The Graves County Boys: A Tale of Kentucky Basketball, Perseverance, and the Unlikely Championship of the Cuba Cubs
In 1952, just one year after Coach Adolph Rupp’s University of Kentucky Wildcats won their third national championship in four years, an unlikely high school basketball team from rural Graves County, Kentucky, stole the spotlight and the media’s attention. Inspired by young coach Jack Story and by the Harlem Globetrotters, the Cuba Cubs grabbed headlines when they rose from relative obscurity to defeat the big-city favorite and win the state championship.
A classic underdog tale, The Graves County Boys chronicles how five boys from a tiny high school in southwestern Kentucky captured the hearts of basketball fans nationwide. Marianne Walker weaves together details about the players, their coach, and their relationships in a page-turning account of triumph over adversity. This inspiring David and Goliath story takes the reader on a journey from the team’s heartbreaking defeat in the 1951 state championship to their triumphant victory over Louisville Manual the next year.
More than just a basketball narrative, the book explores a period in American life when indoor plumbing and electricity were still luxuries in some areas of the country and when hardship was a way of life. With no funded school programs or bus system, the Cubs’s success was a testament to the sacrifices of family and neighbors who believed in their team. Featuring new photographs, a foreword by University of Kentucky coach Joe B. Hall, and a new epilogue detailing where the players are now, The Graves County Boys is an unforgettable story of how a community pulled together to make a dream come true.
Marianne Walker is a retired professor of English and philosophy at Henderson Community College and the author of Margaret Mitchell and John Marsh: The Love Story Behind Gone With the Wind.
Once in awhile a sports book comes along that transcends sports. It takes the reader beyond the games and into the lives of the athletes. It gives historical background. It shows the glory and the hardships with straightforward honesty. -- Kentucky Monthly
As a sports story, the success of the team from a tiny school winning the state basketball tournament in 1952 is heart-warming and exciting. But Walker also creates an indelible portrait of a community, of a neglected portion of the state, and of a vanished era and way of life. -- Robert Wallace, author of Thirteen Women Strong: The Making of a Team
"Marianne Walker has captured the very essence of Kentucky high school basketball with her riveting and poignant book about the Cuba Cubs, unlikely state basketball championship in 1951. The Graves County Boys reveals the building of a championship team and dreams and aspirations of its team members in a personal and realistic way." -Guy Strong, University of Kentucky basketball player, high school and college coach for 35 years
“I was fortunate enough to play against the Cuba Cubs and like most boys of that time I had great admiration for my coach Adron Doran. I showed off my great defensive skills against Doodle and held him to only 40 points. It was also the first time I saw Howard Crittenden dribble the ball behind his back and thought it must be a gift from God. When the Cuba Cubs won the state championship, we all felt like part of the team and the boys were admired by everyone.” –Larry Hopkins, former U. S. Congressman and native of Graves County
"I highly recommend this entertaining and enlightening book."--John R. Adams
UK Basketball 1961-1965, Fayette District Judge 1979-1989, Fayette Circuit Judge 1989-2003
"In Ms. Walker's book, I was taken back to the 1950's, an exciting time in my life filled with memoirs of good times in a small town, playing basketball in a tiny gym. I was a member of Clay County High School's first team to ever play in the Sweet 16 in 1953 so it's easy to relate to this thrilling story of the Cuba Cubs. I was fortunate to watch Cuba play in the 1952 state tournament and remember what an inspiration it was just to watch them warm up."--Ray Mills, former University of Kentucky basketball player
"This book about the 1952 Kentucky state basketball champs lets us in on lots of their secrets! It seemed like Coach Jack Story had the winning combination for a coach – teaching fundamental basketball, making it lots of fun (Sweet Georgia Brown) and most important, teaching life values after basketball. This book would have been a much better movie than Indiana's Hoosiers. Great read."--Vernon Hatton, former All-American University of Kentucky basketball player
"I coached basketball at tiny Lyon Co. high school in Western Kentucky in 1990 and '91 when we advanced to the 2nd region championship games. I had a group of boys that I let dribble through their legs, pass behind their backs, and shoot just about from anywhere they were open. They were very entertaining to coach and watch. Word got back to me that Howie Crittenden had seen us play and said we played a lot like his Cuba Cubs. That was one of the very best compliments I received in my 30+ year coaching career."--Kirk Chiles, Henry Clay High School basketball coach
"This book captures the spirit of high school basketball in Kentucky in the 1950's. The book brings back memories of what I witnessed as a 13-year-old 'wanna be' player and provides insight into the ability of Coach Story to recognized talent and to develop and mold a championship team."--Billy Ray Lickert, former University of Kentucky basketball player
"Marianne Walker, through her tremendous research and powerful writing, has done the impossible. She has recaptured the heartwarming story of a group of small town kids living the American Dream. Through her portrayal, the reader experiences the player's transofmration from poverty and hardship to the glory of participating in the Kentucky High School Basketball Championship and other coveted awards."--Gerry L. Calvert, Sr., attorney and former University of Kentucky basketball player
A classic underdog tale, The Graves County Boys: A Tale of Kentucky Basketball, Perseverance, and the Unlikely Championship of the Cuba Cubs... is a page-turning account of triumph over adversity [and an] inspiring David and Goliath story. -- BooksWorld.com
Above and beyond the story at the heart of the book, Walker provides a slice of Americana-- a sentimental look at a bygone era...[R]ush to the nearest bookstore and pick up a copy of "The Graves County Boys." You will not be disappointed. -- Bowling Green Daily News