A line from a column in an ESPN story on the Internet recently caught my attention. The writer noted that Julius Randle, the University of Kentucky’s freshman sensation, was approaching a record for consecutive double doubles to begin a career. The record, eight consecutive games of double figure points and rebounds, was held by Jim Andrews and set in the 1970-71 basketball season. The 6-foot-11-inch Andrews was recruited to Kentucky from Bath High School.
Jim Andrew’s story is compelling. Andrews was born in Lima but moved between Ohio, West Virginia and Michigan during his formative years as his father followed employment opportunities. He actually attended Perry High School in his junior high years and then moved to Michigan to begin high school. By his senior year, he was back in Lima and enrolled at Bath High School.
At the time, Bath was in the midst of a tremendous run of basketball success. Led by their colorful head coach, John Ellis, the Wildcats won three Western Buckeye League crowns in a four-year stretch. Andrews was joining a squad that was already loaded with talent. With their gifted new post player, Bath became virtually unbeatable.
Coach Ellis remembers the first time he saw Andrews in the gym. “He was walking down the court on his hands,” remembers Ellis. “Think of that. 6-11 and being able to perform that kind of stunt.” When he turned upright, he was even more impressive. Every person I talked with about Andrews raved about his natural athletic ability and soft shooting touch.
Gene Dugan, a teammate of Andrew’s, remembers him more for the type of person he was. “Jim didn’t carry himself like a star,” remembers Dugan. “He was soft spoken and unselfish and fit in well with everyone immediately.”
With Andrews in the middle, surrounded by the likes of Dugan, Steve Penhorwood, Larry Runneals and Mike Kiracoffe, the Bath Wildcats stormed through an undefeated season, averaging nearly 90 points a game and winning by 30-point margins. They entered the post-season tournament ranked second in the state. In that era there were only two divisions, and Bath was competing with the largest schools in Ohio.
The Wildcats drew Lima Senior High, and they met in front of a capacity crowd at Bowling Green State University. Despite shooting a torrid 60 percent from the field, it was not Bath’s night, and the Spartans ended the Wildcats’ dream season with a four-point win on their way to a berth in the state tournament. Forty years later I can still feel the pain in their voices as Ellis, Andrews and Dugan recall that game.
The story of how Andrews ended up at Kentucky is a good one. In the days before scouting services and 24 hour recruiting coverage, coaches spent a lot of time on the road scouring for potential players. Joe B. Hall, who would later lead Kentucky to a national title, was then an assistant coach to the legendary Adolf Rupp. He remembers “going up to Findlay, Ohio, to see another player and I stopped in Lima because I needed gas. I asked the guy at the station if he knew of any ballplayers in the area and he said, yeah, there’s a big guy who averages 36 points a game and 22 rebounds…and he’s playing right down the road.”
Coach Hall then steered his car to Bath High School and got more than his money’s worth because when he left the gym that night he had discovered three players who would end up signing scholarships to play at the University of Kentucky. That night Andrews scored nearly 50 points as Bath beat Shawnee despite a 40-point effort by the Indians’ 6-8 Dan Perry. Bath’s Steve Penhorwood also caught coach Hall’s eye. Kentucky began a vigorous pursuit of all three players.
Steve Penhorwood recalls those heady days of being wooed by an elite power like Kentucky. “They flew us down to Lexington, for a game with Tennessee, in a private jet,” he remembers. “When we walked off the jet there was a red carpet waiting for us. Then, we were introduced to the crowd at halftime and walked to center court on a blue carpet.” Needless to say, all three were sufficiently impressed to make Kentucky their college choice.
The Lexington newspapers affectionately referred to the three players as the “Lima beans.” I would be willing to bet that in the long and storied history of the University of Kentucky basketball program, it was the only time three players were recruited, in the same year, from a community the size of Lima.
Jim Andrews became one of the most decorated players in UK basketball history. He started for three seasons and ranks among the leaders in scoring and rebounding for the Wildcats. Jim was named first team All-SEC in his junior and senior years and recorded an astounding 43 double doubles during his career. His career field goal shooting percentage of 56.3 percent remains one of the highest in University of Kentucky history. Andrews was also named to the All-NCAA Regional tournament team twice (1972 and 1973). Jim was drafted by the Seattle Supersonics (now, Oklahoma City Thunder) but chose to play professionally in Italy for several years.
Dan Perry and Steve Penhorwood did not enjoy similar basketball success at Kentucky. Perry battled medical issues that hampered his career, and Penhorwood chose to transfer to the Xavier University after his sophomore year in order to gain more playing time. Upon graduation Dan enrolled in medical school and became a dentist while Steve followed his father into the coaching profession, enjoying a successful career at Ottoville and Celina high schools.
Andrews, now a successful sales executive for Wells Fargo Insurance Service in Lexington, remembers his Bath days with fondness and especially cherished time he spent at a recent reunion in Lima.
“I enjoyed those days at Bath a great deal,” says Andrews, and added, “it seems like just yesterday.”
Contact Bob Seggerson at email@example.com.