Fighting Illini Athletics Announce Hall of Fame Class of 2023

Class of 12 Star Athletes, Coaches and Administrators Highlight New Members

From University of Illinois Sports Information Office

Cover photo courtesy of Mark Jones Photography

May 8, 2023

CHAMPAIGN, IL – The University of Illinois Division of Intercollegiate Athletics named 12 new members to the UI Athletics Hall of Fame Class of 2023, including athletes and coaches from nine different teams. This is the seventh Hall of Fame class and includes two Olympic medalists, members of their sport’s national hall of fame, national champions, high professional draft picks, a Super Bowl champion and a national record holder for more than 70 years.

Kenny Battle was not known to have said "Thank You" on this dunk in 1989. Photo courtesy of Mark Jones Photography.

Football players in the star-studded class includes 2007 Big Ten football MVP Rashard Mendenhall, 1984 Rose Bowl quarterback and long-time pro Jack Trudeau, along with NCAA record-holder and College Football Hall of Famer Al Brosky.

From women’s sports, track and field All-American and Olympic bobsledder Aja Evans, softball’s career home run leader Nicole Evans Cazley and multiple-time All-America gymnast Melissa Fernandez are members of the class. They are joined by long-time volleyball coach Mike Hebert, who led Illinois to consecutive Final Four appearances in the NCAA Tournament and four Big Ten championships.

Kenny Battle becomes the third member of the Flyin’ Illini from 1989 in the Hall of Fame after scoring more than 1,000 points in his two seasons at Illinois. 1951 Big Ten MVP Don Sunderlage, who helped Illinois to NCAA Final Four appearances in 1949 and 1951, is the second basketball player recognized with this group.

Ken Holtzman, who enjoyed a long and successful Major League Baseball career that included two all-star game appearances, two no-hitters and three World Series titles, becomes the seventh Illini baseball player to be inducted into the Hall of Fame. The track and field program is represented by NCAA Champion middle distance star and Olympic Medalist George Kerr, who competed for British West Indies in 1960 and Jamaica in 1964.

The men’s golf program has its third inductee with current touring pro and former Big Ten and NCAA medalist Thomas Pieters.

The Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony is scheduled for Friday, Sept. 15, at State Farm Center. Returning members of the 2023 class will be honored at the home football game against Penn State on Sept. 16.

The Illinois Athletics Hall of Fame was formed in 2017 and now has 135 total members, with representatives from each current varsity sport. University of Illinois varsity athletics originated with baseball in 1879 and now has 21 teams competing at the NCAA Division I level.

Illinois Athletics Hall of Fame Class of 2023

Kenny Battle, Basketball                                           Ken Holtzman, Baseball

Al Brosky, Football                                                      George Kerr, Track & Field     

Aja Evans, Track & Field/Olympian                      Rashard Mendenhall, Football

Nicole Evans Cazley, Softball                                  Thomas Pieters, Golf

Melissa Fernandez, Gymnastics                             Don Sunderlage, Basketball   

Mike Hebert, Volleyball Coach                               Jack Trudeau, Football

Kenny Battle, Basketball, 1988-89

After two seasons at Illinois, where he established himself as the face of the Flyin’ Illini, Battle was named to the Illini All-Century Team in 2005. He averaged 16.1 points over his two seasons at Illinois, for a total of 1,112 points, after also topping 1,000 points in his two seasons at Northern Illinois and becoming one of the few players to top 1,000 points at two different schools. Battle was named Third-Team All-Big Ten in ’88 and Second-Team All-B1G in ’89 when he helped lead the Flyin’ Illini to the Final Four. He was a First-Round NBA Draft pick in ’89 by the Detroit Pistons and played in four seasons for the Phoenix Suns, Denver Nuggets, Boston Celtics and Golden State Warriors. He earned Honorable-Mention All-America honors at both NIU and Illinois and is a member of the NIU Sports Hall of Fame. In 1986, Battle was named the NAB National Dunker of the Year.

Al Brosky, Football, 1950-52

Al Brosky was a two-time All-Big Ten selection in 1951 and 1952, and still holds the NCAA career Interceptions records with 29, consecutive games with an interception (15) and interceptions per game (1.07). His remarkable interception streak stretched over three seasons and included a 16th game, the 1952 Rose Bowl, which gave him 30 total for his career. Brosky was selected to the College Football Hall of Fame in 1998. He was a consensus First-Team All-American in ’51 and Second-Team in ’52. Brosky helped lead the Illini to the 1951 Big Ten title and ’52 Rose Bowl, and is a member of the Illinois All-Century Team selected in 1990. He played one year of professional football with the Chicago Cardinals in 1954. Brosky died in 2010 at the age of 82.

Aja Evans, Track & Field / Olympian, 2008-10

Aja Evans was a five-time All-American and three-time Big Ten Champion in shot put and was the 2010 Big Ten Indoor and Outdoor Track & Field Athlete of the Championships. She was named All-Big Ten in 2008, 2009 and 2010. Following her track & field career, Evans competed for the U.S.A. at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, winning Bronze in the Two-Person Bobsled. She also won bronze in the two-woman bobsled at the 2017 World Championships. Evans remains as the Illini 20-pound weight throw record holder (56-0 ½) and outdoor shot put record holder at 55-10 ½. Evans finished fifth in shot put at the 2009 NCAA Indoor meet and 2009 NCAA Outdoor meet.

Nicole Evans Cazley, Softball, 2014-17

Nicole Evans was a Third-Team All-American and First-Team NFCA All-Region selection after her best season in 2017. Also, in 2017, she was named the Arthur Ashe Female Sports Scholar of the Year winner and was the Big Ten Medal of Honor recipient from Illinois. Evans was a First-Team All-Big Ten pick as a senior after earning Second-Team all-conference honors as a junior in 2016. Evans posted an Illini career best .675 slugging percentage, was third in career doubles (50), is the career-leader in home runs (53) and RBI (176), and second in total bases (419). Evans is second in single-season home runs (19) and RBI (58), both coming during her senior season. She was Academic All-Big Ten her final three seasons and was First-Team Academic All-American in 2017. Evans was also named an Easton/NFCA All-America Scholar Athlete in 2014, 2016 and 2017. She was the Illinois Female Athlete of the Year after her senior season.

Melissa Fernandez, Gymnastics, 2008-11

Melissa Fernandez was a four-time All-American, earning First-Team honors on the balance beam in 2009 and 2011, First-Team all-around in 2011 and Second-Team recognition on floor exercise in 2011. She tied for third in the All-Around at the 2011 NCAA Championships. Fernandez finished seventh on the balance beam at the 2009 NCAA championships and fifth on balance beam at the 2011 NCAA Championships. She was named First-Team All-Big Ten in 2010 and 2011. Fernandez earned Academic All-American honors in 2011 and was a four-time Scholastic All-American from 2008-11 while earning Academic All-Big Ten recognition three times from 2009-11. Fernandez was team MVP in 2010 and 2011.

Mike Hebert, Volleyball Coach, 1983-95

Mike Hebert compiled a record of 323-127 during his 13 seasons heading the Fighting Illini volleyball program leading Illinois to four Big Ten titles and two NCAA Final Four appearances. He began his coaching career as head coach at Pittsburgh, where he compiled a 128-53 record with the women’s team and 60-21 mark as the men’s coach. Hebert then coached the women’s team at New Mexico from 1980-82 before coming to Illinois in 1983. His 1988 squad was the first volleyball team east of the Mississippi River to be rated No. 1 in the nation. Hebert was named ABCA National Coach of the Year in 1985 and was president of that organization from 1985-88. He left Illinois in 1996 and took the head coaching position at Minnesota, where he won a Big Ten title and took the Gophers to three Final Fours. He was inducted into the AVCA Hall of Fame in 2006 and is considered as one of the “architects” of modern high-competitive professional volleyball. Hebert died in 2019 at the age of 75.

Ken Holtzman, Baseball, 1965

Ken Holtzman was named Third-Team All-Big Ten and team MVP as a sophomore in 1965 before enjoying a 15-year MLB career. In his lone season with the Illini, Holtzman led the team with six wins, 57.0 innings pitched, and 72 strikeouts. After his year at Illinois, he was drafted in the fourth round of the 1965 amateur draft by the Chicago Cubs. He later helped the Oakland A’s to three World Series titles and was a two-time All-Star. Holtzman pitched two no-hitters for the Cubs and was a 20-game winner for the A’s in 1973. He compiled a record of 174-150, with a career ERA of 3.49 and 1,601 strikeouts with the Cubs, A’s, Orioles and Yankees. He was inducted into both the Chicagoland Sports Hall of Fame and St. Louis Area Sports Hall of Fame.

George Kerr, Track & Field, 1958-60

George Kerr won back-to-back NCAA Championships in 1959 (880y) and 1960 (800m) and was a seven-time Big Ten champion in middle distances (3x 800m, 2x 400m and 2x 4x400m relay). He was the 1960 Olympic Bronze medalist in the 800m and 4x400m relay at the Rome Games while competing for British West Indies. In 1962, he became the first Jamaican athlete to have the national flag flown in recognition of winning a gold when he won double gold in the 400m and 800m at the Central American and Caribbean Games held in Kingston. At the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo, representing Jamaica, Kerr finished fourth both in the 800m and the 4x400m relay. Kerr broke the Olympic record for the 800m in the semifinals but lost the bronze by less than one-tenth of a second. He won gold in the 400m and 4x400m relay at the 1959 Pan American Games. Kerr was named the 1962 Jamaican Sportsman of the Year. He died in 2012 at the age of 74.

Rashard Mendenhall, Football, 2005-07

Rashard Mendenhall was the 2007 Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year and Silver Football Award winner after leading the Illini to a Rose Bowl appearance. He earned First-Team All-Big Ten, and Third-Team All-America recognition his junior season before starting a six-year NFL career after being drafted in the first round by the Pittsburgh Steelers. He helped the Steelers win Super Bowl XLIII. Mendenhall became an award-winning writer for HBO’s “Ballers” in his post-playing career. He rushed for 2,539 yards at Illinois and set the UI single-season record with 1,681 rushing yards in 2007 (now second) while earning team MVP honors. Mendenhall rushed for 4,236 yards to go with 95 receptions and 795 receiving yards during his NFL career before retiring at the age of 26.

Thomas Pieters, Golf, 2011-13

A native of Belgium, Pieters was the 2012 NCAA medalist and the 2013 Big Ten medalist. He helped lead the Illini to finish second in the nation in ’13 and to Big Ten Championships in 2011, 2012 and 2013. Pieters was a two-time All-American and was the first Belgian to ever compete in the Palmer Cup, where he represented the victorious European Team in 2012. He represented Belgium at the 2016 Rio Olympics, finishing fourth. Pieters has become one of the top professionals in the world, especially on the European Tour, and currently competes on the LIV Tour. He has seven professional wins, with six on the European Tour. Pieters tied for fourth at the ’17 Masters and was sixth at the ’18 PGA Championships. Pieters reached No. 23 in the World Rankings in 2017. He earned a spot on the 2016 Ryder Cup team for Europe, winning four Ryder Cup points, and was a member of the 2016 and 2018 World Cup teams. In 2017, Pieters tied for fourth in his first appearance at Augusta National for The Masters.

Don Sunderlage, Basketball ,1949-51

Don Sunderlage won the Chicago Tribune Silver Basketball in 1951 as the Big Ten Conference MVP. Sunderlage earned Second-Team and Third-Team All-American status, and First-Team All-Big Ten honors in 1951 after leading the Illini to the Big Ten Championship and NCAA Final Four. He also was the starting guard on the 1949 team that won the Big Ten title and advanced to Final Four. Illinois finished third in both trips to the Final Four with Sunderlage. He was a first-round NBA draft pick by the Milwaukee Hawks in 1951 but before he could start his NBA career, Sunderlage spent a required year in the military. From 1953-55, he played in the NBA as a member of the Milwaukee Hawks and Minneapolis Lakers, representing the Hawks at the 1954 NBA All-Star Game. Sunderlage and his wife, Janice, died in a tragic car accident in 1961 at the age of 31.

Jack Trudeau, Football, 1983-85

Jack Trudeau enjoyed a 10-year NFL career after three years as starting quarterback for the Illini from 1983-85. He earned Second-Team All-Big Ten honors in 1983 and ’84. Trudeau helped lead the Illini to the 1983 Big Ten Championship and Rose Bowl appearance with a perfect 9-0 conference record, the only time in Big Ten history that one team beat all other conference schools in the same season. Trudeau finished his UI career as the school’s all-time passing leader with 8,725 yards, pass completions with 797, completion percentage at 64.02 percent and with 55 touchdowns passes, where he is still tied for third. During his Illini career, he set the NCAA record with 215 consecutive passes without an interception. He was selected in the second round of the 1986 NFL Draft by the Indianapolis Colts. After eight seasons with the Colts, he also played one year with the New York Jets and one season with the Carolina Panthers. Trudeau finished his NFL career with 10,243 passing yards and 42 touchdowns.

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