Fred Pralle is a name most people have never heard of, but he is one of the best players to ever come through Kansas.
In the book "Making Basketball," coach Phog Allen said, “In my personal opinion, he was the greatest guard that KU ever had." That is how special of a player he was.
Pralle, a 6-foot-3 guard, was recruited out of St. Louis and played for the Jayhawks from 1936-38. The first televised basketball game was in 1940, shortly after Pralle’s time in college. However, if sports were broadcast on television during this time, undoubtedly many players today would watch his highlights and model their game after his. "Fabulous Fred," as many called him, dominated collegiate basketball in the late 30s.
Today, Jayhawk fans are spoiled with the iconic Allen Fieldhouse, but the Fieldhouse was not built until 1955. Pralle played his career at Kansas in Hoch Auditorium, also known as "Horrible Hoch" because opposing teams had trouble dealing with the tight area surrounding the court.
Also, in today's era, there are stats for everything and anything possible. In the 1930s, statistics were not maintained in such an official and formal manner.
According to Kansas Athletics records, Pralle averaged 8.8 points per game in 1937, and 10.7 points per game in 1938. Those marks led the team both seasons.
However, statistics are not needed to enforce how great of a player Pralle was. He was the definition of a winner and a workhorse.
His first year in 1936 was nothing short of spectacular. In the regular season, Kansas posted a strong winning percentage in the Big Six and was one win shy of representing the United States in the Olympic Games.
In Pralle’s second year he began to blossom into a young prodigy. He led the Jayhawks to a tie with Nebraska for the Big Six Conference Championship.
In 1938, his 10.7 points per game led the conference, letting the nation know how great of a player he was in his final year. He became Kansas’ first ever consensus All-American, before other Kansas players like Clyde Lovellette, Wilt Chamberlain, Danny Manning and many other greats.
Had the NCAA tournament begun in 1938 instead of one year later in 1939, many experts believe Kansas would have another national championship on its resume, according to the book "100 Things Kansas Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die." The Jayhawks posted an 18-2 overall record and won the Big Six Conference Championship by a landslide.
“I can tell you that Pralle was a one man team," Allen said in "Making Basketball." "We won the championship with a bunch of no-names and Pralle, who was an absolute great."
Altogether, Pralle led Kansas to three straight Big Six titles (1936, 1937 and 1938), and was a three-time All-Big Six selection. He finished his career with 541 total points.
After graduating from the University, Pralle played for the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) with the Phillips 66ers and won three national championships in his seven years with the team.
Pralle passed away in 1998.
His jersey was retired Jan. 15, 2003, and hangs high in the rafters of Allen Fieldhouse, representing the greatest players from Kansas.