Collector’s note: When collecting Indiana basketball programs and tickets, I’ve always wanted to focus on collecting key games as a priority. To other IU collectors I’ve encountered over the years, this is a similar goal. Whether it would be Calbert Cheaney’s Big Ten scoring record, Walt Bellamy’s single-game rebounding record, or Steve Downing’s monster game of 47 points and 25 rebounds against Kentucky, there are countless examples of great game programs and tickets to seek out.
Jimmy Rayl’s two 56-point performances are no exception. Occasionally, programs to the 1962 Minnesota at Indiana and 1963 Michigan State at Indiana games will come up for sale. However, ticket stubs to either game are quite rare. I have only encountered two other examples from the 1962 Minnesota game, and have never seen any from the 1963 Michigan State contest.
I wish to preface by saying that I was not inspired to write this article about one of Indiana University’s greatest all-time shooters due to the current shooting woes of the 2017-18 Hoosiers. I was more inspired to remind Hoosier fans about a name that is a must when remembering some of the greatest players to even don the Cream and Crimson.
Jimmy Rayl never won an NCAA title at Indiana. In fact, during his three seasons in Bloomington from 1960-1963, Indiana would not finish higher third in the Big Ten Conference standings. Rayl did enjoy one season along side IU legend Walt Bellamy, but his contributions to the 1960-61 team (Rayl’s sophomore season) were minimal at 4.0 ppg. Bellamy lead the Hoosiers with 21.8 ppg, and sophomore Tom Bolyard added 15.5 ppg.
With Bellamy’s graduation in 1961, Jimmy Rayl, the sharpshooting guard hailing from Kokomo, Indiana, would be asked to take on a larger role in Coach Branch McCracken’s run and gun offense. It wouldn’t take long for Rayl to show his offensive prowess, dropping 34 points in game two of the season against New Mexico State. Jimmy Rayl having big scoring performances would be something Hoosier fans would grow accustomed to. In fact, in a four-game stretch against the likes of Notre Dame, Michigan State, Minnesota, and DePaul, Rayl would go for 28, 28, 32, and 41 points respectfully.
Despite Rayl’s eye-popping shooting performances, the rest of the Cream and Crimson was not able to offer much in terms of a supporting cast. Indiana stood 7-5 with Minnesota coming to town on January 27, 1962. The game against the Golden Gophers would go down as perhaps the greatest scoring performance in IU history. In a contest that would go to overtime, Jimmy Rayl’s 20-footer would lift Indiana over Minnesota, 105-104. Rayl had finished with a jaw-dropping 56 points- a new single-game Big Ten record. In fact, Rayl would score 20 of Indiana’s final 22 total points. An even more astounding statistic is that Rayl’s shot chart, without a three-point line in 1962, reveals that he converted SIX shots from 25 feet or farther from the basket (today’s NCAA three-point line is 20 feet 9 inches from the basket). By season end, Rayl’s season scoring average would be an eye-popping 29.8 ppg (a new IU record only eclipsed later by George McGinnis in 1970-71), earning him All-American honors and First Team All-Big Team honors.
The Hoosiers of 1962-63 would feature returning seniors Jimmy Rayl and Tom Bolyard, but also highly touted sophomores, Tom and Dick VanArsdale from Manual High School in Indianapolis. Coach Branch McCracken would be dealing with a talented, but obviously under-sized team for the second straight season. Even with the expectations in place for success, Indiana struggled, especially with teams with more size, and found themselves 3-6 entering Big Ten play. Senior Jimmy Rayl continued to be the go-to scoring option for the “Hurryin’ Hoosiers”, as he would average 31.3 ppg in the first three Big Ten contests, all IU victories. Rayl would continue to have strong performances, but many opponents began doubling up the potent scorer, and at times, Rayl struggled to be the offensive weapon he needed to be. A good example was the Iowa game on February 18, 1963 where Rayl was held to career low two points.
A spark must have been lit within Rayl follow the IU loss to the Hawkeyes, because another epic performance of scoring brilliance would take place on February 23, 1963, as the Hoosiers hosted the Michigan State Spartans. Rayl would convert 23 field goals on 48 attempts, both of which would be new Indiana and Big Ten Conference records, as the Kokomo, Indiana native would once again go for 56 points, tying his own single-game conference record. Indiana would be victorious over the Spartans, 113-94.
Despite Rayl’s season average of 25.3 ppg, and Tom Bolyard’s 20-point average, the Hoosiers would finish a mediocre 13-11 overall, and 9-5 in conference play. All-American honors and First Team All-Big Ten honors would once again be bestowed on senior Jimmy Rayl. In terms of Rayl’s two 56-point peformances, his converted field goals of 20 in 1962 and 23 in 1963 remain the highest two in Indiana basketball history. And let’s not forget, Rayl’s shooting brilliance occurred in an era without the luxury of a three-point line. Jimmy Rayl, aka “The Splendid Splenter”, may not have played on tremendous Indiana teams during his three years in Bloomington, but his scoring performances must never be overlooked when discussing the all-time greats to wear the Cream and Crimson.