HAZARD — Kentucky basketball legend “King” Kelly Coleman passed away Sunday evening at the Greg and Noreen Wells Hospice Care Center in Hazard. He was 80.
Kentucky’s first Mr. Basketball, Coleman left an indelible mark early in his career.
Coleman led Wayland High School to a Sweet 16 appearance in 1956. He set numerous high school records and was named Kentucky Mr. Basketball in 1956. Coleman scored 4,337 points in his high school career. He is the only Kentucky player to score over 4,000 points in his high school career. Coleman owns additional records for most points in a single season (1,734), field goals made in a game (31) and field goals attempted (52).
Legendary University of Kentucky men’s basketball coach Adolph Rupp called Coleman “the greatest high school player who ever lived...A combination of Cliff Hagan, Frank Ramsey, and all of the other great stars who have played at Kentucky.”
As many others did, former Allen Central head coach John Martin grew up idolizing Coleman. Shortly after Coleman’s passing on Sunday, Martin posted the following on social media: “Saddened by the passing of my childhood hero and friend, ‘King’ Kelly Coleman. He was the greatest high school player in Kentucky history and a bigger than life icon. He belonged not only to the legendary Wayland Wasps, but to Floyd County and all of Eastern Kentucky.”
Following his legendary high school career, Coleman committed to West Virginia University. He never played at WVU, but continued his career at Kentucky Wesleyan College in Owensboro. Coleman was a two-time All-American in college. He scored 27.7 points per game in three seasons at KWC, (1958-60). Coleman is the only KWC player to average more than 20 points per game for his career.
In college, Coleman netted 2,077 points in 75 games and recorded a 30.3 single-season points per game average. He also averaged 12.1 rebounds per game in college and went on to play professionally.
The New York Knicks drafted Coleman in 1960. He was the ninth player selected in the 1960 NBA Draft and played professionally for multiple teams.
Visitation for Coleman will be held at the Wayland High School Gym from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Friday and from 10:00 a.m. until the time of the funeral service on Saturday. Funeral services will be conducted at noon at Hall Funeral Home in Martin on Saturday. Coleman will be laid to rest in the Davidson Memorial Gardens in Ivel.
In lieu of flowers, the family asks that memorial contributions be made to:
Mountain Sports Hall of Fame
P.O. Box 349
Wayland, Ky. 41666