Kokomo Renames Street in Honor of Rayl
Kokomo put its affection for one of its greatest basketball legends in writing Thursday when the street running in front of the high school gymnasium was officially renamed Jimmy Rayl Boulevard.
Rayl, who died on Jan. 20 of last year at age 77, was a member of the first Pacers team in the 1967-68 American Basketball Association season, was Indiana's Mr. Basketball in 1959 when he led Kokomo to the championship game of the state tournament and earned all-America recognition at Indiana University, where he still holds the single-game scoring record of 56 points — which he achieved twice.
A ceremony conducted inside the gymnasium where Rayl played featured local dignitaries as well as Jerry Harkness, who played against Rayl in college and with him with the Pacers; Purdue coach Matt Painter; and Tom Bolyard, a teammate of Rayl's at IU. Former Pacer Darnell Hillman also was on hand to represent the franchise.
Harkness played against Rayl in Bloomington on Dec. 20, 1962, when both were seniors. Loyola, which went on to win the national championship that season, won the game, 106-94, but Rayl outscored Harkness in their personal matchup, 26-24.
Harkness recalled reading the scouting report for the game and being stunned by the marks that showed where Rayl had shot from in IU's previous game.
"Some were almost to halfcourt," he said. "I thought no, this can't be right. I called the coach and he told me, 'I scouted him, Jerry, that's where he shoots.'"
Harkness said Rayl's first three shots in the game came from an area near where Victor Oladipo hit a shot from about 30 feet to force overtime in the Pacers' game against Chicago on Jan. 29.
"I was flabbergasted the guy would shoot way back there," Harkness said. "And he made the first three shots. I was so hurt. I really was. I'll never forget that."
Harkness also recalled running a three-on-one fastbreak with Rayl and another Pacers teammate. Rayl, running to his right, flared to the right corner to set up for a 3-point shot, forcing Harkness to make an awkward pass.
Rayl hit the shot and then ran over to Harkness and said, "Jerry, I don't mean to confuse you, but isn't three points better than two?"
Painter gave credit to Rayl for promoting him to college coaches while Painter was playing outside the mainstream of high school basketball at Delta High School near Muncie. Rayl had watched Painter play in the sectional and considered him a legitimate Big Ten prospect, so he contacted Gene Keady at Purdue, Bob Knight at Indiana, and Jud Heathcote at Michigan State.
Painter wound up playing at Purdue after the offer at IU was retracted and turned down Michigan State. Painter and Rayl remained friends thereafter, with Rayl often attending Purdue games in Mackey Arena in a gold sweater.
Painter said Rayl's unselfish gesture impacted his coaching philosophy.
"A lot of times when people help you out, they have an agenda; he didn't have an agenda," Painter said. "He just wanted what was best for me. That's something I've carried with me for a long time.
"It's a player's game. Do everything you can for your team during the season, and then outside the season do everything you can for that individual."
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