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34 Mike Casey

Mike Casey
Hometown (Last School)
Simpsonville, KY (Shelby County)
1967-68, 1968-69, 1970-71
May 26, 1948

Obituary – UK basketball great Mike Casey dies at age 60, Lexington Herald-Leader (April 9, 2009) by Jennifer Hewlett

University of Kentucky basketball great Mike Casey died Thursday at Vanderbilt Medical Center in Nashville.

Mr. Casey, who was 60, had had congestive heart failure since 1988.

Recently he had been on a heart transplant list, but he was taken off the list because he was too ill for the procedure, said his daughter, Laura Lake of Franklin, Tenn.

Mr. Casey received a ventricular assist device, which helps the heart pump blood, in March, she said.

Mr. Casey, a resident of Shelbyville, died at 7:20 p.m. EDT after he was removed from life support, his daughter said.

The basketball forward and guard was UK’s 13th all-time scorer, with 1,535 points.

A Kentucky Mr. Basketball in 1966, who led his Shelby County High School team to the state championship, he went on to become UK’s leading scorer as a sophomore in the 1967-68 season. He averaged 20.1 points per game and led the team in field-goal and free-throw percentages.

His sophomore year successes led to an appearance on the cover of Sports Illustrated.

He was named All-SEC three times and All-NCAA Mideast Regional in 1968.

He averaged 19.1 points during his junior year.

Mr. Casey was forced to sit out the 1969-70 season after he suffered a broken leg in a car accident but returned for the 1970-71 season.

“He went very peacefully, and we were all around him,” Lake said. “He fought as much as his body could fight.”

Former UK men’s basketball coach Joe B. Hall said, “We feel like it’s a great loss to our Wildcat family … We remember his courage and his fight. He carried on just the way he did on the floor.”

This month, Mr. Casey is to be inducted into the Kentucky Athletic Hall of Fame at a ceremony in Louisville.

Mr. Casey was retired from Balfour, a company that makes class rings and graduation items.

In addition to his daughter, Mr. Casey is survived by a sister, Masha Miller of Shelbyville.

Arrangements were pending at Shannon Funeral Home in Shelbyville.

Mike Casey: an unsung UK icon – Was ‘one of the best’ to ever play for Cats, Louisville Courier-Journal (April 11, 2009) by C. Ray Hall

Mike Casey died at age 60 two nights ago after a long battle with heart disease. He was barely known to the generations of University of Kentucky basketball fans who think of an arena, not a coach, when they hear the word “Rupp.”

But to earlier generations, Casey was an iconic figure.

“Mike Casey was one of the best players that ever played at UK,” said teammate Dan Issel. “I don’t think he gets the credit that he deserves.”

The reason, Issel said: the 1969 car wreck that shattered Casey’s leg and sidelined him for a season once full of national championship hopes.

(“Until a writer from New York called me, I didn’t know how serious it was,” Casey once said.)

“His game, I think, was very similar to Larry Bird’s,” Issel said. “He was an outstanding shooter. He wasn’t very fast, didn’t jump very high, but he really understood the game of basketball and had a great knack for being where the ball was.”

Joe B. Hall, an assistant to coach Adolph Rupp when Casey played at UK from 1967 to ’71, said of him: “People kind of have forgotten about him, and it’s a shame. ”

The electors for the Kentucky Athletic Hall of Fame haven’t forgotten about him; they chose him for the class of 2009, which will be inducted April 29 in Louisville.

“He was very, very happy and looking forward to it,” said teammate Mike Pratt, the analyst on UK radio games. “That meant a lot to him.”

Still, if there can be such a thing as a forgotten icon of Kentucky basketball, Casey, who died at Vanderbilt Medical Center in Nashville, Tenn., probably qualifies. He was:

The boy who grew up on a tobacco-and-dairy farm, shooting baskets after chores. He declared his allegiance to UK at age 10 and certified his credentials by scoring 23 points in the state championship game against the big-city team. Shelby County defeated Male 62-57, and Casey was elected Mr. Basketball in 1966.

“It didn’t take much to get him to go to the University of Kentucky,” Pratt said. “He was born to play there.”

The shooting star who developed his game on the wide-open spaces of the farm. As a sophomore Casey led UK in scoring at 20 points a game despite the presence of Issel, who became UK’s all-time scoring leader. Casey finished with 1,535 points — 13th in UK history. His average of 18.7 places him ninth on the all-time list.

“He wasn’t just a shooter,” Hall said. “He was a scorer. He’d get his points off steals. He’d get them off the offensive board.”

A tough guy who refused to lose.

“We’d have one-on-one games or two-on-two games,” Pratt recalled. “He’d battle you to the end, and when we grew older … years back, we used to play a lot of golf together. We’d get out there and play … and just battle down to the end for a buck. Just grind it out, talk junk going down 18 to each other. He was just that way. Just a competitive rascal.”

A nice guy with star power.

“Mike was an absolute superstar of UK basketball,” said Patricia Barnstable Brown, the Kentucky Derby party host who dated Casey during their college days. “When he walked across campus, people would gasp and stare because he was the man.”

A man who can still inspire wistful nostalgia and what-if scenarios among fans.

With Pratt and Issel leading the way, UK finished 26-2 in 1970 and was ranked No. 1 but fell one game short of the Final Four.

Said Issel: “I’m convinced in my mind that if Mike had been able to play his senior year and been the player he was his sophomore and junior years, we would have had a great opportunity to add another championship banner to Kentucky’s total.”

A player who reminds UK insiders of other icons.

“Mike was sort of like Louie Dampier,” said teammate Jim Dinwiddie, a lawyer in Leitchfield, Ky.

“If you took your eyes off of them, they would move — quickly. …. Louie knew what the popcorn man was doing up there in the stands; he was watching everybody’s eyes. And Mike was a little bit like that. He was sly, and he was deceptive. … He would just take advantage of opportunities that developed in a game without forcing it.”

Casey returned for the 1970-71 season, averaging 17 points as UK went 22-6. He tried out for the Kentucky Colonels and played in the Olympic Trials, where he was named an alternate for the 1972 Games. Then he went to work, farming briefly before finding a career in sales. He sold industrial chemicals, then went to work for Balfour, which markets class rings, graduation gowns and memorabilia.

Casey once told The Courier-Journal that his “gift of gab” helped him succeed in sales.

“He didn’t know many strangers,” Pratt said. “He enjoyed life. He enjoyed people.”

Shannon Funeral Home in Shelbyville is in charge of arrangements, which were incomplete last night.

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