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Last of the first and only Fabulous Five, Wallace Clayton ‘Wah Wah’ Jones left us this week. He was 88.
Nicknamed Wah Wah by his sister Jackie when she was just learning to talk and couldn’t pronounce his name, stuck.
An All-American for rawhide tough legends Bear Bryant and Adolph Rupp at Kentucky, Wah Wah was their equal at thriving on toughness.
He had an incredibly full life in and around athletics. High school and then college stardom including an Olympics gold medal, the Harlan native was once sheriff of Fayette County and remained a popular fixture around UK athletics all the way to his introduction at the start of the 2013-14 basketball season.
A photograph of Jones taken in 1948 represented how I believed a genuine college athlete should look. At 6-feet-4, heavy muscled shoulders and legs, fiercely competitive, tough, with a Clark Kent-like shock of black hair and no tattoos. A twin for Jim Thorpe only larger.
Adolph Rupp was asked frequently about his “favorite player of all time” and Der Baron never said so, but some believe Wah Wah was his man.
In 2011 a newspaper photograph imaged UK All-American Anthony Davis alongside a bent-by-age, Wah Wah Jones. It left me to wonder: Does young Anthony Davis realize he is in the presence of greatness?
Wah Wah Jones.
Who could cast Kentucky’s still-in-the-honeymoon-glow football coach Mark Stoops as a villain? Maybe someone who fails to see John Boehner as a windmill chaser. Or, a grumpy Louisville fan.
In Shelbyville last week, still contrite, Bobby Petrino was at the ready but Stoops was a no-show at the Governor’s Cup fete. Cardinal fans called a snub, a U of L house writer said it was UK arrogance. And Stoops, who said he had excused himself weeks ago, offered an apology to the offended.
What it was, was much ado about nothing. An arranged media event turned into war stories-and-golf, and a gaggle of reporters left to hit a deadline with something, anything. Stoops as no-show beat nothing.
Upside from the Governor’s Cup party? Petrino got a stage to himself and Stoops got a larger stage a day later in Louisville.
Jarrod Polson will write a book about University of Kentucky basketball. Maybe.
Vantage point and four years inside the self anointed Gold Standard of college hoops as qualifiers, makes this heady stuff. Rare opportunity.
Polson is probably too young, too close, and still too warmed by the golden glow of two Final Fours, to do much more than offer a clutch of anecdotes, name drops and “thank you, thank you’s!” to offer anything earth shaking. But back story possibilities are, to understate the case, intriguing.
• Given his effectiveness over Ryan Harrow, why Polson wasn’t given a sustained chance to be the point guard in 2012-13?
• How and why Kyle Wiltjer transferred to Gonzaga?
• Why a coach can sweet talk a recruit, then have no sway with clueless kids determined to leave UK too soon (Doron Lamb, Marquis Teague, James Young)?
More likely, a Polson book would be to make a few dollars, sign a few more autographs, keep whatever limelight is left a bit longer and have bragging rights to a campus bookstore shelf spot filed alphabetically with Hatton and Chandler, Mills, Farmer, Sheppard, Krebs and others.
If you were fresh from four years inside a favorite basketball program, had notes filed away, and wanted to embark on a project, how would you proceed?
Consider these preliminaries.
• First, detachment. Accepting this life experience as unique and unexpected as it was, is history, could you pen a Tell All at risk of being shunned?
• To learn HOW to write about the inside. A Season On the Brink by John Feinstein, would be required reading.
• If the goal was higher than say, a shelf spot at the campus bookstore, alphabetically with tomes by Mills, Farmer, Hatton and Chandler, Krebs and other ex-players and officials, would you be inclined to inform, and more, fascinate freshly? After all, books written about UK basketball placed end to end, might stretch from wherever you are all the way to Fredonia in Caldwell County.
• Then, when the writing starts, time is critical. time to work, time to avoid Sports Center, time to purchase a good thesaurus and use it.
• Ready to begin?
We will see if Jarrod Polson is.
And so it goes.