We cannot verify your location
Browse Book and Journal Content on Project MUSE

The Graves County Boys

A Tale of Kentucky Basketball, Perseverance, and the Unlikely Championship of the Cuba Cubs

Marianne Walker. foreword by Joe B. Hall

Publication Year: 2013

In 1952, a year when 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.

Published by: The University Press of Kentucky

Front cover

pdf iconDownload PDF (364.5 KB)
pp. 1-4


pdf iconDownload PDF (42.0 KB)
pp. 5-9


pdf iconDownload PDF (33.2 KB)
pp. ix-x

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (36.5 KB)
pp. xi-xiii

The Graves County Boys is a great story from start to finish. It is about a small group of teenagers coming of age in a remote region of Kentucky, where values were passed down from one generation to another. Marianne Walker tells the boys’ story so engagingly that...

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (955.1 KB)
pp. xv-xxii

The idea for this book came from my friend Pam Thomas who, years ago, suggested I write an article about her husband’s high school basketball team. Puzzled, I shook my head no, reminding her that I did not do sports. At that time, Pam was married to Howard Crittenden...

read more

1. The Cuba Cubs

pdf iconDownload PDF (106.0 KB)
pp. 1-5

One rainy afternoon in the fall of 1948, in an old rural Kentucky schoolhouse, Coach Jack Story took his eighth-grade basketball prodigies into the auditorium. He had set up a film projector, a screen, and some folding chairs there. As the boys sat down, he...

read more

2. The Little Crossroads Team

pdf iconDownload PDF (59.6 KB)
pp. 6-12

With their diligent daily practice and with the guidance of their coach, the Cubs—by the time they were juniors—had quite a wonderful reputation in western Kentucky and West Tennessee. Known as the Cuba Cubs from little Cuba, Kentucky, they were a popular...

read more

3. The Clutch

pdf iconDownload PDF (275.5 KB)
pp. 13-20

The next evening, Thursday, March 15, 1951, in the locker room just before the first game was to begin, Coach Story went over their plan. Although he had never seen Covington Holmes, their opponent, play before, he gave his boys what knowledge he had about...

read more

4. The Coliseum Darlings

pdf iconDownload PDF (715.9 KB)
pp. 21-31

Just hours before the final tournament game was to begin, the governor of Kentucky spoke at a Lexington Chamber of Commerce buffet party held for all the coaches, the board of control, and others involved with the tournament. In a startling announcement, Governor...

read more

5. A Vision and an Oath

pdf iconDownload PDF (53.9 KB)
pp. 32-39

Lexington, Kentucky—March 1951. It was near midnight when the bus returned the Cubs and their classmates to the Phoenix Hotel after the closing ceremony ended the 1951 tournament. A gusty wintry wind, whipping around the street corner, stung their faces as...

read more

6. The Homecoming

pdf iconDownload PDF (257.3 KB)
pp. 40-44

Early the next morning, silence hung heavily in the Kaiser as Coach Story led the motorcade of supporters home. But that silence was broken just outside of Lexington when much to their surprise people were standing along the roadside waving to them. When they...

read more

7. The Land between Rivers

pdf iconDownload PDF (52.1 KB)
pp. 45-52

The phenomenal support that Cuba, the Jackson Purchase, and all the rest of western Kentucky gave to Coach Story and the Cubs did not go unnoticed elsewhere in the state. Across the Commonwealth newspapers featured large photographs and articles about the coach,...

read more

8. The Boys from Graves Cocunty

pdf iconDownload PDF (442.5 KB)
pp. 53-60

When they were small children, the Cubs did not all know one another. None of them was born in Cuba, a hamlet with a population of one hundred or so, but all were from similar small communities in southern Graves County. These little farming communities...

read more

9. Little Cuba, Hub of the Universe

pdf iconDownload PDF (453.1 KB)
pp. 61-70

The closing of the Pilot Oak high school not only brought Howie and Doodle together with Jack Story and the other boys, it made the little place with the strange name Cuba the hub of their universe. The connection between the Spanish-held Caribbean island Cuba...

read more

10. Doodle Floyd

pdf iconDownload PDF (495.1 KB)
pp. 71-79

Pilot Oak, Kentucky—1932–1948. From the time he was six until he graduated from high school in Cuba in 1952, Doodle lived with his parents in a three-room unpainted house on a forty-five-acre farm. It was just off the Pilot Oak–Dukedom road, close to the Tennessee...

read more

11. Howie Crittenden

pdf iconDownload PDF (263.3 KB)
pp. 80-87

Howie and Helen, his twin sister, were born on March 13, 1933, in Pilot Oak, to Willie and Alta Ruth Crittenden. They were the youngest of ten children. Alta was forty-one years old—far too old, the other women said, to have another baby, much less two at one...

read more

12. The Migration

pdf iconDownload PDF (327.5 KB)
pp. 88-93

In late spring of 1943, Willie Crittenden moved to Detroit to find work. His plan was to save enough money to send for Alta Ruth and the twins. Before he left, he moved his family from Pilot Oak into the house his oldest daughter Emily and her husband had just...

read more

13. The Tragedy

pdf iconDownload PDF (492.3 KB)
pp. 94-101

The most important person in Doodle’s young life was his brother James, three years older. Doodle adored James, and James loved his little brother with all his heart. They worked and played together. As it always is, even with best friends, some bickering went on between...

read more

14. Mischief Makers

pdf iconDownload PDF (40.9 KB)
pp. 102-105

Around the age of thirteen, Howie and Doodle got to thinking that they were grown up. Doodle, especially, started thinking of himself as a big guy—chewing on a cigar, spitting tobacco, comparing the budding bodices of female peers, and expanding his colorful vocabulary...

read more

15. Jack Story

pdf iconDownload PDF (820.8 KB)
pp. 106-118

In the fall of 1947, the people in Cuba were thrilled to have Jack Story at their school again. When coaching there once before, during 1942–1943, he had brought the team closer than it had ever been to the state tournament. He led Cuba to the district runner-up position,...

read more

16. Sowing the Seeds

pdf iconDownload PDF (49.6 KB)
pp. 119-125

One afternoon in the fall of 1947, shortly after Jack Story started work at the Cuba School, he was in his office waiting for the lunch recess to end. It was a typical early October day, still too warm to wear a jacket. The windows were open wide, and the noise from the...

read more

17. Preparing to Win

pdf iconDownload PDF (225.5 KB)
pp. 126-134

All coaches have their own methods of motivating their players. They have favorite words they emphasize, and Coach Story’s was determination. He applied it to every human endeavor, believing that nobody ever achieves anything worthwhile unless he is determined...

read more

18. Skull Sessions

pdf iconDownload PDF (207.2 KB)
pp. 135-143

Coach Story expected his team to behave in a proper manner at all times. Although he well understood that boys will be boys, he let them know that they were to act right. He talked to them about what it means to be an athlete, stressing that an athlete plays fair....

read more

19. Unforgettable Cayce

pdf iconDownload PDF (808.5 KB)
pp. 144-153

In the summer of 1949 the state highway department blacktopped the gravel road, Highway 303, running from Mayfield to Cuba to Pilot Oak. Howie and Doodle were ecstatic. They finally had a hard surface on which to play ball when they could not play in the gym....

read more

20. Different Encounters

pdf iconDownload PDF (172.6 KB)
pp. 154-157

The Cubs entered their junior year slightly more subdued and matured, with the weight of great expectations upon them. They were not promising underclassmen anymore. They were the varsity now— the Cuba Cubs. When the school year started in the fall of 1950, the...

read more

21. Pride before Another Fall

pdf iconDownload PDF (295.8 KB)
pp. 158-165

The Cubs opened the 1950–1951 season with two big wins: one over Lowes, 81-48, and the other over Cayce (again), 75-36. As juniors with an enviable reputation, they were preening like rock stars the night they were scheduled to play at Lynn Grove, a nearby small,...

read more

22. The Season of Joy and Sorrow

pdf iconDownload PDF (44.2 KB)
pp. 166-170

Early in January 1951, the Cubs lost their second game of the season when Clark County, the number one team in the state rankings, beat them 62-61. The day the Cubs left for Winchester to play Clark County, snow was falling heavily in Kentucky. They left early...

read more

23. Cubs Turning into Lions

pdf iconDownload PDF (2.6 MB)
pp. 171-181

The Cubs kept their promise about building their endurance. They ran and practiced basketball hard all summer long. People in Cuba and in Pilot Oak watched with admiration as the boys streaked across fields chasing rabbits. By January 1952, they were actually catching...

read more

24. Lexington, Here We Come!

pdf iconDownload PDF (48.9 KB)
pp. 182-187

During their senior year, the Cubs paid little attention to their schoolwork. It was impossible to keep up with it, tutors or no tutors. Wanting the players to have all the experience they could, Coach Story completely revised their schedule, so that they played one...

read more

25. The Little Comeback Team

pdf iconDownload PDF (855.0 KB)
pp. 188-200

On Wednesday, March 19, 1952, the day the tournament was to begin, Lexington Herald-Leader sportswriter Larry Shropshire reminded readers in his column “Down in Front” of the criticism out-of-town teams and their fans and other visitors had heaped on...

read more

26. A Memorable Year: 1952

pdf iconDownload PDF (710.7 KB)
pp. 201-210

With no time for a much-needed rest after two overtimes, the Cubs prepared themselves for the championship game that evening against Louisville Manual, which had just survived a grueling semifinal game of its own to upset Clark County 54-53. Clark County...

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (317.3 KB)
pp. 211-221

At the closing ceremony of the 1952 state tournament, Howie and Doodle, for the second straight year, were among the ten boys chosen for the All-State Tournament Team. Linville Puckett from Clark County was selected for the third straight year. The other Kentucky...

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (23.3 KB)
pp. 223-224

This book is about real people and real events, and I could not have written it without the cooperation of those I wrote about. With kindness and patience, these people shared their memories, time, and resources. I am indebted to each of them...


pdf iconDownload PDF (60.2 KB)
pp. 225-231


pdf iconDownload PDF (48.2 KB)
pp. 233-237

E-ISBN-13: 9780813144191
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813143057

Page Count: 262
Publication Year: 2013