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Longtime friend scrapbooks the legacy of Mike Casey

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Sherry McDowell of Simpsonville celebrates ex-UK and Shelby County sports star Mike Casey’s induction into the state high school basketball hall of fame with an ongoing personal project to book his history.

By Josh Cook

Mike Casey had a storybook basketball career at Shelby County High School.

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He led the Rockets to their first state title, in 1966, and captured Kentucky’s coveted “Mr. Basketball” that same year.

It was four years so storied, in fact, that even one scrapbook – much less two or three – can’t do it justice. Just ask Sherry McDowell.

McDowell had hoped to have a scrapbook dedicated to Casey, who passed away in April of 2009, ready to present to his family before he will be inducted posthumously into the Kentucky High School Basketball Hall of Fame at 8 p.m. EDT Saturday at the State Theater in Elizabethtown.

But because of the enormity of the undertaking – the first one she completed comes in at 100 pages – combined with a couple of other commitments, such as planning her 40th high school reunion, McDowell has delayed the project. Still, it’s one she’s happy to be doing.  

“I knew him ever since I was young and my husband [Bob] and him were really good friends,” McDowell said of Casey, who grew up in Simpsonville, as did McDowell, and went on to be a standout at the University of Kentucky after completing his high school career at Shelby County. “He was a special friend.

“He asked me to do it before he died. Then after he passed away, his daughter brought me all the stuff.”

It was primarily old newspapers – “His mom and dad kept every article there ever was,” McDowell said – that she had to go through one-by-one, cutting out the stories, pictures, box scores, etc. Then, she soaked the articles in Milk of Magnesia before pasting them in the scrapbook.

“Every article has been preserved,” McDowell said.

When asked how many hours she has put into the project so far McDowell responded: “I would be scared to say,” before adding, “thousands of hours.”

 

Letters from Rupp

One of the earliest articles in the first scrapbook was from Casey’s days at Simpsonville Elementary. In it he’s listed as a “5-7½guard” and it reads, “Mike would like to play guard at Shelby County High School.”  

Additionally there are his varsity letters from basketball and baseball, and other memorabilia. One is the program from the 1966 team’s postseason banquet that lists legendary UK Coach Adolph Rupp as “speaker.”

“I’ve got tons and tons of stuff,” McDowell said. “It’s going to take a lot of books.”

There are plenty of items from Casey’s days playing for the Big Blue too.

Included among those is a letter from Rupp to Casey’s parents, dated July 28, 1971. It thanked them for “the lovely evening I spent in your home last night. Particularly the wonderful dinner I enjoyed with you. As I told Mrs. Casey, I don’t believe I ever had a better dinner or one I enjoyed more.”

Later in that letter Rupp wrote: “I also enjoyed seeing your farm. You certainly are getting a lot out of it, and if I do say so myself, I have been through Wisconsin several dozen times, but I have never seen a milking parlor before. I enjoyed this very much.”

 

Induction coming

It is Casey’s high school career that will be celebrated Saturday night, though.

And quite a career it was.

From 1964-66 Casey helped the Rockets post an incredible 63-3 record. In the ’66 Sweet Sixteen the Rockets squeaked by Knox Central, 71-70, in the first round and Harrison County, 63-62, in the quarterfinals before beating Thomas Jefferson, 79-72, in the semifinals and Male, 62-57, in the final at Freedom Hall. Casey tallied 23 points in the title tilt and finished his career with 2,088 points.

Posthumously Casey is part of the 17-member second KHSBHF class that was previously announced in March. It includes fellow former boys’ greats Butch Beard, Larry Conley, Johnny Cox, Howard Crittendon, Joe Fulks, Allan Houston, Billy Ray Lickert, Linville Puckett and J.R. VanHoose; former girls’ greats Donna Murphy, Jaime Walz Richey and Sharon Garland and legendary coaches Howard Beth, William Kean, Letcher Norton and Bobby Watson.

The KHSBHF’s inaugural 2012 class included 16 – Ralph Beard, Roy Bowling, Ralph Carlisle, Rex Chapman, “King” Kelly Coleman, Richie Farmer, Darrell Griffith, Geri Grigsby, Cliff Hagan, Clem Haskins, Clemette Haskins, Wallace “Wah Wah” Jones, Bobby Keith, Jim McDaniels, S.T. Roach and Wes Unseld.

In all 100 players will be inducted into the Hall of Fame’s “Centennial Class” by 2018 to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Kentucky high school basketball.

 

Kentucky High School

Basketball Hall of Fame

 

WHAT:Induction of second class, including Shelby’s Mike Casey

WHEN:8 p.m. Saturday (reception at 5:30)

WHERE:State Theater, Elizabethtown

TICKETS:$30-$35 by calling 270-234-8354 or visiting www.khsbhf.com/KHBHF-Induction-Ceremony.asp.