He was the 4th of six children born to Mennonite German immigrants. As a young man, Rupp worked on the family farm and attended school in a one room school house in the country. He became a fan of basketball at the age of 6, and later starred on his Halstead high school team, averaging 19 points per game. Rupp was a reserve on four powerful Kansas squads, two of which won national championships. Those teams were coached by Phog Allen. Assisting Allen on those teams was the actual inventor of the game of basketball, Dr. James Naismith.