Jayhawk Cherishes New Ring for 1957 Men’s Basketball Season

LAWRENCE, Kan. – Dr. Gary Thompson of Scottsdale, Arizona, received a special order 1957 NCAA ring for his 84th birthday, some 60-plus years after helping KU to a runner-up finish in one of the most memorable championship games in NCAA Tournament history. No. 2 Kansas fell to No. 1 North Carolina, 54-53, in triple overtime that March Saturday in Kansas City.

The unique birthday gift was the idea of Thompson’s family, in particular his daughter, Jolene Walker; son-in-law Michael Walker; and two granddaughters, Hayden Walker and Page Walker Campbell. The group made the special-order ring through Jostens to commemorate the 1957 season and KU’s NCAA runner-up finish. Kansas posted a 24-3 record in 1956-57, won the Big Seven Holiday Tournament and took first place in the Big Seven Conference regular season with an 11-1 league mark.

“I wear it with great honor, distinction and pride,” Thompson said.

Kansas Jayhawks

All the players on both teams were awarded designated wall plaques and wrist watches from the NCAA for their participation in the title game. Additionally, Kansas Athletics made special patches which read “NCAA Western Champions 1957” for the players to be added to their letter jackets. Rings were not awarded to the teams in 1957.

Under the direction of first-year head coach Dick Harp and behind KU legend Wilt Chamberlain, No. 2 Kansas met No. 1 and undefeated North Carolina in the 1957 title game at historical Municipal Auditorium in Kansas City, Missouri. Thompson was listed as a 6-foot-4 forward from Wellington, Kansas, and he and Chamberlain were sophomores on the 1957 team.

Chamberlain was named the Most Outstanding Player of the 1957 NCAA Tournament and he averaged 29.6 points per game for the season for the Jayhawks. Thompson appeared in seven games for the Jayhawks during the 1956-57 season.