Former University of Arkansas men’s basketball All-American George Kok passed away on Saturday, Oct. 5, in Louisville at the age of 91. Kok was a four-year letterman from 1945-48, was a two-time All-American for the Razorbacks and three-time First-Team All-Southwest Conference selection. He earned second team The Sporting News All-America honors in 1946 and followed that up with third-team Associated Press honors in 1948.
Kok was the first Razorback to score 1,000 points in a career in 1947 and finished his four-year stint with the Razorbacks with 1,644 points, a total that continues to rank 11th on Arkansas’ all-time charts. In 94 games, Kok averaged 17.5 points per contest, the fifth best average among the 34 1,000-point scorers and was a career 69.8 percent free throw shooter.
Perhaps what Kok is best remembered for are his 22 points that he scored against Oregon in the NCAA Tournament Western Regional Final to lead the Razorbacks to a 79-76 victory and the school’s second Final Four.
Kok was honored by the University of Arkansas in 2011 as its Southeastern Conference Basketball Legend. Kok was recognized at halftime of the Razorbacks first game of the 2011 SEC Men’s Basketball Tournament in&Atlanta as well as with other legends during the tournament’s semifinal round.
Kok was one of the first true big men to dominate the game. He was the second overall pick in the 1948 Basketball Association of America Draft, but never played in the league that was the predecessor of today’s National Basketball Association. Kok played basketball while attending high school in Grand Rapids, Mich. before coming to Arkansas. Standing 6 feet, 11 inches tall, Kok dominated the game from his freshman days, averaging 18.7 points in his first season.
During that 1944-45 he led the team to the Final Four of the NCAA Tournament, losing to Oklahoma A & M (now Oklahoma State) and its dominate big man, Bob Kurland, 69-41 in the regional final. Kok went on to be the first Arkansas player to score over 1000 points in his career, finished with 1641 in 94 games, an average of 17.5 per contest. At the time the three-point shot did not exist. He still ranks No. 11 on the all-time Arkansas scoring list and his career total was not surpassed for thirty years. He was named The Sporting News 2nd Team all-American in 1945, Associated Press 3rd Team All American in 1948 and All-Southwest Conference in 1945, 1946, and 1948. He twice led the Southwest Conference in scoring. Kok was selected as the number two pick overall by the Indianapolis Jets in the 1948 BAA Draft, but never signed with the team nor played in the league. He did play one season with Bridgeport in the American Basketball League in the 1949-50, leading the team in scoring at 15 points per game and helping the team to the league finals, where they lost to Scranton.
Following his playing days, Kok became the first athletic director at Pleasure Ridge Park High School and spent 24 years (1958-1982) teaching at the school. The PRP “Little Gym” was dedicated and was named the George W. Kok Sr. Gymnasium in 2011. He has been honored by the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame (1988), the University of Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame (1994), and the Grand Rapids Sports Hall of Fame (2005), Sixth and Seventh Region Hall of fame, Pi K A Wall of Honor, Pleasure Ridge Park High School Hall of Fame.
He is preceded in death by his 1st wife of 51 years, Bernadette H. Kok; a sister, Bea Mersman; brothers, Henry Smeenk and Ralph Kok; and a daughter, Barbara Anne Kok. He is survived by his wife Lucile Kok, sons George W. Kok Jr. (Ellen) and Kevin O. Kok (Kathie); daughters, Mary Bernadette Kok and Elizabeth Hawk; grandsons, Adam, George III (Ashley), Andrew (Brandi), and Gerald; two great-grandsons and two great- granpaughters; stepsons, Warren (Janice), Paul, David (Deborah) Tom (Beverly) of Lexington, KY, Jim (Patricia), Pat (Elizabeth) and Mike Bruenderman, of New Albany; step-daughters, Diane Bupington (Don), of Boulder CO, Katherine Bruenderman of Cincinnati, OH, Nancy Skiles (Dallas), Carol Paisley, of Lexington, Martha Gray (John), of Frankfort, KY; Jim Ross, and Gail Skees.
The funeral Mass is 10 a.m. Wednesday at Holy Spirit Catholic Church, 3345 Lexington Road, with burial in Calvary Cemetery. Visitation is 2-8 p.m. Tuesday at Ratterman Brothers, 3711 Lexington Road. Expressions of sympathy may be made to the Cedar Lake Lodge, 7984 New LaGrange Road, Louisville, 40222
(Additional information on Kok courtesy of the The Courier-Journal and rattersman.com)