Nov. 22, 2011
By Tom Weber
CARBONDALE, Ill. - The Southern Illinois University Department of Athletics announced on Tuesday its 2012 Saluki Hall of Fame Class. The distinguished, six-person class, which will be formally inducted in a ceremony on Friday, Feb. 3, 2012, is headlined by first-ballot inductee Joel Sambursky (Football), and also includes Sandy Blaha (Women's Golf), John Garrett (Men's Basketball), Nate Hawthorne (Men's Basketball), Gary Hunter (Track & Field) and Kristie Kemner (Volleyball).
Sambursky quarterbacked the Salukis from 2002 to 2005 and holds school records for career passing yards (7,894), pass completions (559), pass attempts (933), touchdown passes (65), rushing yards by a quarterback (1,100), career starts by a quarterback (49) and victories by a starting quarterback (33).
His greatest accomplishment, however, was leading Southern to three Gateway Conference championships and three-straight NCAA I-AA Playoff appearances. He was a two-time finalist for the Walter Payton Award, which goes to the division's top player, finishing eighth in 2004 and ninth in 2005. Sambursky was a three-time all-conference performer, including league MVP in 2004. He currently resides in Carbondale and works as a financial advisor at Forbes Financial Group.
Blaha qualified for the National Intercollegiate Golf Championship all four years while at Southern Illinois (1970-74) and ranked 25th in the nation during her senior year.
Her career included numerous state tournament titles and team victories over opponents such as Illinois State, Indiana State and Georgia, where Blaha set a course record for women. She also participated in basketball, field hockey, volleyball and softball at SIU and later returned to coach the women's golf team from 1975-1981. Blaha currently lives in Corpus Christi, Texas, and works as the compensation and benefits manager for C & J Energy Services.
Garrett, a 5-foot-10, 150-pound point guard, who was nicknamed "Mouse," scored 995 points during his three-year career from 1969-72. He played in just 72 games, because in his era, freshmen were not eligible to play on the varsity team.
A prolific free-throw shooter, Garrett made 130-of-146 free throws his senior year and still ranks fifth in career free-throw shooting percentage at 85 percent. He helped lead the Salukis to the Midwestern Conference title in 1971 and earned First-Team All-Conference honors in 1972. Assists and steals were not tracked at that time, and those who saw him play suggest he would have been among the all-time leaders at Southern in those categories. Garrett is retired and lives in Patoka, Ill.
Hawthorne played guard from 1970-73 and scored 1,001 points in his three-year SIU career. Along with Garrett, he helped Southern capture a conference championship in 1971, and then led the team in scoring with 17.3 points in 1973. He was also an outstanding rebounder, averaging 7.0 rebounds per game in three seasons.
After his stellar Saluki career, Hawthorne played three years and 162 games in the NBA. He played one year with the Los Angeles Lakers and two with the Phoenix Suns. Of the nine former Salukis grads to play in the NBA, Hawthorne was previously the only one not inducted into the Saluki Hall of Fame. A native of Mt. Vernon, Hawthorne passed away in 2005.
Hunter was a key member of SIU's nationally ranked track & field teams from 1974 to 1977. He was a three-time All-American in the pole vault, claiming the honor in the outdoor event in 1975 and 1977, and taking indoor laurels in 1977. He was also a five-time Missouri Valley Conference champion in the pole vault.
On the school's all-time records list, Hunter still ranks No. 4 in the indoor pole vault with a 17'-1'' mark and No. 5 outdoors at 17'-1 1/4''. As a team, the Salukis finished in the top 15 at the NCAA Championships twice during Hunter's career, taking 11th place in 1975 and 15th in 1976. Hunter currently lives in Fort Wayne, Ind., and is a regional sales manager for Baxter Healthcare International.
Kemner, an outside hitter on the volleyball team from 1999 to 2002, rewrote the school's record book. She still ranks first in career kills (1,660), career attempts (4,359), average career attempts per set (10.40), kills in a season (573), kills per set in a season (4.74), attempts in a season (1,450) and attempts per set in a season (11.98).
Among her accolades were First-Team All-Conference honors in 2001 and 2002, and Second-Team honors in 2000. She was also a three-time member of the MVC Scholar-Athlete First Team and earned CoSIDA Academic All-District V laurels her senior year. The Salukis were 23-10 in 2002 and finished third in the conference standings. Kemner resides in Quincy, Ill. and is a pediatric speech language pathologist for Quincy Medical Group.