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Six University of Kentucky greats will be inducted into the UK Athletics Hall of Fame in late September. The 2013 class includes former UK student-athletes and coaches Oliver Barnett (football), Rex Chapman (men’s basketball), Leslie Nichols (women’s basketball), Orlando “Tubby” Smith (men’s basketball), Press Whelan (track/cross country) and Jesse Witten (men’s tennis). The class will be formally inducted during Hall of Fame Weekend, Sept. 27-28, in conjunction with the football game against the University of Florida.

 

Oliver Barnett (1986-89) capped his career as UK’s all-time quarterback sack leader. He earned third-team All-America and first team All-Southeastern Conference distinction as a senior. Barnett registered 271 career tackles and 26 quarterback take-downs as a defensive lineman. In addition to his tackling prowess, Barnett notched 12 forced fumbles and 43 career tackles for loss. As a junior, he was named to the National Strength Coaches Association All-America Team for his on-field performance and excellence in strength training. Furthermore, he was tabbed All-America honorable mention and second-team All-SEC as a junior. His 850-pound squat lift is still the record at UK. Following his collegiate career, Barnett suited up for the Blue-Gray and Senior Bowl all-star games before beginning a six-year stint in the NFL. His professional highlights include a trip to the 1994 Super Bowl as a member of the Buffalo Bills.

 

Rex Chapman (1987-88) is one of the most successful players in program history. In just two seasons in the Blue and White, he poured in 1,073 career points. He was a two-time All-SEC first team selection, while also garnering National Association of Basketball Coaches third-team All-America honors following his sophomore season. Chapman claimed Most Valuable Player accolades at the 1988 SEC Tournament, while also excelling in the classroom and being named to the SEC Academic Honor Roll. After concluding two successful seasons as a Wildcat, Chapman was selected eighth overall in the 1988 NBA draft by the Charlotte Hornets. He enjoyed a 12-year career in the NBA before becoming an NBA scout and executive.

 

Leslie Nichols (1983-86) remains one of UK’s greatest performers on the hardwood. She was a three-time All-SEC honoree by the league’s coaches en route to a career record of 72-41 and a pair of NCAA Tournament appearances during her tenure. She still ranks fourth all-time in UK’s career scoring chart with 1,797 career points good for an average of 18.2 per game. A four-year starter at forward, Nichols remains the only player in program history to log a triple-double. She totaled 18 points, 13 rebounds and 11 steals against Louisville in 1986. Furthermore, she ranks second all-time at UK in double-doubles (35), fourth in steals (278), fourth in career rebounds (877) and fifth in blocks (102).

 

Orlando “Tubby” Smith (1998-2007) coached the Wildcats to the program’s seventh national championship in his inaugural season. At the time, the 35 victories during the 1997-98 title run were tied for the second most in a season in program history. Smith was a three-time National Coach of the Year (1998, 2003, 2005), as well as a three-time SEC Coach of the Year selection. During his term, the Blue and White claimed five regular-season SEC championships and five SEC Tournament crowns. In NCAA Tournament play, Smith finished his career at UK with the sixth-best winning percentage (.690) among active coaches with a sterling 29-13 record, including 23-9 while with the Wildcats. Along with the national title, he guided UK to three additional Elite Eight appearances. In SEC Tournament action, he owned a 20-5 mark in winning five of the events. Smith coached UK to 22 or more victories in all 10 seasons at the helm.

 

Press Whelan (1957-61, 1967-73) starred as a national champion and All-American as an athlete before returning as UK’s head coach. As an athlete, Whelan (pronounced “WHAY-lan”) won a national title in the two-man, 10-mile relay. He set a record time while winning the 1957 SEC cross country championship and also captured the SEC track title twice in the two-mile run. His stellar performances led the Blue and White to SEC cross country championships in 1958 and 1959. Following his career, he served as an assistant coach in 1961. He was named the cross country/track and field head coach in 1967 and held the post until 1973. Whelan guided the cross country squad to an SEC title in 1970. His athletes won four individual national titles and 33 conference crowns. Whelan played a role in the integration of the SEC as he coached the league’s first African-American track athlete, Jim Green. Following his collegiate coaching career, he assisted the U.S. State Department by coaching foreign track teams in Turkey and Lebanon. Over the years, he has continued to run and competed in three Senior Olympics and one national senior indoor championship.

 

Jesse Witten (2002-05) capped his career as the most decorated men’s tennis player in program history. Upon the conclusion of his career, Witten was the only four-time men’s singles All-American in NCAA history. He earned five All-America honors during his career, four of which came as an individual and one as a doubles player. Witten was a four-time All-SEC selection and the 2005 SEC Player of the Year after claiming 43 singles victories. He advanced to two Grand Slam finals (2004 ITA National Indoor Singles Final and 2002 NCAA Singles Championship) as a Wildcat, and is still the only UK player in school history to achieve the feat. His career got off to a blazing start as he hauled in SEC Freshman of the Year accolades after helping the Wildcats to a 23-10 mark and eighth-place finish at the NCAA Championships in 2002. As a professional player, he qualified for several Grand Slams including the US and French Opens.

10 Responses to Rex Chapman, Tubby Smith head UK Athletics Hall of Fame inductees

  • Larry Pup says:

    Congrats to all, and my favorite “Oliver Barnett.” What a football player!

  • Karen Sprinkle says:

    Can’t argue with any of the picks. I saw Leslie Nichols play at UK and she was a great player nearly as good, IMO, as Valerie Still (which is saying something).

  • Dee W. says:

    Going ahead and posting this before the historical revisionist trolls show up:

    —————————————————————-
    Tubby Smith record at Kentucky

    1997 – 1998 – 35-4 overall, 14-2 SEC, SEC regular season champions, SEC tournament Champions, NCAA Champions, SEC Coach of the Year

    1998 – 1999 – 28-9 overall, 11-5 SEC, SEC tournament Champions, NCAA Elite 8

    1999 – 2000 – 23-10 overall, 12-4 SEC, SEC regular season Champions (tied), NCAA Round of 32

    2000 – 2001 – 24-10 overall, 12-4 SEC, SEC regular season Champions (tied), SEC tournament Champions, NCAA Sweet 16

    2001 – 2002 – 22-10 overall, 10-6 SEC, NCAA Sweet 16

    2002 – 2003 – 32-4 overall, 16-0 SEC, SEC regular season Champions, SEC tournament Champions, Granted #1 seed NCAA tournament, NCAA Elite Eight, SEC Coach of the Year, Naismith National Coach of the Year, Henry Iba Award for best national coach of the year, AP National Coach of the Year, first team since 1952 to go undefeated through SEC conference play through both the regular season and tournament (and first and only to do so with 16 regular season games), new record set for highest attendance at a game at Rupp Arena during this season, largest margin of victory (62 points) over an opponent in a game since 1952, first college coach since 1975 to sweep all NCAA recognized national coach of the year honors in the same season

    2003 – 2004 – 27-5 overall, 13-3 SEC, SEC Tournament Champions, Granted #1 overall seed NCAA tournament, NCAA round of 32

    2004 – 2005 – 28-6 overall, 14-2 SEC, #1 recruiting class, SEC regular season Champions, SEC tournament runner-up, NCAA Elite Eight, SEC Coach of the Year, Jim Phelan National Coach of the Year, AP National Coach of the Year

    2005 – 2006 – 22-13 overall, 9-7 SEC, NCAA round of 32

    2006 – 2007 – 22-12 overall, 9-7 SEC, NCAA round of 32
    ——————————————————————–

  • High Point Cat Fan says:

    Congratulations to all of the honorees, especially Leslie Nichols, who I’ve had the pleasure of knowing for a long time.

  • joe bailey says:

    Very thankful to see Tubby on the list. A clsss act at all times and the graduates attest to his leadership. The record speaks totally for accomplishments on the floor. The 16-0 SEC regular season and sweep of the SEC tournament will be hard for any program to ever repeat!!

  • Larry Pup says:

    Amen!!

  • UKFMLY says:

    Ditto ! !

  • TrueBlueJohn says:

    Oliver was one of the best defensive lineman ever to wear the Blue and White. It was fun watching him put so many QB’s on the run.

  • cats79 says:

    Tubby deserved to be elected!!!!

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