A serious automobile accident robbed Somerset native Beldy Massey of a spot on Adolph Rupp’s University of Kentucky basketball team.
But his place as a Somerset High School basketball legend was already secure.
The 6-foot-2 Massey led the Briar Jumpers to the 1949 State Tournament as a junior, and then averaged nearly 30 points per game as a highly-recruited senior.
The Somerset High School Athletic Hall of Famer passed away last week at the age of 80.
“Alex Groza and coach Rupp came down my senior season,” Massey recalled in an interview with the Commonwealth Journal several years ago. “I like to have flipped when I looked up and saw them. I didn’t know they were coming.”
Massey’s senior season was one of the best SHS campaigns of all time — despite the fact that the Jumpers were upset in the district tournament and failed to make a second straight trip to the Sweet 16.
The sharp-shooting Massey turned in a 46-point performance against Stearns and then leveled Barbourville with 51 points later in the season. Massey was named All-State for the second straight season.
Courier-Journal sports writer John Carrico praised Massey’s patented fade away jumper as “a shot almost impossible to block.”
In just three seasons at SHS, Massey tallied 1,346 points.
Massey signed a letter of intent with UK, but after his freshman year he was involved in a life-threatening car accident that ruined his chances of playing varsity basketball as a Wildcat.
Despite the tough break, Massey was always proud of his time spent in Rupp’s program.
“We were undefeated on the one full season I was on the team,” Massey recalled. “Coach Rupp got you ready to play for him.”
After recovering from the accident, Massey joined the Army, where he played basketball at Fort Benning, Ga.
After two years of military service, Massey graduated from Georgia Southern University in 1957 and made his way back to Pulaski County as head coach of Eubank High.
“I didn’t even apply for the job,” Massey said. “They called me and I headed straight to Eubank.”
In his first season as the Bulldogs’ coach, he led them to a shocking victory over, of all teams, Massey’s old Briar Jumper squad.
Massey left Eubank after three years, settling into coaching jobs in Gainesville, Ga., and then Fort Lauderdale, Fla., until 1970 when he left the coaching profession.
In 1978, Massey reunited with his high school sweetheart, Mary Ann Rogers, and then married. The couple lived in Orlando, Fla., where in 1989 Massey opened Lee’s Halftime, a sport bar and grill geared toward UK fans in Florida.
Funeral services will be held for Massey at Somerset Undertaking Company this Saturday at 11 a.m., with Pastor Gary Heist officiating. Visitation will be Saturday at 10 a.m.