Four Tabbed for Whit Athletics Hall of Fame
WALLA WALLA, Wash. -- One of the most respected and well liked coaches in the history of Whitman College athletics, along with a trio of gifted athletes who excelled in basketball and baseball during their Missionary playing days, will be inducted into the Whitman Athletics Hall of Fame this Saturday.
Induction ceremonies, slated for 7 p.m. in the Sherwood Center Hall of Fame Foyer, will honor:
John Wilcox, who came to Whitman in 1967 as an assistant football coach, coached men's basketball during the 1970s, served as athletic director for five years during the 1980s, and then spent his final 15 years at the helm of the women's basketball team. He retired in the spring of 1996 as an associate professor of education.
Wilcox will be introduced at Saturday's ceremony by Michelle Ferenz, now in her 11th season as coach of the Whitman women's basketball team.
Del Klicker, '56, who starred in both baseball and basketball, earning all-conference honors in both sports. Klicker joins his brother, the late Dave Klicker, in Whitman's Hall of Fame.
Klicker will be introduced Saturday by longtime friend Bob Becker '58, who was a teammate at both Whitman and Walla Walla High School, and who was inducted into Whitman's Hall of Fame in 2008.
Bruce Bennett, '70, a scoring whiz who collected more than 1,500 points and 800 rebounds in just three basketball seasons before giving up his senior year to pursue a 3-2 engineering program at Columbia.
Bennett will be introduced at the ceremony by fifth-year Whitman men's basketball coach Eric Bridgeland, who led the Missionaries last year to their best season in more than two decades.
Dave Mastin, '88, one of only seven basketball players in the long history of the Northwest Conference (80-plus years) to earn All-NWC First-Team honors in four consecutive seasons. Mastin joins his father, the late Jim Mastin, in the Whitman Hall of Fame.
Mastin will be introduced by his former academic adviser at Whitman, Timothy Kaufman-Osborn, who now serves the college as its Provost and Dean of the Faculty.
All four members of the Class of 2011 are expected to attend Saturday's ceremonies and reception. Wilcox, Klicker and Mastin continue to make their homes in the local area while Bennett lives in the Seattle area (scroll down this webpage to see profiles on all four inductees).
Saturday's ceremonies will also include a special presentation to the family members of the late Pete Jonas '38, a standout baseball pitcher who was inducted in the Whitman Athletics Hall of Fame last year. Whitman baseball coach Jared Holowaty will make the presentation to the Jonas family, who was not present at last year's induction ceremony.
John Wilcox: Football, Basketball Coach
John Wilcox, a rookie defensive end for the Philadelphia Eagles during their 1960 NFL championship season, served as an assistant football coach at Whitman from 1967 through 1975. He was part of the coaching staff that guided Whitman to a share of the 1969 NWC championship.
Wilcox left the football staff a few years before Whitman discontinued its gridiron program in 1977, opting to concentrate on his role as head coach of the men's basketball team.
He coached men's basketball throughout the 1970s, and his teams averaged 14 wins a season from 1972 through 1975. His best season was 1975-76, when the Missionaries posted an 18-7 season record while missing an NWC title by just one game.
Wilcox turned his attention to the women's basketball during the 1980s, revitalizing that program before winning a conference title in 1987-88. In the eight seasons that followed, his teams advanced to post-season play five times and narrowly missed a sixth trip to the playoffs. He twice earned conference coach-of-the-year honors.
With 178 victories to his credit, Wilcox remains the all-time winningest coach in the history of Whitman women's basketball.
Marcella Weissback Rietz '95, a women’s basketball team captain, says Wilcox served as a father figure as well as a coach.
|Wilcox with basketball players Cathy Crosslin (left) and
Susan Hubbard Sakimoto.
"He treated us like we were his daughters," she said. "He put us first and always had our best interests in mind.
"It was comforting to know that he cared for us as individuals first and players second. He was always there for us personally, academically and athletically."
Susan Hubbard Sakimoto '89 also played basketball for Wilcox and remembers him in the same way.
"John was a great basketball coach, I learned a lot of basketball from him, and we won a conference championship while I was there," Sakimoto says. "But it was just as important to John that we succeeded as students and people as well as athletes. He was our coach for living, not just for basketball."
Wilcox, a graduate of Vale High School in eastern Oregon, played collegiate football at Boise State and the University of Oregon. As a 6-foot-5, undersized 215-pound defensive end, he was drafted by Philadelphia and played one season for the Eagles.
|Philadelphia Eagle John Wilcox
Rather than return to Philadelphia for a second season, Wilcox opted to launch his career as a high school teacher and coach in 1961. Salaries for pro football players in the early 1960s were miniscule compared to what players now earn.
He coached and taught at high schools in Portland and Boise for a handful of years before arriving at Whitman in 1967. He also completed his master's degree in education at Portland State University.
Wilcox says he attempted to pattern his coaching style after the principles he admired in his coaches in high school and college.
"I enjoyed playing for my coaches, and they were very supportive as I went through that process of growing up," he said at the time of his retirement.
"They were not only good coaches, they were good people. I knew they cared about me not just as a football player, but as a person.
"Of course we want our teams to play up to their potential, and we certainly enjoy seeing them play well, but I also enjoyed a great deal of satisfaction when players turned it around academically, or when they developed emotionally, socially or physically.
"It was very rewarding to see players make positive changes in their lives from the time they first stepped on the courts until the time they graduated."
Wilcox says it was a privilege to be part of a Whitman athletics program that helped hundreds of students complete a well-rounded education, and pass through one final stage of development. "You think of it as that stage between being girls and women and being boys and men."
Wilcox and his wife Remy (who coached debate teams at Whitman for many years), continue to make their home in the rural Milton-Freewater area. Their two sons, Michael and Marcus (both Whitman graduates), and daughter Karen Carman live in Walla Walla.
Del Klicker: All-NWC Baseball, Basketball
He played in an era when it wasn't unusual to see athletes compete in more than one sport, but Del Klicker '56 was one of the relatively few Missionary competitors who had the talent to earn All-Northwest Conference First-Team honors in two sports.
After a standout prep career at Walla Walla High School, Klicker made his first real mark at Whitman on the baseball diamond.
As a freshman second baseman in the spring of 1953, he sparked the Missionaries at the plate, leading the team in hitting with a .350 batting average and 22 runs scored.
Whitman's 1954 baseball media guide noted that Klicker, as a freshman, had alternated between the lead-off and clean-up spots in the batting order, quickly establishing himself as one of the top performers for coach Joe Beidler. The pressbook also characterized him as "one of the outstanding players" players in the conference.
|Klicker as rebounding guard
Klicker hit .306 as a sophomore while leading the team with 14 stolen bases in 16 games.
He hit well over .300 again as a junior, after opening the season with a home run against a team from the Walla Walla State Penitentiary -- a team the school newspaper called the "rock crushers " -- and spearheading a three-game sweep of College of Idaho with eight hits (including two home runs and a triple) in 14 at-bats.
While Klicker may have caught the rest of the conference by surprise as a freshman, that wasn't case during his last three seasons. He made the All-NWC First Team as a sophomore second baseman and as a shortstop during his junior and senior seasons.
Beidler, who enjoyed a good deal of success as the Missionary baseball coach, used a single word -- dynamite -- to describe Klicker's impact on the baseball field. "Del consistently got the clutch hits and made the big run-saving plays in the field," Beidler said.
"His speed and quickness allowed him to be a leader ... and his leadership qualities along with his work ethic enabled him to perform with distinction. He was a very big player wrapped in a small package."
Despite his relative lack of size as a 5-foot-6, 138-pound guard, Klicker played a major role on the Missionary basketball teams in his last two years at Whitman.
He was voted to the All-NWC First Team as a senior, one year after basketball coaches named him to the all-conference second team.
Klicker sparked Whitman to a victory over Linfield in February of 1955, prompting the school newspaper to report that he had "played much better than Linfield would have preferred as he stole the ball from the opposition's hands, intercepted passes and took more than a 5-foot-6 guard's share of rebounds off the boards."
The 1956 Whitman Wailatpu had this to say about Klicker's exploits on the basketball floor:
"Many a time the Missionaries led by their two fine guards, Del Klicker and Bobby Becker, started systematic scoring sprees that completely changed the appearance of the contest."
|Klicker at bat
In February of 1956, the Walla Walla Union-Bulletin newspaper reported: "The Whitman Missionaries -- with little Del Klicker in the role of big poison -- upset Lewis & Clark, 63-60 . . . Klicker led all scorers with 26 points." He added 16 points in the next night's game and scored 22 points two nights later.
Klicker finished his senior season as Whitman's leading scorer, averaging 16.4 points and 5.0 rebounds per game.
Klicker, who was raised in Walla Walla, returned home after a two years of active duty in the Navy Reserve. He raised a family and involved himself in various Klicker family enterprises and remains active.
His brother, the late Dave Klicker '58, was inducted into the Whitman Athletics Hall of Fame in 2009.
Dave Klicker starred in track & field, winning an NAIA national title in the 400-meter hurdles in 1957.
Bruce Bennett: Three-Year Scoring Whiz
The ultimate goal, when it comes to the game of basketball, is putting the ball in the hoop, and few players in the history of Whitman basketball did it any better than Bruce Bennett '70.
As good as he was on the basketball floor, Bennett never lost sight of the fact that his ultimate goal at Whitman was to get the best possible education.
That allegiance to the true spirit of college athletics is probably the only reason Bennett doesn't enter the Whitman's Athletics Hall of Fame as its all-time leading scorer in basketball.
While his mother taught in the tiny Umapine School District, Bennett enjoyed a stellar prep career at McLoughlin Union High School in nearby Milton-Freewater, Ore. The 6-foot-5 center then made the quick jump to Whitman where he continued to score baskets in bunches throughout his first three seasons.
|Bennett scoring two of many
Bennett averaged 516 point per seasons over that time span, amassing a total of 1,549 points. He needed just 471 points as a a senior to become the all-time career scoring at Whitman, passing the record (2,019 points) established in 1968 by Don Woodworth.
What most basketball fans didn't know at the time, however, was that Bennett's education plans left no room for a senior season.
He left Whitman after his junior year, transferring to New York's Columbia University to pursue a cooperative 3-2 engineering program that still exists between the two schools.
Playing basketball at Whitman was " a tremendous amount of fun," he remembers, "but I was in college to get an education and begin a career."
After completing the 3-2 program, Bennett stayed at Columbia to complete his master's degree in engineering mechanics.
He earned his doctoral degree in applied mechanics at Stanford University, worked for an engineering consulting firm in San Francisco for 10 years, and then taught graduate-level engineering classes at Cal Poly from 1985 through 1988.
Bennett has lived in the Seattle area for the past two-plus decades, working as a structural engineer analyst for Boeing.
Bennett earned all-conference honorable mention honors in his first Whitman season (1966-67) while averaging 18.3 points and 11.1 rebounds.
|Bennett hook shot
He led the league in rebounding during that rookie season and finished third in scoring. His 475 total points was a single-season record for a Whitman freshman.
Bennett scored 29 points in the final game of his sophomore season to reach the 1,000-point plateau in his first two years on the hardwood. He was named to the All-NWC First Team that season while averaging 20.2 points and 11.2 rebounds per game. He was the second-leading scorer in the conference, trailing only Woodworth, his teammate.
As a junior in 1968-69, Bennett topped the NWC in scoring at 22 points per game. He also averaged double-digit rebounds for a third straight season, and again made the All-NWC First Team.
He tallied 30 or more points five times as a junior, hitting a career-high 38 in one game. One of his many career highlights came in December of 1968 when he combined 34 points with 18 rebounds to spark Whitman's first-ever victory in its new Sherwood Center.
Bennett finished his three-year career with career totals of 1,549 points and 836 rebounds. Four decades after his graduation, he still ranks sixth in career scoring at Whitman based on his three superlative seasons.
Dave Mastin: Four-Time All-NWC First Team
Dave Mastin '88, a 6-foot-4 forward with the talent and versatility to play any position on the basketball floor, set a standard of excellence that few players have matched in the long history of the Northwest Conference.
Mastin, in fact, is one of just seven players in the conference who earned All-NWC First-Team honors in each of his four seasons.
Following an all-state prep career at Walla Walla High School, Mastin turned down the chance to play NCAA Division I basketball to come to Whitman to play for coach Jim Mastin, his father.
Mastin wasted no time carving his own conference niche, averaging 14.4 points and 7.4 rebounds as a freshman while becoming the only non-senior voted by coaches to the All-NWC First Team.
Whitman, which had finished in a last-place tie the year before, rolled to a 16-10 season record that included a 7-5 mark and third-place finish in the conference.
|Mastin: Heading for hoop
While his freshman numbers were impressive, Mastin hit his stride as a sophomore when he averaged 15.8 points and 11.0 rebounds per game. He grabbed as many as 21 rebounds in a game while leading the conference and NAIA District I in rebounding. He finished 16th in the NAIA national rebounding ranks.
His sophomore campaign included more than a dozen double-doubles (10 or more points and rebounds in the same game). One such game was a 31-point, 13-rebound effort against Pacific Lutheran.
As a junior, Mastin averaged 15.8 points and 9.0 rebounds as Whitman enjoyed one of its best-ever seasons. The Missionaries posted a 21-8 mark and advanced to the second round of the NAIA district playoffs before falling just short of a berth at the NAIA national championship tournament.
He capped that season with one of his most notable honors, earning a sport on the Little All-Northwest Team. Players from all NCAA Division II and NAIA schools in the Northwest were eligible for that honor.
Despite abdominal surgery that hampered his final season, Mastin averaged 15 points and 9.9 rebounds, leading the conference in rebounding for a third straight year.
He and teammate Brian Richard led the Missionaries to a share of the NWC title, although the team fell a few percentage points short of advancing again to the NAIA district playoffs.
Both Richard and Mastin were also voted to the NAIA's All-District team -- an honor bestowed on Mastin for a third consecutive season.
|Mastin: Heads-up player
"Dave's will to win carried our team," Richard said. "We won a lot of games that Dave simply wouldn't let us lose ... He was our inspiration."
Eric Proscher, a former teammate who played professionally in Europe following graduation, remembers Mastin as the "best rebounder I ever played with or against. His work ethic was unmatched. He never stopped. He earned every thing he got."
Mastin still ranks fifth on Whitman's career scoring list with 1,605 points and second on the all-time rebounding list with 976, an average of 9.3 rebounds over 105 career games.
His career numbers also include 309 assists and 156 steals.
After Whitman, Mastin earned his law degree at Gonzaga University, practiced law and served multiple terms in the Washington State House of Representatives. He is now a financial consultant and lives with his family in Walla Walla.
Mastin joins his father, who passed away in 2005, in the Whitman Athletics Hall of Fame.
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CONTACT: Dave Holden
Sports Information Director
Whitman College, Walla Walla, Wash.
509 527-5902; email@example.com