Rayl was a splendid shooter

Rayl was a splendid shooter

‘Splendid Splinter’ still holds IU

By Lynn Houser, Herald-Times Sports Writer

December 11, 2006

Jim Rayl (left) chats with Indiana basketball teammate Tom Bolyard outside the Indiana Fieldhouse (now the Gladstein Fieldhouse next to Assembly Hall) on the IU campus in the early 1960s. Rayl and Bolyard played from 1961-63 for the Hoosiers. H-T file photo
From the Dec. 11, 2006 Bloomington Herald-Times

Back in the day, he was the Indiana basketball version of the Splendid Splinter.

It wasn’t just because he was thin and gangly and his last name was Rayl. It was due more to the splendid part, the precision accuracy of his jump shot.

Few men before or after Rayl ever shot it as well as he did, or from as far. Jimmy Rayl was one of those shooters who had to be seen to be believed. Suffice to say he made a lot of believers, beginning with his high school days in the late 1950s.

There was the regular season game matching his Kokomo team against Ray Pavy’s New Castle five. Not only was a North Central Conference title on the line, so was a state scoring title. Only 10 points separated Rayl from Pavy in the individual scoring race.

When the nets had cooled on that wild Friday night, the two had combined for 100 points — 51 for Pavy, 49 for Rayl — enough for Rayl to keep the title.

Later that season, in the Fort Wayne semistate, it was Rayl shooting down Fort Wayne South Side and a future IU teammate, Tom Bolyard, with a last-second 25-footer. Rayl can still remember the pandemonium following the game-winner.

“Folding chairs were flying through the air,” he said over the phone from his Kokomo home last week.

Heroics like that earned Rayl the 1959 Mr. Basketball Award, one of many honors he would receive in his basketball career.

At Indiana, he was a two-time All-American in 1962 and ’63. He still holds IU’s single-game scoring record of 56 points, an achievement he accomplished twice. The first time came in his junior year against Minnesota. The Hoosiers were about to lose the game until Rayl nailed a 25-footer to send the game into overtime.

And then with seven seconds left in the extra period, the Hoosiers were trailing by one when Rayl dribbled up the court, stopped about three paces inside the halfcourt line and swished a 30-footer to win the game and close out his 56-point explosion. That was nine more than the previous Hoosier high and still eight more than any point total since.

“That was the best game I ever played in my life,” Rayl said. “It was one of those nights when everything went right.”

Rayl encored that performance a year later in a rout of Michigan State and could have broken it had he not be taken out of the game by coach Branch McCracken.

“Branch took me out with 3 1/2 minutes to go and the (IU) fans started booing,” Rayl recalled. “They wanted to see me score more, but we were way ahead. Branch did the gentlemanly thing to do.”

Rayl was grateful to McCracken for the green light — anytime, anywhere.

“Branch never said ‘no,’ because shooting was my strong point,” he said. “I couldn’t have played for anybody today because they would go crazy. I shot 48 times against Michigan State (in that 56-point game). What coach today would put up with that?”

Although a mild stroke limits some of his motor skills today, Rayl can still pick up a basketball and shoot a few jumpers. The one thing he hasn’t lost is his eye.

“I went by the city park this summer and saw some kids shooting,” he said. “I asked if I could have a couple of shots. It took me only a few before I said, ‘Lord, that basket is high.’ I can still tell today if the basket is even off by a half-inch.”

Archie Dees, the great IU center of the mid-1950s, recalls some games of “H-O-R-S-E” against Rayl in which nothing but net was allowed for his adversary.

“I could use as much of the rim as I wanted and yet I never was able to beat him,” Dees said recently.

Rayl likes to ponder what he could have done if the 3-point line had existed then.

“I would say 60 percent of my shots came from behind that line,” he said. “But you don’t know how you would react with that line out there. You might go berserk.”

Which is what IU foes did when the Splendid Splinter had the ball with the game on the line.

JIM RAYL

Age: 65

Occupation: Retired from Xerox Corp.

Residence: Kokomo

Indiana career:

• A 6-foot-2 guard for Branch McCraken from 1961 to ’63.

• Owns IU single-game scoring record of 56 points (twice).

• Named All-Big Ten in 1962, 1963.

• Named All-American in 1962, 1963.

• Highest scoring average in Big Ten games, 32.4 (1961-62).

• Second-highest average in all games, 29.8 (1961-62).

• Second-highest point total for single Big Ten season, 454.

• Fourth highest career scoring average, 20.4.

• Scored 1,401 points (19th).

Other honors:

• Indiana Mr. Basketball (1959).

• Played two seasons for the Indiana Pacers (1967-68).

• Named to IU’s All-Century Team (2000).

Indiana single-game highs:

56: Jimmy Rayl Michigan State Feb. 23, 1963

56: Jimmy Rayl Minnesota Jan. 27, 1962

48: Mike Woodson at Illinois March 3, 1979

47: Steve Downing Kentucky Dec. 11, 1971

47: Don Schlundt Ohio State March 5, 1955

47: Don Schlundt Ohio State Jan. 18, 1954

45: George McGinnis Northern Illinois Feb. 1, 1971

44: Jimmy Rayl at Michigan State Jan. 5, 1963

44: Jimmy Rayl Wisconsin Feb. 12, 1962

42: Steve Alford Michigan State Feb. 4, 1987

42: Dick VanArsdale at Notre Dame Dec. 4, 1963

42: Walt Bellamy at Illinois Feb. 22, 1960

41: Alan Henderson at Michigan State March 9, 1994

41: Scott May at Wisconsin Feb. 26, 1976

41: Steve Downing Illinois Feb. 12, 1973

41: George McGinnis San Jose State Dec. 29, 1970

41: Jimmy Rayl at DePaul Jan. 28, 1962

41: Don Schlundt Southern Methodist Dec. 13, 1954

41: Don Schlundt at Notre Dame March 14, 1953

40: Ted Kitchel Illinois Jan. 10, 1981