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6 Paul McBrayer

Paul McBrayer
Paul McBrayer
Hometown (Last School)
Lawrenceburg, KY [Kavanaugh School]
1927-28, 1928-29, 1929-30
October 12, 1909

Paul McBrayer was born Paul Sullivan McBrayer on October 12, 1909, in Ninevah (Anderson County), Kentucky to Laura Sullivan and Hartwell J. McBrayer.  His father was a farmer.  His grandfather, John McBrayer, was a wealthy Anderson county landowner, stockman, and tobacco grower.  Paul graduated from Kavanaugh High School, where he was captain and star of the basketball team, in Lawrenceburg, Kentucky in May of 1926.  He enrolled at the University of Kentucky in September of 1926.

As a freshman at Kentucky, McBrayer, nicknamed “Scotsman,” played for coach Jimmy McFarland, a member of the Henry Clay basketball team that won the national high school championship in 1922 and played for Kentucky from 1922-1926.  The Kentucky Kittens won 19 games in 1926-27 and went undefeated.  McFarland said of that team, “These boys came to me well grounded in the fundamentals and knew what was expected of them. I had very little to do other than see that they came to practice. They deserve all the credit for having won all their games this season.”

In a sign of things to come, McBrayer enrolled in a coaching clinic for basketball, held for two weeks beginning August 1, 1927, at Kentucky.  Coach J. Craig Ruby of the University of Illinois taught the principles of coaching basketball.

As a sophomore under coach Johnny Mauer, McBrayer, showed phenomenal improvement over his performance on the undefeated Kitten team the previous year and looked like one of the best basketball prospects seen at the University of Kentucky in years.  Playing center, he started his first game on December 16, 1927, against Clemson.  He scored 6 points.  McBrayer scored a season-high 12 points against Tennessee on January 28, 1928, and again on February 24, 1928, against South Carolina.  He tallied 95 points on the season for 5.3 points per game.  The Cats were 12-6 that year.

As a junior, McBrayer moved to a guard position.  His natural position was at guard but played center the year prior because coach Mauer really didn’t have anyone else to play that position.  He was part of the four “Macs” – McGinnis, McBrayer, McLain and McGinnis.  On February 8, 1929, McBrayer whipped four consecutive field goals into the basket from past the foul line to give Kentucky a ten-point lead on the most famous team in the Southland.  Washington and Lee had not lost a game and had made no less than 42 points on any of their victims. The W and L guards hung back, and the Wildcats’ delayed offense functioned perfectly.  The Generals never threatened until the last of the game.  As the game ended they were closer to the ‘Cats than they were at any other time during the game.  At the Southern Conference tournament held in Atlanta at the end of the season, he was regarded as one of the best offensive and defensive guards in the tourney. His height and agility enabled him to take the ball off the backboard with great ease.  On March 1, 1929, in a win over Tulane in the first round of the Southern Conference tournament, McBrayer didn’t score a point but a sports writer from the Lexington Herald had this to say about McBrayer:  “Old War Horse McBrayer didn’t make a point. He didn’t try. His job was to laugh at Tulane, start Kentucky’s offense and then go up there to take the ball off the backboard and then laugh some more.  He enjoyed the last half of that Tulane game more than he enjoyed anything that year. So did Kentucky’s little band of supporters.  McBrayer fed Combs the ball when he made four of his crips and was a big factor in the victory.”  On March 7, 1929, McBrayer was elected by his teammates to serve as captain of the 1929-30 team .  McBrayer said, “This the happiest moment in my life. Ever since I was big enough to play basketball, it has been my ambition to be captain of the Wildcats’ team, and here I am”

As a senior, McBrayer was the captain of a team that went 16-3 on the year.  On January 3, 1930, McBrayer, the inimitable Scotchman from Lawrenceburg was Kentucky’s hero in front of 4,000 fans. Captain “Mac” directed play admirably from the guard position and scored four field goals in the final half when Kentucky was badly in need of points.  He worked Coach Mauer’s guard offense perfectly no less than three times and missed only by a short margin on other occasions.  He finished with 11 points in a 31-15 win over Clemson.  On January 31, 1930, in a 29-24 overtime loss to Tennessee, the ruddy-faced Scotchman, McBrayer, was everywhere, starting most of the Wildcats’ attacks, breaking up Tennessee passes, and taking the ball off the backboard.  He played the outstanding game of the fracas and had he been given a little more support by his fellow Wildcats, Tennessee probably would have ended the game in the red and not Kentucky.  He scored 7 points in that loss.  In his final appearance on Kentucky’s home court on February 22, 1930, McBrayer scored 6 points and hit the long shots when Kentucky needed them most in a 28-26 overtime win over Washington and Lee.  In March, the versatile Scotchman captivated Atlanta court fans in the 1930 Southern Conference Tournament with his brilliant floor work, splendid leadership, and great goal-shooting, not to mention the way he speared the rebound almost every time it streaked off the backboard.  McBrayer set an all-time tournament record by making good every free throw he had during Kentucky’s three games. He counted ten times from the foul line. Although defeated in the semi-finals by Duke, Kentucky made a great impression on followers of the court game and broke all records by hitting fourteen free tosses out of as many chances against Duke.  As a result of his play in the Southern Conference tournament, McBrayer was a unanimous choice by coaches and sports writers for the All-Southern team.  Despite their loss to Duke, the band of eleven Kentucky Wildcat basketeers, their coach, Johnny Mauer, and Manager Len Weakley, not the least disheartened by their defeat at the hands of the Duke University five, arrived by train in Lexington from Atlanta amid cheers of 600 students and followers of the Big Blue. The welcome reached its height when McBrayer stepped from the train. He was raised to the shoulders of two or three students, carried through the Union Station while the “best band in Dixie” played “On, on, U of K.”  McBrayer was named a Helms Foundation All-American in 1930.  He was only Kentucky’s third All-American at the time behind Basil Hayden and Carey Spicer.  During his Kentucky career, the Wildcats won 44 out of 52 games.

McBrayer also played baseball for Kentucky and was a member of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon social fraternity.  He was also a member of Omicron Delta Kappa, a national men’s honorary fraternity for leadership.  McBrayer was very active with the Lexington City Parks department during his college career.  He was the director of one playground and coached several recreation league teams.  He was a member of the Order of DeMolay, a character-building and leadership development organization for young men between the ages of 13 and 21. McBrayer was a member of Lamp and Cross, a men’s senior honorary fraternity.  In addition to his other extracurricular activities, McBrayer was the commander of one of the cadet companies at Kentucky his senior year and was a member of Scabbard and Blade.

He began his coaching career, while still playing baseball for Kentucky, with the Morton Junior High School (Lexington) for the 1930-31 season.  In March of 1931, McBrayer signed to take over as head coach at Kavanaugh High School in Lawrenceburg.  He began coaching and teaching history there in the fall of 1931.  His 1933 team won their region and their first round game of the state tournament before bowing out in the second round to Danville. In May 1933, he resigned to enter business in Lexington at the Kentuckian Hotel in which he had a financial interest.  He was succeeded by Forest “Aggie” Sales.

On May 27, 1932, McBrayer saved a young man, Garland Searcy, from drowning in a nearby Lawrenceburg lake.  The young man, who could not swim, was boating with a friend when their boat overturned.  The other young man, Claude Brown, was not so fortunate. He was found drowned to death several hours later.

On November 5, 1934, McBrayer succeeded Len Miller as an assistant coach to Adolph Rupp and head coach of the freshman team, the Kittens.  

Nine years into his Kentucky assistant coaching gig, it was announced on September 21, 1943, that McBrayer would be entering the Army as an enlisted man to support the war effort.  He reported to Ft. Thomas, Kentucky on September 28, 1943.  In October 1943, Bernie Shively, Kentucky’s athletic director took over the helm as assistant coach to Rupp.  McBrayer, a private, was assigned to Ft. McClellan, Alabama.  While in the Army he coached a team at Fort McClennan which won 19 of 21 games and the post title.  He was discharged two years later in October 1945 but did not return to his post as an assistant coach at Kentucky.  Elmer Gilb was named assistant coach for the 1945-46 season.  McBrayer was considered a “part-time” employee of the University and the law at that time did not require Kentucky to reinstate him in his old position as coach.  “If a law is passed which would require that we reinstate McBrayer, we’d have to put him in some other position,” UK president Donovan stated.  It was been generally understood that Coach Rupp did not care to re-employ McBrayer as his assistant. Harry Lancaster was named assistant coach to Rupp for the 1946-47 season.

On October 29, 1946, McBrayer was named head coach of the Eastern Kentucky Teachers College cage team.  He succeeded Rome Rankin, who asked relief from the basketball job because of conflicts with his football coaching duties, according to Dr. W. F. O’Donnell, Eastern president.  In his first year at the helm, McBrayer led his team to 11 straight wins and finished the season with a 21-4 mark. During his tenure, he earned a victory in a record 38-straight home games at Weaver Gymnasium. McBrayer served as Eastern Kentucky University basketball head coach from 1946-62. While compiling a program-best 214 victories, including a winning record in 12 of 16 campaigns, McBrayer helped EKU earn two Ohio Valley Conference titles, three OVC regular-season crowns, and two trips to the NCAA Tournament. McBrayer’s 1949-50 squad finished the season ranked #24 nationally. He remains the winningest basketball coach (219 victories) in Eastern Kentucky University history.

The current home of Colonel Basketball is named in McBrayer’s honor. 

McBrayer was inducted into the Naismith Hall of Fame in 1961.

McBrayer was inducted into the Kentucky Athletic Hall of Fame in 1987.

McBrayer was inducted into the Eastern Kentucky University Hall of Fame and the Ohio Valley Conference Hall of Fame in 2006.

He died January 1, 1999, from pancreatic cancer.  He was 89.  


On This Day In UK Basketball History

On March 2, 1970, Dan Issel scored 42 points against Auburn.


On March 2, 1991, before a crowd of 24,310, the then-largest crowd in Rupp arena history, the Wildcats closed out the 1990-91 season with a 22-6 overall record. Although UK was ineligible for the SEC title because of probation, the Wildcats secured the best record in the league (14-4) with a 114-93 win over Auburn to end its two-year probation. A ceremony and parade followed.


On March 2, 1996, with a 101-63 victory over Vanderbilt in Rupp Arena on Senior Day, UK became the first team in 40 years to finish with a perfect record in the SEC, a 16-0 sweep. It was the Wildcats’ 25th win in a row, tying the school record for consecutive wins in a season. Two games later, they set the new record at 27 games.


On March 2, 2012, Darius Miller, in his final performance at Rupp Arena, led Kentucky in scoring with 17 points on Senior Night in a 30-point win over Georgia.


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