Aug. 25, 2009
Cullowhee, N.C. - Western Carolina University today announced its 2009 Athletics Hall of Fame class which includes four former Catamount student-athletes with ties back as far as the 1950's, and one former coach. The five-person induction class, the 20th all-time at WCU, will be placed into the Athletics Hall of Fame during festivities held on the first weekend of November.
Dr. Bob Ray (Basketball, 1951-57; Assistant Basketball Coach, 1962-69), Steve Spradling (Football, 1967-70), Laura Echols Wellmon (Women's Basketball, 1999-2003), Johnny Wike (Assistant Football Coach, 1964-73, 1984-94; Men's Golf Coach 1969-73; 1984-2004) and Steve Yates (Football, 1971-74) to be inducted on Saturday, November 7 prior to the WCU-Elon football game.
Ray played basketball for Western Carolina from 1951 through 1957, including a two-year break for military service in the United States Army, before returning as an assistant coach for seven years from 1962-69. The Buncombe County native concluded his playing career ranked second on the school's career scoring chart with 1,187 points and continues to rank 22nd all-time. Ray averaged 13 points per game as a sophomore in 1952 before garnering All-North State Conference accolades in 1954 after averaging 16 points per game.
Ray returned to Cullowhee in 1962 to become the schools first-ever, full-time assistant basketball coach. He helped recruit and coach 17 all-conference players while on staff.
Following a distinguished academic career at WCU, Ray went on to earn graduate degrees from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill and a doctorate from the University of Georgia. After his coaching days, he served as the head of WCU's Department of Health, Physical Education and Recreation from 1982-93.
Spradling was a three-year starter at wide receiver for the Catamount football team from 1967-70, helping WCU compile a record of 19-8 while in Cullowhee. The Pompano Beach, Fla., native twice finished among the NAIA's top 12 pass receivers including ranking fourth with 46 catches in 1969 - helping him earn All-North Carolina Collegiate, NAIA and Associated Press All-America honorable mention plaudits - and 12th in 1970.
All told, Spradling hauled in 95 career passes for 2,023 yards in three seasons, which included 1,020 yards in '69, a mark that continues to rank sixth in the school's single-season record books. He also continues to hold the WCU record with seven-consecutive, 100-yard receiving performances.
Echols Wellmon, who played at WCU as Laura Echols, finished her career as one of the most honored players in Lady Catamount basketball history. The program's second-leading scorer all-time with 1,765 points, she also ranks seventh on the career rebounding charts with 790 boards in her four-year career. All told, Echols continues to rank on 10 career statistical charts including second on scoring average (15.8), rebounding average (7th, 7.1), field goals made (2nd, 718), field goals attempted (3rd, 1,421), field goal percentage (6th, 50.2%), free throws made (t-8th, 321, free throws attempted (10th, 438) and free throw percentage (9th, 71.4%).
Echols, a native of Conyers, Ga., remains as Western's only three-time, All-Southern Conference selection, garnering first-team plaudits in 2000, '01 and '02. She was also a three-time SoCon Player of the Week during her career and garnered Western Carolina's Female Student-Athlete of the Year Award in 2001-02. A two-time Verizon Academic All-District Team selection in 2001 and '02, Echols graduated from Western with honors, majoring in chemistry with a minor in psychology, and also earned her Master's degree from WCU in physical therapy.
Wike, a native of Mount Holly, N.C., spent over 30 years of his life in service to Western Carolina as an assistant football coach and the head men's and women's golf coach. Twenty-one of his 30-plus years were spent as an assistant football coach where he served under four different head coaches. Wike recruited six football All-Americans (Don Dalton, Steve Williams, Mark Ferguson, Jerry Gaines, Todd Harkins and Kerry Hayes) as well as Wayne Tolleson, who went on to be the Southern Conference Athlete of the Year as a dual sport star in football and baseball. He also played a vital role in recruiting Willie Williams, Tony Jones and David Patten - each of whom went on to play in the NFL and advance to the Super Bowl.
Also, Wike helped bring Keith Elliott to Western as the first African-American to receive a football scholarship at a predominately white school in the South. Elliott, who had a solid career, in turn was a mentor to Williams, who ended up playing in the NFL for the Baltimore Colts. In addition to Williams, Wike recruited and coached Don Turner, who went on to play in the NFL as well.
When Bob Waters arrived at Western in 1969 as the head football coach, he decided the athletics department needed to reinstate its dormant men's golf program. Wike was called up and held his dual role as assistant football coach and head golf coach from 1971-73, when he left Cullowhee to become head football coach at Carson-Newman in February of 1974. After his stint at Carson-Newman (1974-77), Wike returned to the area to become head coach at Cullowhee High School for six seasons.
In February of 1984, Wike returned to the football staff as defensive coordinator, reprising his role as Coach Waters' chief recruiter.
Wike, who retired from the WCU football staff in 1995 after 21 seasons as an assistant coach, also reprised his role as head golf coach in 1991. In 1995, Wike was asked to take on an additional responsibility by starting the women's golf program, relinquishing the duties as head women's golf coach in 1998. As the men's head coach, he recruited men's golf All-America selection, Matt Cook, to WCU, while also recording two runner-up finishes at the SoCon Championship.
Yates (1971-74) was a two-time Associated Press All-America selection for the Catamount football team, receiving second team accolades in 1972 and a first team nod in 1974. The Cabarrus County native was also one of three linebackers named to Western's 20th Century All-Time Football team compiled back in 2000.
Called "the most intense football player I've ever coached," by former WCU head coach Bob Waters during the 1974 season, Yates continues to rank 10th on the Catamounts' career tackles charts with 306 total hits, including 191 solo stops. He was the team's leading tackler on two WCU teams that finished in the Associated Press top 10 including Western's first NCAA playoff team in 1974. The Catamounts posted a 25-9-2 record with him in the lineup. His 25 quarterback sacks also rank him third on the career ledger.