BY DEAN HOCKNEY
KOKOMO, Ind. – For the 10th time, the Howard County Sports Hall of Fame inducted a class of athletes and coaches who set the bar in their respective sports. With six state championships, five NCAA Division I scholarships, thousands of wins, at least 16 high school and eight college conference titles, one Rose Bowl victory, three state records and one memorable upset of Duke, the 2012 induction class shows once again the depth of athletics in Howard County.
When the names of George Phares, Chris Boneham, Tia Davis, Leon Troyer, Brian Hogan and Crissy Klein are mentioned, they will be remembered for the legacy’s the left as great Howard County athletes and coaches. They will be remembered as six of the now 60 members of Howard County’s finest. They will be remembered as members of the Howard County Sports Hall of Fame.
Phares enters the HCSHF as one of the most successful coaches in the history of Taylor High School and Howard County. He accumulated 537 wins as the Titan baseball mentor, including 11 conference titles. But one win in 2000 stands out among his 656 career victories – a 12-1 win over North Montgomery to claim the IHSAA Class 2A baseball state championship. The title still stands as the only state championship in school history.
“I want to thank the Hall of Fame committee for making this possible,” said Phares. “I just don’t know really what to think about it. I am being inducted with all of these great athletes, which I was not. It is just a tremendous honor and I am so proud.”
Phares returned to the Class 2A Final Four in 2002 and was inducted into the Indiana High School baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2004. In his 38 years of coaching baseball, he had 14 players named to the Indiana North-South All-Star Team, 25 honored as All-State players and more than 40 played at the college level. He received the ultimate accolade in 2006 when Taylor High School named its baseball diamond “Phares Field.”
“In 1976, I moved my family to Kokomo to begin my career at Taylor,” said Phares. “The Taylor community was a sweet spot for me to grow as a teacher and coach. I have always been a listener and have listened to everyone I have been involved with and that is a big part of my success.”
His coaching duties were not limited to baseball, as he coached the girls golf team for 24 seasons, taking three squads to the non-class state finals and garnering a third place finish in 1993. He also coached the girls basketball team for two seasons, earning a pair of conference titles and a 36-6 record. The Shelbyville High School graduate said a scout from the Los Angeles Dodgers helped form his coaching philosophy.
“Dale McReynolds impressed upon me to work hard to develop complete players and to trust my gut instincts to get players to play to the best of their abilities for the overall good of the team,” said Phares. “It is not always about the X’s and O’s.”
Phares retired from teaching and coaching at the high school level in 2007 and is currently an assistant coach at Indiana Wesleyan University in Marion. He and his wife Martha have three children.
Boneham is one of the most successful swimmers to ever don a Speedo in Howard County. While swimming for Haworth High School and Indiana University, he claimed five state championships, and four Big Ten titles while earning college All-American status in 1986.
“I would like to thank the Howard County Sports Hall of Fame for inducting me into this organization,” said Boneham. “I am so proud to represent a sport that’s not always talked about – swimming. We talk about basketball and some of the glory sports, but we don’t often talk about swimming. So I am just thankful for the honor and the opportunity to represent Haworth High School.”
While at Haworth, he helped lead the Huskies to the IHSAA boys swimming state title in 1982 – the school’s only team state championship. One year earlier, the Huskies were state runners-up. He was crowned the state’s best 50-yard freestyle swimmer in 1982 and 1983 with two of the top three times ever recorded at the annual state meet. And as a member of the 200-yard medley relay, he won two more state titles – this time in state record-breaking performances.
“I am so happy that Mal Cofield drove me to succeed,” said Boneham of the former Haworth swim coach and 2008 HCSHF inductee. “He said to me, ‘The day you need to worry about me is the day I stop yelling at you, because that means I don’t care.’ (At the time) I didn’t understand that his yelling was not in a negative way, and I am just honored that I had that opportunity.”
Boneham was recruited by legendary IU swim coach James “Doc” Counsilman, where he swam on a pair of Big Ten championship squads. He also claimed a pair of Big Ten titles as a member of the 400-yard freestyle team, and earned All-American status in 1986 after he finished 12th in the 50 free and 14th in the 400 free relay at the NCAA championship meet.
“The one thing that (Counsilman) said that sticks with me is, ‘If you swim for me at Indiana, I don’t want to just build athletes, I want to build men. I care more about building good men than I do about winning swim meets.’ Everyone says winning is number one, but Doc believed there is a long time in your life after athletics, and athletics can teach you a lot of good things,” said Boneham. “I was so lucky to have swum for two great coaches.”
Today, Boneham works in the pharmaceutical field in North Carolina where he lives with his wife, Lisa, and their four children.
Davis enters the Howard County Sports Hall of Fame after sensational basketball careers at Kokomo High School and the University of Toledo. While playing as a Lady Kat for 2004 HCSHF inductee Charlie Hall, Davis pulled down 633 career rebounds – a number that remains the second best in school history to the 888 of 2007 Hall of Fame inductee Debbie Benziger-Dudukovich. She scored 1,056 points while helping her squad win 81 games, two outright North Central Conference titles and a 1996 single-class Final Four appearance.
“I want to thank (president) Steve Geiselman and the Hall of Fame board for this opportunity,” said Davis. “Looking back at my high school days, I am reminded that it ‘takes a village to raise a child.’ Many have influenced me through this journey, including my mom who put her ambitions on hold so I would achieve mine.”
At Toledo, she joined her second 1,000 Point Club as she tallied 1,099 points as a three-year starter. Her senior season, she earned All-Mid-American Conference First Team honors after averaging 18.1 points per game (third in MAC) and 7.1 rebounds (eighth in MAC). Her sophomore season, the Lady Rockets won the MAC and earned an NCAA tournament bid. As a junior, her squad upset No. 5 Duke thanks in-part to a 20-point Davis performance.
“The game of basketball has blessed me with several opportunities and achievements,” said Davis. “But what I cherish most are the relationships I have formed. Since I was a kid and picked up a basketball, this game has always been a refuge and my safe haven. It has enriched my life immensely; in that, I am truly blessed and grateful.”
Davis is a member of the University of Toledo Athletics Hall of Fame and played three season of international professional basketball. She currently works in retail in Lafayette, Col., after earning a master’s degree from the University of Nebraska, where she served as a graduate assistant coach.
Troyer left Eastern High School in 1965 as one of its most successful athletes ever. Forty-seven years later, he still stands as one of the most successful Comet athletes in history after winning 11 letters in football, track and basketball. He played on the Eastern football team that set a school record with 37 consecutive wins and was named Indiana All-State twice. After the Comets lost its first game of Troyer’s freshman season in 1961, the coach put Troyer in the starting lineup and the program went 35-0 over the next four seasons. His senior year, he rushed for 1,182 yards in nine games. During his senior season, he was also a member of the 17-4 conference championship basketball team and broke the school record in the 100-yard dash (10.2 seconds).
“This is really a special honor; I had no idea how big of a deal the Howard County Sports Hall of Fame is,” said Troyer. “But Kokomo always does things up right, and I am just so grateful. I am almost speechless when I think about this honor. I grew up watching (2003 charter class Hall of Fame inductees) Jimmy Rayl and Goose Ligon. I have to give my father credit because he took me to Kokomo games to show me how the game was to be played. He was a man of few words but a lot of action, and I got to see some of the best players in the world at Kokomo, which helped me in Greentown.”
Troyer said one of his fondest memories was at the end of his junior football season and the team traveled to Jackson Central for a game between two undefeated teams. He said that the entire Greentown community drove early to the game with the bus, and by the time the Jackson Central fans arrived, the Comet faithful had filled not only all of the visitors bleachers but the home teams as well.
“That is a memory I will never forget, the way Greentown followed us during that winning streak,” recalled Troyer.
At Purdue, he played in 29 of 31 games (freshmen did not play during that period) with all three teams earning a Top 10 ranking in the final polls. The 1967 Boilermakers were co-Big Ten champions and he played in Purdue’s 14-13 Rose Bowl win over USC before 101,455 fans. Among his Purdue teammates were quarterbacks Bob Griese and Mike Phipps and All-American running back Leroy Keyes.
Troyer is married to Marleen and he currently teaches science at Lafayette Jefferson High School. They have two sons.
Hogan enters the Howard County Sports Hall of Fame as one of the smoothest shooting guards Kokomo High School has ever seen.
“It is just an honor to be here with these other inductees,” said Hogan. “It is great to come back to the community and share some memories and relationships. This is just a great honor.”
The 1988 Indiana All-Star shot 46-percent from the field and 87-percent from the free throw line during a senior season that saw the Wildkats reach the single-class Elite Eight. He holds modern era school records (since the merger of Kokomo and Haworth) in most field goals in a game (14 against Anderson in 1988) and steals in a game (eight against North Central in 1987). He had 32-points against Anderson in 1988 which is the fifth highest output in the last 27 Wildkat seasons. Hogan played basketball for 2006 Hall of Fame inductee Carl McNulty and 2009 inductee Basil Mawbey.
“Our community was really lucky to have a coach like Basil,” said Hogan. “Sometimes you don’t appreciate how good someone is when you are in the thick of it. I had three college coaches and a coach overseas and none of them could hold a lick to Coach Mawbey. At Florida, we won the SEC and we did absolutely no video viewing what-so-ever. They were old school and just put five athletes out there. But Coach Mawbey with his video sessions and scouting reports – he just taught us to be prepared and respectful young men. He taught me that hard work pays off.”
At the University of Florida, Hogan was graduated as the Gators all-time leading three-point shooter (120) and helped the team to the 1989 Southeastern Conference championship. In his senior season, the Gators reached the National Invitational Tournament Final Four in New York City, where he had an 11 point, five assist performance in a loss to Utah. Hogan was a team captain his senior season as Florida finished as SEC runners-up.
“In our current age of email and text, I still remember a letter that (former KHS assistant coach) Charlie Hall send me when I was at Florida,” said Hogan. “I was a sophomore and Charlie doesn’t know what a great impact he had on me with that letter. He encouraged me and told me to keep doing things the right way. It was just a great influence.”
Hogan currently is an attorney in Florida, where he lives with his childhood sweetheart-turned-wife Kristi and their four children.
Klein enters the Howard County Sports Hall of Fame as the best female golfer in the history of the county. At Northwestern High School, she helped the Lady Tigers qualify for a pair of IHSAA girls golf state finals while also qualifying as an individual twice.
“This is a great honor,” said Klein. “I would like to thank the selection committee for including me in this great group of legends. I never dreamed I would be in this Hall of Fame. Golf has pretty much been my life, and I remember the first time I played in a junior nine hole league at the Kokomo Country Club. I was so excited to show my dad my scorecard because he taught us about things more important than golf; being honest, being a good sport, about never giving up and always trying my hardest. I knew he would be proud because I counted every one of my 219 strokes. Luckily, I have improved since then.”
At the University of Notre Dame, she ranks eighth all-time for the number of times she registered the low score for the Irish in an invitational tournament (eight). She was the team co-captain her senior season and finished as the squads number two golfer. She recorded low medalist honors in 1992 at the Bradley University Invitational and finished among the top eight at several tournaments. She continued her golf career as a Class A PGA Professional and played in the 1995 U.S. Women’s Open golf championship. She also set the women’s course record with a 7-under par 65 at the Ballentyne Country Club in Charlotte, N.C.
“Someone that had a great impact on my career was Jim Gallagher, Sr.,” recalled Klein. “I was working with him when I had one of the highlights of my career – qualifying for the U.S. Open. I remember taking a lesson from him and he gave me some good advice, ‘Every player hits a bad shot, but a good player never hits two bad shots in a row.’ I used that advice many times, including in that tournament. What a thrill to play in the U.S. Open.”
Klein currently lives in Westfield with her three children. After a successful career as a golf professional instructor, she is currently studying to earn a degree in elementary education.