Six inducted to the WVU Sports Hall of Fame Saturday
Published: Sunday, October 9, 2011
Updated: Sunday, October 9, 2011 23:10
The West Virginia University Sports Hall of Fame added six new members to its ranks Saturday.
With the induction of Pat Itanyi Williams, Steve Newberry, Jim Heise, Warren Baker, Joseph Harrick and Canute Curtis, the WVU Sports Hall of Fame has grown to over 150 inductees since its inception in 1991.
The ceremony, which took place at the Caperton Indoor Practice Facility before kickoff of the Connecticut game, lasted about an hour in front of a large audience.
To be eligible for induction, 10 years must have passed since the completion of the athlete's career at West Virginia.
Candidates are required to have attended West Virginia for at least two years and must receive a minimum of three-fourths vote for induction from the selection committee.
Pat Itanyi Williams was the first of the 2011 class to be recognized at the ceremony. Williams, West Virginia's first ever female national track champion, is known as one of the most successful track athletes in school history.
The Ukehe, Nigeria, native transferred from Alabama A&M after her freshman year and found great success as a Mountaineer. Her 1995 long jump national championship performance of 22 feet and 1 inch still stands as a school record.
"I just want to say thank you to all the inductees. I'm so honored to be here," she said. "It came to me as a surprise when I got a phone call. Thank you so much (West Virginia Athletic Director Oliver Luck) for making that phone call."
"This is an honor I will cherish for the rest of my life."
Former defensive back Steve Newberry was the next inductee to be recognized.
The Peterstown, W.Va., native holds the all-time West Virginia career interceptions record with 20.
"As a football player, (Newberry) really was not a heck of a lot of fun to coach, because he did everything right," Nehlen said. "We didn't ever have to tell him to do anything twice, because he always remembered to do what he was supposed to do."
The fan favorite of the day proved to be "Wonderful" Warren Baker.
The White Sulphur Springs, W.Va., native had a number of friends and admirers in attendance, and his induction was the most spirited of the bunch.
Baker, who competed from 1973-1976 as a post player on the West Virginia basketball team, set a bevy of school records, some of which still stand today.
Over the span of his career, Baker scored 1,556 points and recorded 1,070 rebounds. The only other player to perform that feat is West Virginia legend Jerry West.
Baker is one of four players in school history to record over 1,000 rebounds, and he finished second in career double-doubles (54), also behind West (70).
"This is a great honor, and you know, nothing like this happens without great people around you," Baker said. "There are no greater people in the world than the people in the state of West Virginia."
Baker's nephew, Brandon Watkins, a 6-foot-10 junior from Atlanta, announced his commitment to the Mountaineers earlier in the week, following in his uncle's footsteps to Morgantown.
Both Watkins and West Virginia head coach Bob Huggins were in attendance.
One of West Virginia's most prolific defensive players in school history was the last inductee to be recognized. Curtis, who started 36 games and played between 1993 and 1996, left West Virginia with 34.5 sacks – still a school career record.
The linebacker out of Amityville, N.Y., was a finalist for the Dick Butkus and Bronko Nagurski awards in 1996, a year in which the Mountaineers finished 8-4 and had the No. 1-ranked total defense in the country.
Curtis, who currently serves as the defensive line coach at Towson, played six seasons in the NFL with the Cincinnati Bengals, who selected him in the sixth round of the 1997 NFL draft.
"It means so much to me, and I don't even know if I should be standing here – it should probably be some of the other guys I played with, but I'm thankful for it," Curtis said.
"I'm just honored and humbled about the whole situation."
Two inductees were recognized posthumously – Joseph Harrick amd Jim Heise
Harrick was a sixteen-time letter winner during his time at West Virginia competing in football, baseball, basketball and track.
Heise, whose career spanned four years beginning in 1953, set 10 West Virginia pitching records, including a streak of 58 career appearances – a record that still stands.
Heise's 283.1 career innings pitched still stands as the second-best in school history, and his 277 career strikeouts remain the third-best all-time mark.