Connors Announces Hall of Fame Banquet

 Connors State College has a long history of athletic achievements and to honor those athletes CSC Athletic Director and Cowboys head basketball coach Bill Muse has announced the first Connors State College Athletic Hall of Fame members.

The first class, which will be inducted on Oct. 6, at the Muskogee Country Club includes former men’s basketball players Lou Henson, Horatio Webster, women’s basketball players Kim Davis-Barton, Rhonda Smith, baseball players Clint Sodowsky, Jeff Turtle, softball players Cassie Tipton, Michel Taylor, women’s 1985 NJCAA National Championship basketball team and V. David Miller of Cross Communication, who is to be awarded the Outstanding Leadership Award.

“We are very excited about establishing our Athletic Hall of Fame with athletes who have excelled both on and off the athletic courts and playing fields at Connors State College,” said Muse. “This is an exciting time for Connors State and we are looking forward to our first induction in October.

 “The Connors State Athletic Hall of Fame is the highest athletic honor that can be bestowed on a Cowboy and Cowgirl that participated in athletics,’’ said Muse.

Bryndon Manzer, studio basketball analyst for ESPNU and former basketball player at Oklahoma State University, will emcee the banquet which will get under way at 5 p.m. with a reception. Followed by dinner at 6 p.m. Tickets for the event can be obtained from Muse at Connors State by calling (918) 463-6231.

Henson, a native of Okay, Okla. played at Connors State in 1951-53 before continuing his collegiate career at New Mexico State University, before beginning a coaching career that spanned 53 years.

He began his career at Las Cruces, N.M. High School in 1959, winning three state titles before moving to the college ranks in 1962 at Hardin-Simmons University, where he posted a 67-36 mark. After four seasons he took over at his alma mater, New Mexico State, taking the Aggies to the Final Four for the only time in the school’s history in 1970, losing to eventual national champion UCLA in the semifinals.

During his nine seasons at New Mexico State he led the Aggies to six NCAA Tournaments and four 20-win seasons, compiling a 173-71 record.

Henson then moved to the University of Illinois, leading the Illini to the Final Four in 1989, before retiring after 21 seasons in 1996. He compiled an overall record of 423-224 at Illinois.  He guided the Illini to 12 NCAA Tournament appearances and three NIT appearances.

However, New Mexico State reached out to their alum following a scandal that removed the head coach just before the season opened. Henson stayed until 2005 posting a 135-86 record, which included three more NCAA Tournament appearances and three trips to the NIT. He retired coaching for a second time because of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

Henson’s overall collegiate coaching record is 779-422 to rank No. 6 on the all-time list among coaches.

Webster, a Durant, Miss., native played at Connors State 1995 -96, is the Cowboys all-time leading scorer with 1,674 points. Webster was a NJCAA All-American and Player of the Year in 1996. Webster averaged 23.5 points his sophomore season in leading the Cowboys to the NJCAA National Tournament in Hutchinson, Kan.

Following his CSC career, he played at Mississippi State, where he was a two-time All-Southeastern Conference performer, where he  averaged 16.1 points his junior season and 17.0 points during his senior year.

Kim Davis-Barton played for the Cowgirls from1980-82, where she was a NJCAA All-American in 1982 in leading CSC to the Region II Championship and national tournament appearance. Davis-Barton was a two-time All-Bi-State Conference selection and voted the Region II Most Valuable Player in 1982. She was selected to play in the East-West junior college game in Kansas City, Mo.

Following graduation at CSC, Davis-Barton continued her basketball career at Oral Roberts University leading the Lady Titans to an undefeated regular season record during the 1982-83 seasons under head coach Debbie Yow. Davis-Barton averaged 17.3 points at ORU in leading the Lady Titans to the WNIT, losing in the semifinals.

Davis-Barton, who played only one season at ORU, before moving on to the University of Florida with Yow, led ORU in scoring and was an All-American selection. She was nominated by Yow for the Margaret Wade Trophy as the women’s player of the year.

She played one season at Florida where she was a letterman and graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Advertising from the College of Journalism and Communication. She is now the Director of Outreach of Alachua County Supervisor of Elections.

Smith played for the Cowgirls from 1983 and 1985, where she was a two-time NJCAA All-American and named to the Kodak All-America team in 1985. She was also a two-time All-Bi-State Conference and Region II selection and is the only Cowgirl to have her Jersey Number retired—35.

She is the Cowgirls all-time leading scorer with 1,512 points, averaging 20.7 points a game during her career. Smith averaged 24.7 points her sophomore season, No. 1 on the Cowgirls record list, along with single season rebound mark of 450 for a 12.5 average. She also tops the single season records for field goals (382), and field goal attempts (705).

Following graduation from Connors, Smith continued her playing career at Southwestern Oklahoma State University, where she averaged 16 points and 7 rebounds on the Lady Bulldogs team that won the 1987 NAIA National Championship with a 30-2 record. She was a first team NAIA All-American, All-District IX selection and Oklahoma Intercollegiate Conference Player of the Year.

Turtle, a member of the Cowboys baseball team in 1984 and 85, was signed by head coach Perry Keith on the tailgate of a pickup at Pryor, Okla., and went on to become the all-time career homerun (41) and runs-batted-in (190) record holder at Connors.

He was a two-time All-Region selection and second team NJCAA All-American in 1985. Following his graduation at Connors he signed with Kansas State, where he hit .337 and .397 with 21 home runs over two years, being named All-Big Eight in 1987. Turtle went on to play in the San Francisco Giants organization.

Sodowsky played for the Cowboys in 1991where he posted an 8-3 record with 63 strike outs and an earned run average of 2.34. He drafted in the ninth round of the Major League Baseball Draft by the Detroit Tigers.

The right-hander pitched for four major league teams, Detroit, Pittsburgh, Arizona and St. Louis, posting a career record of 8-14 with a 6.17 earned run average. He was a member of the inaugural Arizona Diamondbacks team that began play in the MLB in 1998.

Sodowsky retired from professional baseball in 2006 after playing 10 seasons in Triple-A.

Tipton played two seasons for the Cowgirls, 1995-96 and played an instrumental part in leading Connors State to the NJCAA National Tournament, finishing fifth. The outfielder was an NJCAA second team All-American, hitting .467 with 44 stolen bases, which stood for 16 years as the all-time record stolen base record. She was a Bi-State Conference and Region 2 first team selection.

Tipton went on to Oklahoma State, playing two seasons.

Taylor, who played for the Cowgirls in 1996 and 96, was the top pitcher for the ‘96 club which went on to the NJCAA National Tournament, posting a 36-6 record. The right-hander ranks No. 2 on the Cowgirls all-time single season records. She posted a 1.33 earned run average in ’96 en route to be named second team NJCAA All-American, while be a first team Bi-State and Region 2 first team selection.

Taylor then went on to Southwestern State University, playing just one season. She was the primary pitcher on the Lady Bulldogs first ever intercollegiate softball team. She led the team in starts with 30, posting nine wins with 101 strike outs.

The 1985 Cowgirls basketball team under the guidance of head coach Monte Madewell and assistant Bill Martin, won Connors State first-ever national championship at Senatobia, Miss., as a No. 8 seed at the national tournament, capturing a 73-71 victory over top-ranked Odessa Junior College in the championship game, to end the season with a 32-4 record.

Team members of the championship squad are Lisa McMillin, Traci Krumsiek, Carolyn Greuel, Michelle Gordon, Stacy Cunningham, Gail Cooks, Vicki Price, Jan Gilmore, Alicia Burke, Rhonda Smith, Tonya Godsby, Mannon Mahan, Wendy Sanders, DeDe McLemore, and LaDonna James.

Miller, CEO of Cross Telephone Company, has over 40 years of telecommunications experience and is a second generation in the business. He has been employed with Cross since 1963, working in all areas of the company, including repair, sales and management.

He has been very active in Muskogee as well as the communities that Cross Telephone Company serves. Miller serves on several boards such as the Foundation of Connors State College since its inception as a member of the board and also as chairman for several years.

Miller has also served as President of the Oklahoma Telephone Association, board member of the FiveStar Financial Corporation, Oklahoma State Insurance Board, Five Civilized Tribe Museum Foundation, chairman and board member of the Muskogee County Excise Board, and the Muskogee Country Club.

He has also worked closely with the Shriners in helping crippled and burned children, local ball teams and school related functions.

Tickets for the event can be obtained from Muse at Connors State by calling (918) 463-6231.