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2023 NJCAA Foundation Hall of Fame inductees

Charlotte, NC – The NJCAA has announced the third annual NJCAA Foundation Hall of Fame class, to be recognized at the 2023 NJCAA Foundation Awards event, slated for Thursday, June 8, 2023, at 6:30 PM ET at the Hilton Charlotte University Place in Charlotte, NC. Designed to tell the story of the NJCAA, the NJCAA Hall of Fame seeks to honor individuals who have paved the way for opportunities at the two-year level – athletically and professionally, and those who have been pioneers throughout the history of the association. Inductees to the Hall of Fame include administrators, coaches, student-athletes, and meritorious contributors and influencers.

In addition to the NJCAA Hall of Fame class recipients, the event will honor the Champion Award winners, the Difference Maker Award winner, and the association's three annual individual student-athlete awards – the Betty Jo Graber Female Student-Athlete of the Year, the David Rowlands Male Student-Athlete of the Year, and the Lea Plarski Award, honoring an NJCAA student-athlete who exemplifies sportsmanship, leadership, community service, academic excellence, and athletic ability. The Champion Award honors a member or former member of the NJCAA community who exemplifies resilience, excellence, and passion.  The Difference Maker Award honors a supporter of the NJCAA and the NJCAA Foundation in its endeavors. Recipients of these annual awards will be in attendance to be recognized and receive their awards. 

Tickets for the event are $125 for attendees and registration is required to attend.  To register and to learn more regarding the NJCAA Foundation Awards event, visit: HERE.

To view a full list of inductees, visit: NJCAA Foundation Hall of Fame

Nolan Richardson

Nolan Richardson is a member of the College Basketball Hall of Fame and the Basketball Hall of Fame, being inducted as part of the 2008 and 2014 classes respectively. Born and raised in El Paso, Texas, Richardson played basketball collegiately at NJCAA member Eastern Arizona Junior College for one season before transferring to Texas Western College. After Western, he retired from playing and decided to leave his mark through coaching.

Richardson began his coaching career in 1968 at Bowie High School in El Paso, Texas. He coached there for ten years before returning to the two-year college level at Western Texas Junior College in 1977. At Western Texas, he coached for three seasons with a cumulative record of 101-13.  In his third and final season in Snyder, Richardson led the Westerners to claim the 1980 NJCAA Men's Basketball Championship with a 37-0 record.  Western Texas became just the third team to finish the season with an undefeated record in the history of NJCAA basketball.  

Moving on to the University of Tulsa in 1981, Richardson became the first African American coach to win the National Invitational Tournament (NIT) championship. Staying at Tulsa for five years, Richardson is credited with bringing the Tulsa program to national prominence, and with a winning percentage of .763, became the first coach in NCAA history to win 50 games in his first two seasons. 

Leaving Tulsa and moving on to the University of Arkansas, Richardson led the team to 15 post-season appearances in 17 seasons. Finding great success at Arkansas, he led the Razorbacks to three Final Fours and, in 1994, won the National Championship. Richardson's career garnered numerous accolades including NABC Coach of the Year, Naismith College Coach of the Year, 2x MVC Coach of the Year, 3x SWC Coach of the Year, SEC Coach of the Year, and the USBWA Most Courageous Award. 

Brittney Reese

Born in Inglewood, CA, Reese moved to Mississippi to attend NJCAA member college Mississippi Gulf Coast after winning a high school state championship in the long jump and triple jump. While in Perkinston, Reese continued her athletic career as a member of the women's basketball team.  Following her time as a Bulldog, Reese found her way back to the pit while attending the University of Mississippi.

Reese excelled when finding the long jump as her specialized event.  Dedication to the long jump led Reese to earn back-to-back NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championship titles in 2007 and 2008. In 2008, Reese qualified for her first Olympic Games in Beijing. During the 2009 World Championship in Berlin, Germany, Reese won her first international event with a mark of 23ft 3 ½ in (7.10 m) in the long jump. Reese went on to win seven World Championship medals between 2009 and 2017. One of Reese's biggest achievements came at the 2012 London Olympic games when a 23 ft 4 ¼ in (7.12 m) performance earned a gold medal. She later won a silver medal at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

Throughout her career, Reese has made an impact at every organization she has been involved with. Many young student-athletes dream their entire lives of participating on the Olympic stage for their country. Reese's hard work and dedication have shined through, participating in three Olympic games while medaling in two.

Today, Reese's story has come full circle. She has gone from being the student-athlete to being the coach. Reese, who was once a part of the Gulfport High School track program almost 20 years ago, has returned to lead it. As the head coach of the girls' track and cross-country programs, she will also be helping to develop the school's new indoor track team. 

Kirby Puckett

Baseball star Kirby Puckett played 12 seasons in Major League Baseball (MLB). Puckett began his collegiate baseball career at Bradley University but transferred to Triton College (IL) after one season. At Triton, he found great success and was selected by the Minnesota Twins in the first round of the 1982 MLB Draft. After signing, Puckett went to the rookie league and played for the Elizabethton Twins in the Appalachian League. While there, Puckett hit .382 with 3 home runs, 35 RBI, and 43 steals in 65 games. Puckett was promoted to the Single-A Visalia Oaks in the California League where he hit .318 with 9 home runs, 97 RBI, and 48 stolen bases in 138 games. Moving up to the AAA Toledo Mud Hens, Puckett would only play in 21 games before entering the major leagues.

Puckett made his MLB debut on May 8, 1984, against the California Angels going 4-for-5 with one run. After his first season, Puckett hit .296 and was fourth in the American League in singles. In 1985, he hit .288 and finished fourth in the MLB in hits, third in triples, second in plate appearances, and first in at-bats. Going into the 1986 season, Puckett became known for more than just singles with a .328 batting average and was elected to his first MLB All-Star Game. That was also the first year he was recognized for his defensive skills and earned his first Gold Glove award. Puckett went on to have great success in the league and won two World Series titles along the way while also solidifying his name within the world of baseball. Throughout his career with the Twins, Puckett accumulated a .318 batting average, 2,304 hits, 207 home runs, 1,085 RBIs, and 1,071 runs scored. 

After retiring in 1996, Puckett had his number 34 jersey retired and a statue at the plaza of Target Field in Minneapolis was made in his honor, in 2010. Puckett is a 10x All-Star, 2x World Series champion, ALCS MVP, 6x Gold Glove recipient, 6x Silver Slugger recipient, Roberto Clemente Award recipient, American League batting champion, American League RBI leader, and an inductee in the Minnesota Twins Hall of Fame. He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2001, his first year of eligibility for the esteemed honor. 

Leonard Hamilton

Leonard Hamilton, the winningest coach in the history of Florida State men's basketball and the fifth all-time winningest coach in Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) history, has been a collegiate head coach for 33 years. Hamilton got his start as an assistant coach at Austin Peay State University and quickly made a name for himself. After finding success at Austin Peay, Hamilton went on to be an assistant coach at the University of Kentucky and later received his first opportunity as head coach at Oklahoma State. Hamilton continued his head coaching career at the University of Miami where he led the Hurricanes to the greatest single-season turnaround in Big East history. Picked to finish at the bottom of the Big East Conference standings, Hamilton guided the Hurricanes to a fifth-place finish and a berth in the National Invitational Tournament – Miami's first postseason appearance in 31 years.  

Following a brief stint as a head coach in the NBA, Hamilton became the head coach of the Florida State men's basketball team in 2002.  Hamilton has led the Seminoles to become the fourth-winningest overall program in the ACC since the 2005-06 season. He is the first coach at Florida State to lead the Seminoles to nine consecutive postseason appearances.  In 19 seasons under Hamilton's leadership, the Seminoles have advanced to the postseason 16 times. In 2012, Hamilton led the Seminoles to their first ACC basketball championship in school history, and in 2020 led the team to its first regular season ACC championship. 

Now in his 21st season with the Seminoles, Hamilton has won ACC Coach of the Year three times, ACC titles twice, and has taken the Seminoles to seven NCAA tournament appearances. Throughout his career, Hamilton has received the UPI National Coach of the Year, 2x Big East Coach of the Year, 3x ACC Coach of the Year, and the Ben Jobe Award. Hamilton is the first coach to be named Coach of the Year in both the Big East and the ACC. During his time as a head coach, Hamilton has led his teams to 23 postseason appearances including advancing to the NCAA Tournament's Elite Eight (2018), and Sweet 16 (2000, 2011, 2019, 2021). 

Hamilton, a native of Gastonia, NC, played baseball, basketball, and football growing up. Hamilton began his collegiate basketball career as a student-athlete at NJCAA member college, Gaston College.  From 1966-1968, Hamilton was a standout member of the men's basketball team, setting a school record by scoring 54 points in a single game. 

Bruce Arena 

Bruce Arena, the all-time winningest Major League Soccer (MLS) head coach, is the most decorated coach in league history. Before embarking on his illustrious coaching career, Arena attended Nassau Community College in Garden City, NY. Arena was a two-sport student-athlete, competing on the men's lacrosse and men's soccer teams for the Lions. In 1970, Arena led Nassau to claim a fourth-place finish at the NJCAA Men's Soccer Championship. Arena was named to the All-Tournament team and earned NJCAA Men's Soccer Second Team All-America status as a goalie. As a member of Nassau's men's lacrosse team, Arena helped the Lions to claim two national titles during this time with the program in 1970 and 1971. Arena earned All-Tournament team honors in both seasons as a midfielder. 

In 1977, Arena received his first major coaching opportunity at Cornell University as the school's assistant lacrosse coach. Quickly finding his footing, the following year, he took a position at the University of Virginia as the head soccer coach and assistant lacrosse coach.  After seven seasons, Arena became the Cavaliers' dedicated soccer coach and led the team to five national championships including four consecutive titles from 1991-1994. 

Following his time at the University of Virginia, Arena's career continued to soar. He became the coach of D.C. United in 1996 during the team's inaugural season. Arena also served as the coach for the U.S. U-23 national team at the 1996 Summer Olympics. Finding success with D.C. United, he led the team to its first MLS Cup and took the team to the 1996 U.S. Open Cup Championship. Winning the MLS Cup for the second consecutive year, Arena received MLS Coach of the Year accolades in 1997. The team won the CONCACAF Champions Cup in 1998 and Arena received MLS All-Star head coach for both the 1997 and 1998 seasons. In October of 1998, Arena was named the head coach of the U.S. National Team leading the team to two Gold Cup championships in 2002 and 2005. During his time with the national team, Arena had 75 wins from 1998-2006, the most in U.S. history.

Taking a position as the head coach of the Los Angeles Galaxy in 2008, Arena led the team from a next-to-last-place finish in the previous season to a second-place finish in the 2009 season. Under Arena's leadership, the Galaxy won a total of three championships, two Supporters' Shield, and became only the third team in league history to reach the 60-point plateau. After his time with the Los Angeles Galaxy, Arena became the head coach of the U.S. National Team for a second time and led the team to the 2017 CONCACAF Gold Cup. Since 2019, Arena has served as the head coach and sporting director of the New England Revolution.  Arena has led the team to its first MLS Cup Playoff appearance since 2014 and the club's first Supporters' Shield title in 2021.