Jim Phillips: One of the Racers' first stars


In the 1930's there was no television. People listened to the radio for entertainment. There were no personal computers - no computers of any kind for the matter. Much of the state of Kentucky was connected by dirt roads, women bought dresses for five dollars, and it cost a quarter to go to the movies.

Even the game of basketball was much different than it is today. There was a jump ball at midcourt after every made basket. No one had even dreamed of a jump shot. And the NCAA basketball tournament would not be contested for the first time until the close of the decade.

It was against this backdrop of dirt roads, radio and set shots that Jim Phillips played out a career that made him one of MSU's first star athletes.

Phillips grew up in Tolu, Ky. a small Crittenden county community on the banks of the Ohio River; where he attended Tolu High School.

"It was a small school," he said. "We only had about 30 some odd kids in the high school. But, we went to the state tournament twice. We won the regional in Murray two straight years. The first year we were eliminated by the state champions, Corinth, in the semifinals. They beat us by one point. The next year we went to the finals and Manual beat us."

That Phillips and Tolu were able to make a run deep into the state tournament is amazing, like the story told in the movie Hoosiers. But, when you consider that they didn't even have a floor to practice on, the accomplishment is probably too astonishing even for Hollywood.

"We didn't have a gymnasium," Phillips recalled. "We just had an outdoor court. We practiced with gloves on, we practiced in the mud and snow. The court wasn't even paved, it was a dirt court. All the games we played had to be in someone elses' gymnasium. We played all of our games away."

And, if that wasn't bad enough, there was no paved highway into Tolu. To get out of town you had to negotiate nine miles of dirt road.