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By ADAM WARNER
After Kentucky basketball great Ralph Beard passed away in 2007, the Kentucky Mr. Basketball fraternity created the Ralph Beard Lifetime Achievement Award to recognize those who have excelled in their life’s work, whether in basketball or other areas.
Coincidentally, this year’s award recipient also happens to be named Ralph.
Ralph Richardson, a 73 year-old resident of Oldham County, was a standout basketball player for Russell County High School and Eastern Kentucky University. In 1958, Richardson led the nation in scoring averaging 34 points per gam as a senior at Russell.
Coming out of high school, Richardson received scholarship offers to play at an assortment of colleges, which included turning down an offer from a certain Barron.
“I turned down a scholarship from Adolph Rupp,” Richardson said. “People told me I’m crazy.”
Richardson’s high school coach Chuck Mrazovich, who attended Eastern Kentucky, where he was later drafted by the Indianapolis Olympians in the 1950 NBA Draft. Richardon’s mindset was that if Mrazovich could receive a pro contract there, then so could he.
Though he didn’t follow in the footsteps of Ralph Beard at UK, Richardson attended EKU (1960-62), where he flourished under Coach Paul McBrayer.
As a sophomore, Richardson led the team in rebounding with 9.3 boards per game and following his junior season, he was drafted by the New York Knickerbockers. But due to a broken hip he sustained in a pre-season game, he was forced to retire from the game.
Richardson says that receiving the lifetime achievement ranks up there with the best of his achievements.
“This award is right at the top,” Richardson said. “It’s in there with the four hall of fame awards I’ve received.”
Richardson has held or currently holds nearly every basketball record at Russell County High School.
The only one he knows he doesn’t hold is for most points in a game. He knows this because that record is held by his brother Lewis.
Although basketball had been a major part of his life, Richardson had been planning for the future while attending college at Eastern.
At first, he majored in health and physical education, because he wanted to teach those subjects. But he said due to the scarcity of jobs for this particular subject he opted for a major in industrial arts, with teaching still in mind.
Once the dust settled, Richardson earned his degree and put it to use by teaching industrial arts at various high schools around Kentucky for 39 years, which included substitute teaching at his alma mater, Russell County. Richardson said that both basketball and teaching gave him the opportunity and the satisfaction to get off his farm he had in Russell County.
Still, despite everything he’s achieved, his appetite still craves one more honor.
“Someday I would like to be inducted in to the Kentucky High School Basketball Hall of Fame,” Richardson said.
Fittingly, another member of that class was also Ralph Beard. What’s one Ralph without the other?
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