MULTISPORT ATHLETE COTTON NASH LED THE WILDCATS IN SCORING for three years, from 1962 to '64. An SI cover boy in '62, Nash, who lives in Lexington with his wife, Julie, played two seasons in the NBA and three in major league baseball.
You grew up near Newark, but you moved around a lot before college. How did you wind up going to school at Kentucky?
CN: I didn't take up basketball until the sixth or seventh grade. We were near Yankee Stadium, and Mickey Mantle was my idol. We played baseball, and we didn't fool with any other sports. When I moved to Indiana at age 10 they said, "No, you're a basketball player." It just so happened, my one year of basketball there our coach was one of the Fabulous Five that played here at Kentucky in the '40s, Cliff Barker. When my family moved to Texas and Louisiana, he told Coach [Adolph] Rupp to keep track of me. When I was a high school senior, they recruited me real hard.
You played baseball and basketball at Kentucky. What came easiest for you?
CN: At heart I was a baseball player. I just kind of paid my way through college playing basketball. I was even on the track team a couple of years. I was trying to do baseball and track in the spring. Hectic, but I enjoyed it.
What's your impression of this year's team?
CN: It seems to me Calipari might have done his best coaching job ever, with the way he's combined this talent to be so unselfish. They seem to be just as pleased with themselves getting an assist as they are scoring. They do play a little slower tempo than I was hoping they would. Back when I played, we scored more points, even without the three-point line. I was enjoying the game this year in the tournament [against Indiana] when they scored 102 points. That was the second time they had gone over 100. My senior year we scored 100 or more 10 times. A lot of times the ball never hit the floor. We just passed two, three times and the shot went up.
What was it like playing for Coach Rupp?
CN: He was a no-nonsense coach. We practiced for an hour and 45 minutes a day, and we were in motion every minute. We had no need for conditioning work after that. It showed on the court. We were playing 40-minute games, and if the coaches didn't call timeout, we played right through. We tried to exhaust the other team, and we were in better shape than most teams we played.
At 6' 5" you played all over the court. How did you do that?