/bb/wildcats.html)