Basketball Standout Joe Perry Pruett to HOF

Thursday, August 13, 2015
Joe Perry Pruett, Rector High School Hall of Fame inductee for 2015.(courtesy photo)

Joe Perry Pruett joins this year's elite group of athletes to be inducted Sept. 5 into the Rector High School Hall of Fame.

Pruett is known to many longtime fans for his abilities on the basketball court.

Pruett lettered in basketball at RHS from 1957 through 1959 and in baseball in 1958 and 1959.

In 1956 Joe Perry led the Blackcats in the Clay County Tournament, scoring 25 points against Knobel. The Blackcats won, 68-55, making the fourth county championship Rector won in a row.

During the 1957-58 school year Rector defeated Pocahontas, 65-52, during the district tournament and moved on to beat Monette with Pruett scoring 17 points, helping the Cats into a finals game against Manila. The Lions outplayed the Blackcats and Rector lost 70-53.

Rector qualified for the state tournament as a runnerup of district. The state tournament was played in Marianna and Rector opened against Green Forest, which was noted by the Clay County Democrat as an outstanding team from Northwest Arkansas. The Cats won 61-48, advancing to play Sheridan, which was the favored team. Sheridan won 74-48 and went on to win the tournament, but Rector put up a good fight. The CCD called the Cats "a history making team," and Pruett contributed 266 points in the season.

In the 1958 NEA tournament Rector won 72-58 against Monette and 51-50 against Manila. Pruett saved the close game by hitting two free throws to win, which qualified the Cats for the finals. In their final NEA game the Cats lost 58-56 despite going into two overtimes.

In 1959 the Rector Blackcats became known as the Cardiac Cats for winning close games at the buzzer. The Blackcats made the state tournament at Trumann. In game one Pruett scored 10 points, and the Cats beat DeQueen 51-38. In game two Pruett hit a jumper with 22 seconds left on the clock and another with six seconds to play for a total of 15 points as the Cats won 64-63. In game three Pruett hit nine points against Hoxie and won 56-53. In the final game against Ouachita the game went into overtime twice, once at 39-39 and 53-53. Rector finished the game with a shot at the buzzer, but one referee called the shot good and the other said it was no good. After consulting the timekeeper, the Cats finished the runnerup. Pruett made 15 points in the final game. Pruett made All-District and All-State.

"Joe was a very poised and confident player," coach Jess Bucy said. "He was a good leader and a very outstanding shooter with cool guard skills. He had a good habit of hitting late game shots to help win games."

Pruett received basketball and music scholarships to attend Hendrix College in Conway. Few people in Rector know Pruett played the trumpet. He attended Hendrix for one year before transferring to Arkansas State University, where he met his wife Jean Bailey of Leachville.

The couple celebrated 53 years of marriage this year. Pruett graduated in 1964 with a degree in business and moved to New Orleans, where he worked for Gillette in the sales department. After two years the couple moved to Charlotte, N.C., where Pruett joined a company now known as Unilever. He spent 13 years with the company and also lived in Atlanta and Memphis during that period.

In 1973 Pruett went to work for a family business based in San Antonio, which he retired from in 2004. Now he lives in Fair Oaks Ranch, Texas, a suburb of San Antonio. He has enjoyed many nice days on the golf course, but his wife became ill and he has spent most of his time tending to her over the past few years. The couples' son Burt lives nearby and the two spend time fishing whenever they can. Pruett also has five grandchildren he enjoys very much.

Pruett is joined by Paul Frets, the 1966 basketball team and the late L.B. "Bucket" Moseley in the induction class of 2015. The induction ceremony will be part of the annual Hall of Fame program at the Rector High School gym. For more information, persons may contact Owen Moseley at (870) 935-4039.

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