Jimmy Rayl, Indiana basketball legend dies at 77 | News Coverage from USA

Jimmy Rayl, Indiana basketball legend dies at 77

Jimmy Rayl, a former Indianapolis Star Mr. Basketball and All-American at Indiana University, died at his Kokomo home on Sunday at age 77.

Rayl’s son, Jimbo Rayl, said his father had fallen into ill health in recent months. Rayl suffered a stroke in 2011 and underwent open heart surgery the same year. He returned home on Jan. 1 after spending time in a rehabilitation hospital.

“It got worse really in the last three months,” said Jimbo Rayl, the oldest of Rayl’s three sons. “His kidneys had been failing.”

Rayl, known as the “Splendid Splinter,” developed a reputation as one of the best shooters in the history of Indiana high school basketball in the late 1950s. As a senior in 1958-59, the 6-1, 138-pound Rayl averaged 29.6 points and broke Oscar Robertson’s record with 114 points in the final four games of the state tournament. He earned Mr. Basketball honors and the Trester Mental Attitude award in 1959, though his team lost in the state championship game to Crispus Attucks.

“I’m glad it’s over in a way,” Rayl told the Indianapolis Star in 1959. “There’s so much pressure on you every game. Most people don’t realize how much.”

Rayl scored 1,632 career points at Kokomo and played in one of the most famous games in state history in a dual with Ray Pavy at the “Church Street Shootout” in New Castle on Feb. 20, 1959. Rayl scored 49 points, but Pavy scored 51 and New Castle pulled out the win.

After Kokomo, Rayl signed to play for Branch McCracken at Indiana. After averaging 4.0 points as a sophomore in 1960-61 (freshmen were ineligible in that era), Rayl exploded as a junior to average 29.8 points per game, earning All-Big Ten and third-team All-American honors. He accomplished the same honors as a senior in 1963. Rayl twice scored a school record 56 points in a game, a mark that still stands.

“Jimmy Rayl was one of the greatest players in the history of IU basketball and an icon in the state of Indiana,” IU athletic director Fred Glass said in a statement. “All of us with IU Athletics mourn his passing and offer deepest sympathies to his family and friends.”

Rayl played a full season in 1967-68 with the Indiana Pacers, averaging 12 points per game. He played in 27 games the following season, averaging 8.9 points, before he was cut in late December. Rayl never played professionally again.

Rayl was inducted into the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame in 1989. He and his wife, Nancy, had four children.

Jimbo Rayl said the funeral service would likely be Saturday, though the plans are not finalized.

The Indianapolis Star is part of the USA TODAY Network.

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