Occasionally, a note from a reader comes along and alerts us to the passing of a former sports figure that we might have missed.
Such was the case earlier this month, when Hayden Abbott of Leawood died at age 77. His daughter, Nicole Spachman, contacted us.
Abbott played basketball at Kansas State in the 1950s for Tex Winter, leading the team in field-goal percentage in 1956. His 26 rebounds against Iowa State in 1958 match the second-most by a K-State player in a game.
Abbott, who attended Olathe High, ranked among the team’s scoring leaders in all three varsity seasons, the final one in 1958, when the Wildcats spent several weeks at the end of the regular season ranked first and advanced to the Final Four.
He left his mark as a player, but also in retirement. Abbott was an orthodontist in Prairie Village, but he spent his retirement as a sculptor. He became accomplished enough to create a bust of Winter that is on display in the Legends Room at Bramlage Coliseum.
Upon his retirement, Abbott took a class from internationally recognized sculptor Kwan Wu. Abbott’s first project was Winter. According to Larry Weigel, who played at Kansas State in the 1960s and serves as something of a program historian, Abbott was nervous about his first effort and wondered how Winter would react. But months before he died, Abbott told Weigel that it had all worked out.
“When I unveiled the sculpture for Tex at a special ceremony, he walked around with smile on his face, and I knew he was pleased,” Abbott told Weigel.