By Jamie H. Vaught
Louie Dampier, one of UK's best pure shooters in history, has finally made it to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
A seven-time All-Star Game performer in the old American Basketball Association, Dampier, along with the other new Hall of Famers, will been enshrined during the festivities in Springfield, Mass., on September 11. The event will be televised live by NBA TV.
Former pro teammate Dan Issel is awfully pleased to see Dampier get the coveted honor.
"Well, I might be a little bit prejudiced, (but) I think he should have been there a long time ago," said ex-UK All-American Issel this past weekend during an appearance in Lexington. "Louie is the all-time leading scorer in the history of the ABA and the all-time leading three-point scorer.
"And most importantly, he is a dear friend and I was more excited when I heard Louie made it in the Hall of Fame than I was when I went in (1993)."
Said another Hall of Famer and ex-UK standout Adrian "Odie" Smith, "It's a great honor. I'm so happy for Louie, happy for his family, happy for the University of Kentucky. I know I went up in 2010 (as a member of the1960 gold medal-winning U.S. Olympic basketball team). It was a great experience and he'll have a great time. I'm very happy for him."
Smith, a member of the UK's 1958 national championship team, played in the NBA for 10 years, nearly all with the old Cincinnati Royals, and one year in the ABA. He was MVP of the 1966 NBA All-Star Game.
And Smith also played against Dampier and the Kentucky Colonels during the 1971-72 season when he was with the Virginia Squires.
Issel has a favorite story about Dampier.
"One thing he didn't believe in the ABA was assists, and I know that's true because he never passed it to me," smiled Issel, who is UK men's all-time leading scorer with 2,138 points.
"So I know he didn't pass it to that many people, but for Louie, for someone who has achieved as much as Louie did in the ABA, he is the most humble guy I've ever met and that's why I love him."
Dampier is one of a few players to play all nine years the ABA was in existence (1967-1976). He is one of two men to have played all nine seasons with one team, the Colonels. The Indiana native finished first all-time in the ABA in games played (728), minutes played (27,770), points scored (13,726) and assists (4,044).
He finished his pro playing career in 1979 after three years with NBA's San Antonio Spurs.
Dampier, a former UK All-American who was a member of the 1966 Rupp's Runts (along with teammate Pat Riley), also served as an assistant coach with the Denver Nuggets when Issel was the squad's head coach.
In UK history, Dampier is one of seven players who have scored 42 or more points in a single game. (Issel, Jodie Meeks, Melvin Turpin and Cliff Hagan each scored at least 42 points more than once.)
He had his best game as a Wildcat in 1966 when he pumped in what would be his career-high 42 points, leading second-ranked Kentucky to a 105-90 victory over No. 3 Vanderbilt in Nashville. In an interview with this columnist about 25 years ago, Dampier said that was one of the happiest moments of his career, adding he still has the audio tape of that contest with Cawood Ledford calling the action.
The likeable Dampier also mentioned that he once had doubts that he could play at UK because some thought he was too small to play basketball. Many folks called him the "Little Louie."
Well, as it turned out, he certainly wasn't too small to play college or pro basketball with his 6-foot frame. When Dampier retired, he finished as one of the all-time NBA/ABA leading scorers with 15,279 points, many of them coming from his patented three-point bombs, with an average of 15.9 per game.
According to the Indianapolis Star (IndyStar.com), Dampier interestingly is the first Indianapolis-born player to make it into the Basketball Hall of Fame.
By the way, Dampier, 70, may not be the only person with UK ties to be inducted into Hall of Fame this season.
As you probably have heard, it was announced that Kentucky coach John Calipari is one of the 12 finalists eligible for the Hall of Fame class of 2015. He will need 18 out of 24 votes from the Honors Committee for election to HOF.
The complete HOF class of 2015 will be announced April 6 in Indianapolis, prior to the national championship game.
"I'm so happy," said Adrian Smith, referring to Calipari. "In fact, I actually just saw Coach Cal just a while ago and I congratulated him, and hoped and prayed that he would be there soon."
Calipari thanked the HOF committee for considering him. Said Calipari before last Saturday's UK-South Carolina game, "I'm at a loss for words.....The process is by no means over -- I'm just a finalist at this point -- but to even be mentioned as a finalist among these worthy candidates is an unbelievable honor. I am absolutely humbled by this."
The Pennsylvania native said he won't discuss the Hall of Fame topic any more during the current season.
"During the season, it is about our team," added Calipari. "When the season ends, it's about individuals. Right now we're in a season, so I'm not going to address it. This is it. I just addressed it. So I'm not talking about it any more. When the season ends, if you want to ask me about it, I'll talk about it."
Well, if Coach Cal makes it to the Hall of Fame and Kentucky captures the national title, that Monday on April 6 would have to be Calipari's biggest day of his basketball career.
For Coach Cal and the Big Blue Nation (along with Little Louie), it sure sounds like a wonderful dream that may come true in less than two months.
Jamie H. Vaught, a longtime columnist in Kentucky, is the author of fourbooks about UK basketball. He is the editor of KySportsStyle360.com onlinemagazine and a professor at Southeast Kentucky Community and TechnicalCollege in Middlesboro. Reach him via e-mail at KySportsStyle360@gmail.com.