Swing and a Drive: The Murray State Tradition Part 4

Though there are plenty more stories to tell, this will sadly be the last Murray State basketball icon I’ll discuss in my column.

This gentleman has quite the story, however, beginning at a tiny high school in Cuba, Ky., in 1952.

Cuba High School, tucked away in southern Graves County, was the home of roughly 100 students in 1952. This is where Howard ‘Howie’ Crittenden played high school basketball.

The Cuba Cubs took far western Kentucky by storm, making an unlikely run to the state title game in 1951 where they lost the championship to much larger Clark County, Ky. A team of primarily juniors, Crittenden and his teammates vowed to return to the title game the following year and win it. They did exactly that.

In what many people claim to be Kentucky’s version of ‘Hoosiers,’ the Cuba Cubs made one of the most improbable runs in high school basketball history. As if getting back to the championship game wasn’t enough, the Cubs upset duPont Manual, four-time state champion and one of the largest schools in the state, to complete the magical run.

After Crittenden led his team to the state championship, he decided to play college basketball close to home, attending, you guessed it, Murray State. Crittenden broke nearly every scoring record during his four years at Murray. Averaging 19.4 points per game over his career, Crittenden graduated as the all-time leading scorer, with 2,015 points – a mark which is still good for fifth on the all-time list (Isaiah Canaan may catch him, as he currently sits at 1,815).

His best season came in 1953-54 when he averaged 20.4 points per game. To put that number in perspective, Isaiah Canaan is currently averaging 21.0. This year’s team scores 72.1 points per game. In Crittenden’s day, basketball teams rarely broke the 70 point mark. In his senior season, Crittenden led Murray State to the Kentucky Invitational Tournament championship.

After leaving Murray State, Crittenden played five seasons in the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) before becoming a high school basketball coach. He spent the majority of his professional career as a high school principal.

Crittenden was inducted to the Murray State Hall of Fame in 1970 and the Kentucky Athletic Hall of Fame in 2004. Crittenden’s name and number currently hang from the rafters of the CFSB Center.

Column by Jonathan Ferris, Staff writer.