Puxico's Fast Break

Feb 27, 2018

It seems like Almost Yesterday that the Puxico, Missouri basketball team achieved state and national recognition. Their story is told in Matt Chaney’s 1994 publication, My Name is Mr. Ryan, and it is a remarkable story.

The 1950s was a decade of significant change in high school basketball. This is the decade of small school triumphs that became the basis of legendary and magical stories still told by sports fans across the nation who remember the great teams from Milan, Indiana; Cuba, Kentucky; and Hebron, Illinois

But no team in American high school sports history became such an attraction as did the Puxico, Missouri Indians between 1949 and 1953. In four years the Puxico team won 149 games while losing only 10, in the process winning two state championships and accelerating the changing nature of high school basketball.

The Puxico story is closely connected to Arnold Ryan, who began his coaching career in 1945 at the small Stoddard County community – with virtually no basketball experience. Within four years “Mr. Ryan” had a team that was undefeated in 1950-51, winning 40 straight games and scoring 100 or more points on thirteen separate occasions. The 1951-52 Indians repeated as state champions, and continued their high rate of scoring, introducing the “fast break” to Missouri high school basketball, all carefully worked out in the confines of the unique Puxico log gymnasium.

Certainly Mr. Ryan’s intense coaching style contributed to the Puxico success as he motivated his players to excel. Five members of the 1950-51 team played major college basketball and two became All-Americans and played professional basketball. In 1956 three of the five starting members of the Memphis State University Team were from Puxico.