- Rex Chapman
- Hometown (Last School)
- Owensboro, KY (Apollo)
- 1986-87, 1987-88
- October 5, 1967
Rex Chapman was born Rex Everett Chapman on October 5, 1967, in Bowling Green, Kentucky to Laura Lynn Little and Wayne Chapman. His father Wayne was a star at Daviess County High School and played basketball for Western Kentucky University, averaging over 16 points a game for his career. His mother was from London, Kentucky, and was a cheerleader at Western Kentucky University. They married on February 21, 1967. Wayne Chapman was an All-OVC player and OVC Player-of-the-year. He was drafted by the Kentucky Colonels of the now-defunct American Basketball Association, where he played two seasons. He also played for Denver and Indiana in the ABA before a back injury forced his retirement. He then entered the high school coaching ranks, and in 1978 led Apollo to a 35-0 record and No. 1 ranking entering the KHSAA State Tournament, where the Eagles fell in the first round to eventual champion Shelby County. He spent six seasons as an assistant to Mike Pollio at Kentucky Wesleyan College before assuming the Panthers helm in 1985.
Rex Chapman began making a name for himself in the Dust Bowl, an Owensboro outdoor basketball tournament held at Kendall-Perkins Park every summer for many years when he was just 12 years old. Chapman was named MVP of the biddy division, the age bracket for roughly 13-and-under boys, in 1981. Chapman played his high school ball at Apollo High School and began seeing playing time as a freshman on the varsity in 1982. Chapman was a good shooting 5-foot-8 freshman reserve, but he was a very good shooting 6-1 1/2 sophomore. As a sophomore, he led Apollo in scoring averaging 19.6 points per game. As a junior, he was the 3rd Region’s best player, averaging 27.5 points, eight rebounds, and four assists per game. He also blocked 60 shots in leading Apollo to a 27-7 record and the Third Region title. He hit 53.6 percent of his shots from the floor and 84 percent of his tree throws. Chapman’s high of 42 points came Breckinridge County. He scored 37 against Seneca in the LIT, and in four games against Owensboro he racked up 128 points, including games of 41 and 39 (in the regional final). He scored 30 or more points 13 times and his 934 points pushed him past the mark for two years. He was one of four juniors selected to the All-State team. Chapman, a 3.2 student, was already attracting college scouts from U of L, Western, and UK.
On November 16, 1985, prior to his senior season at Apollo, Chapman, whom many considered to be the best high school guard the commonwealth of Kentucky had ever produced, said that he would sign to play basketball at the University of Kentucky. He chose Kentucky over North Carolina, NC. State, Louisville, Western Kentucky, Georgia Tech, and Kentucky Wesleyan. When it came down to it, “none of those schools had the following Kentucky has,” Chapman said. Kentucky coach Eddie Sutton called him “one of the top two or three prospects in the country.” As a senior, Chapman played in front of packed gymnasiums full of fans hoping to get a glimpse of the all-star. A late-season game at Memorial Coliseum in Lexington, between Henry Clay and Apollo, drew 11,000 spectators. He gave them a show scoring 37 points. Following a game in the first round of the King of the Bluegrass Tournament at Fairdale, Chapman had to be led out a back door to escape a mob of young fans. A spectacular performer throughout his prep career, the 6-4 1/2 Chapman used his great leaping ability and a picture-perfect jump shot to score a school record 2,286 points. Because of the flamboyant style in which he played, his long arms and wiry build, Chapman has often been compared with Pete Maravich. Others insisted he was every bit as good as any of the other great players to come out of Kentucky, including Cliff Hagan (Owensboro), King Kelly Coleman (Wayland), Wes Unseld (Seneca), Darrell Griffith (Male), Winston Bennett (Male) and Tony Kimbro (Seneca). He averaged 25.6 points, 8.3 rebounds, and 4.6 assists a game in leading Apollo to a 25-5 record his senior year. Chapman averaged 20.8 points throughout his four-year career. On March 18, 1986, he was named to the All-State team for a second time. On April 12, 1986, Chapman was named Kentucky’s Mr. Basketball. He was also honored as the Gatorade State Player of Year, a Parade All-American, a Scholastic Coach All-American, a McDonalds All-American, and a USA Today All-American.
Kentucky basketball fans almost always expect too much from highly recruited freshman players. But the expectations for Rex Chapman were extraordinary even by Kentucky standards especially since Winston Bennett was lost for the year with a knee injury and Cedric Jenkins was sidelined with a stress fracture in his left foot. “God gave Rex Chapman an awful lot of talent and he could be one of the best ever to play at the University of Kentucky,” said UK Coach Eddie Sutton. “But I hope our fans and the media understand that there is a tremendous adjustment going from high school to college. I’ve never had a player exactly like Rex. He is not just any college freshman. But people still should not expect too much, too soon. ” In his first college game in front of more than 20,000 people in Rupp Arena to watch an exhibition game between the Yugoslavia National team and the University of Kentucky, Chapman, the kid called “Chap-stick” by his teammates, hit 6 of 7 shots, including four three-pointers, for 18 points. Yes, one game into Chapman’s UK career, the legend had not swallowed the player. The fact is Chapman gave absolutely no evidence that it will. The fact is the legend of Rex Chapman only grew. On December 27, 1986, in Kentucky’s masterful and shocking 85-51 win over Louisville, Chapman turned in an epic performance. He may not be a legend yet, but he’s clearly building up the portfolio. Just seven games into his collegiate career, Chapman had scored 26 points on three occasions. He did it against Louisville, and he did it mainly by hitting five of eight three-pointers from a range that was more in keeping with the NBA’s 23-foot, 9-inch arc than the college game’s 19-9. But 26 doesn’t begin to tell how Chapman dominated. By half-time, he’d scored 18 — including a remarkable, falling down 15-footer with three seconds left in the half to give UK a 38-28 lead. Early in the second half, he’d nailed one from 22 feet to make it 44-28. Louisville would not score in the second half until UK had opened up a 48-28 edge. Chapman scored only five points over the last 18 minutes, but that’s mainly because he wasn’t needed much anymore. CBS analyst and basketball junkie Billy Packer was talking about similarities to Michael Jordan, David Thompson and Jerry West. UK coach Eddie Sutton was talking about the best freshman in the college game. And everybody, including the Cardinal fans in Freedom Hall, were talking about Rex Everett Chapman. His freshman heroics didn’t end there though. Against Tennessee on February 11, 1987, the Wildcats were trailing Tennessee by 10 points. The talented freshman guard responded with a driving layup to send the game into overtime and scored four points in the extra period to rally Kentucky to a 91-84 victory over the Volunteers. Chapman scored seven of his game-high 26 points in the final 1:13 of regulation as Kentucky overcame a 75-65 deficit, after Tennessee guard Ron Ilausley completed a three-point, play. Chapman’s game-tying layup came after teammate Richard Madison pulled down a rebound of Tennessee’s Dyron Nix’s missed free throw with 11 seconds left. Chapman took Madison’s pass and drove the length of the floor and scored over Tennessee center Doug Roth. “It just takes a lot of guts for a freshman to want to take a shot like that in that situation.” Ed Davender said of Chapman’s heroics. Guard James Blackmon gave Kentucky the lead for good at 81 with 2:37 left in overtime on a midcourt steal and layup. Chapman followed with an 18-foot turnaround jumper and two free throws for an insurmountable 85-7.9 margin with 52 seconds to go. On February 28, 1987, Ole Miss, after trailing by as much as 10 points in the first half, rallied late and scored eight unanswered points in the final three minutes of the game. Ronnie Sims, who led Rebel scoring with 18 points, was called for a foul as he scored under the basket, but the referees said the charge came after the shot, and Ole Miss led 63-62 with 51 seconds left. The Rebel defense forced Kentucky Coach Eddie Sutton to call a timeout with 15 seconds left in the game and only nine seconds on the shot clock. Chapman got the ball at the top of the key, pump-faked twice and sliced between two Rebel defenders to hit a 12-foot jumper with six seconds left and no time on the shot clock to give Kentucky a 64-63 Southeastern Conference victory over Ole Miss at Rupp Arena. At the end of his freshman season, he became only the second freshman ever to lead Kentucky in scoring with 464 points. He was named to virtually every “All-Freshman” team in the country and was the SEC Freshman of the Year. Chapman scored in double figures in the last 15 straight games last season and, in fact, scored in double digits in 24 of UK’s 29 games. He scored a career-high 26 points on four different occasions and led the team in assists with 103. He was third on team in steals with 35 and started every game but one as a freshman (Seniors’ Night), becoming the first Eddie Sutton-coached freshman to start his first collegiate game. His vertical jump had been measured at 39 inches. He blocked 15 shots last season, second only to Rob Lock’s 30. He was named to the All-SEC First Team by SEC coaches and All-SEC Second Team by the AP and UPI. He was named to the All-SEC Freshman Team.
Chapman was a member of the United States team which won the silver medal in the 1987 Pan American Games in Indianapolis. Rex was the third-leading scorer on the U.S. team with a 13.9 average. He led the team in the following categories: minutes played (1 69); 3-point field goals (8-23/34.8); and assists (23/3.3). His high game was an 18-point performance against Mexico.
What can Chapman do for an encore in his sophomore year? He continued to grow the legend is what he did. On December 1, 1987, Chapman led UK with 21 points as Kentucky hit the century mark for the first time since 1981 in a 101-77 win over Cincinnati. On December 5, 1987, against Indiana, Chapman hit a three-point bomb with 1:48 to play to give UK a 78-76 lead on the way to an 82-76 overtime victory to end the Hoosier’s 21-game winning streak in Indianapolis. Against Louisville on December 11, 1987, Chapman scored 21 points, including a free throw with 1:21 remaining to the Cats a one-point lead at 74-73, to lead UK in a 76-75 win over Louisville. On February 24, 1988, Chapman collided with an LSU player and suffered a cracked bone in his lower back. It was thought that he may miss the Wildcats’ remaining three regular-season games and the Southeastern Conference Tournament. He missed one game against Syracuse on February 28, 1988, then returned to action against Georgia on March 2, 1988. He scored 23 against the Bulldogs in his return. On March 20, 1988, in the second round of the 1988 NCAA Tournament, Kentucky led the University of Maryland 42-41 at the half. Chapman was one of six from the foul line. At halftime, Ed Davender told him the first half was history. Twenty playing minutes later, so was Maryland. And Rex Chapman had 20 second-half points after hitting eight of 12 shots to send Kentucky to the NCAA Tournament’s final 16 against Villanova. ‘The difference in the game was Rex Chapman in the second half, he connected on everything,” said Maryland’s Teyon McCoy, who shared the defensive assignment on Chapman. Chapman scored a career-high 30 points as the sixth-seeded Villanova Wildcats stunned the No. 2-seeded Wildcats of Kentucky 80-74 before a sellout crowd of 16,816 in the NCAA Regional semifinals. Kentucky, which had a nine-game winning streak going into the contest, finished the season 27-6. As a sophomore, Chapman scored a total of 609 points. Chapman led UK in scoring with 19 points a game. He became only the third player in UK history to pass the 1,000-point mark during their second year. He scored in double figures in 47 consecutive games. He was named MVP in the SEC Tournament. He was named to the All-American third team by the NABC and Basketball Times. Chapman was named consensus All-SEC First Team (AP, UPI & Coaches)] and was Academic All-SEC.
On May 13, 1988, Chapman, who had previously indicated that he would remain in school, said he was passing up his final two years of eligibility to make himself available for the NBA. “It’s strictly a business decision,” Clapman said from his Owensboro. “There is only one reason to enter the NBA draft early … because I feel I have the talent and the ability to utilize that talent, and the maturity that is needed.” In early April of 1988, Chapman had said that he would stay at UK at least one more season. But since that time, the basketball program had come under an NCAA probe for alleged recruiting irregularities. Chapman, however, said, “this decision is in no way based on, or influenced by, the current basketball investigation.”
Chapman is one of the most successful players in program history. In just two seasons in the Blue and White, he poured in 1,073 career points. He was a two-time All-SEC first-team selection, while also garnering National Association of Basketball Coaches third-team All-America honors following his sophomore season. Chapman claimed Most Valuable Player accolades at the 1988 SEC Tournament, while also excelling in the classroom and being named to the SEC Academic Honor Roll. After concluding two successful seasons as a Wildcat, Chapman was selected eighth overall in the 1988 NBA draft by the Charlotte Hornets. He enjoyed a 12-year career in the NBA before becoming an NBA scout and executive.
In 2002, Chapman made the list of Slam Magazine’s top-50 dunkers of all-time. The top five were Vince Carter, Michael Jordan, Dominique Wilkins, Julius Erving, and Jackie Jackson.
Chapman was inducted into the Kentucky Hall of Fame in 2011 and the Kentucky High School Basketball Hall of Fame in 2012. He was inducted into the University of Kentucky Athletics Hall of Fame on September 27, 2013.
Follow Rex on Twitter: @RexChapman