Thursday, March 24, 2016

Wendell Hart deserves to be in the AHSAA Sports Hall of Fame

Wendell Hart
The Alabama High School Athletic Association inducted its 26th group of honorees into the AHSAA Sports Hall of Fame on Monday at the Renaissance Hotel at the Convention Center in Montgomery.

This year’s group included 11 outstanding individuals who have gone above and beyond in their contributions to high school athletics in Alabama over the years. This year’s class included Richard Beverly, Dwight Buzbee, Mike Cochran, Frances Crapet, Tandy Gerelds, Ike Grant, Kittilax “Apple” Kridakorn, Brenda Mayes, Earl Miller, Jerome Sanders and Alfred Peavy.

Peavy, a 1948 graduate of Clarke County Training School, who served as a teacher, coach and administrator in Alabama schools from 1956 to 1991, was inducted into the Sports Hall of Fame this year in the “Old Timer” Category. Each year since the AHSAA inducted its first class into the Sports Hall of Fame in 1991, they have inducted an “Old Timer” for accomplishments prior to 1991. More often than not, this inductee has already passed away.

When it comes to Conecuh County and the “Old Timer” category, I’m convinced that former Evergreen High School coach Wendell Hart more than deserves a place in the AHSAA Sports Hall of Fame.
Hart’s sports life in Conecuh County spanned decades. Anyone who’s read our regular Sports Flashback feature over the past several years will have seen that Hart was not only a successful football, basketball and baseball coach, but he also excelled in those sports as a player. Hart touched many lives, and there are still many of Hart’s former players and teammates in the community and elsewhere who have fond memories of Hart.

Hart passed away at the age of 60 on Nov. 26, 1977, well before the first class was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1991. Known as “Coach Hart” to hundreds of former students and players, he served as a head coach at Evergreen High School for 20 years. He also coached at Luverne, Elba and Lyeffion. In his heyday, he was one of the state’s most successful coaches and the coach with the most senior years of service in the state.

He was also a graduate of Evergreen High School, where he was an outstanding athlete before going on to play at Sunflower Junior College in Moorehead, Miss. and Millsap College in Jackson, Miss. In both high school and in college, Hart lettered in football, baseball and basketball. He went on to graduate from Troy State University.

After serving in World War II, he was named the head coach at Evergreen in 1946 and successfully coached football, basketball and baseball. In 1949, he coached the only undefeated football team in Evergreen High School history, going 8-0-2. His teams in 1949 and 1950, had a combined record of 17-1-2.

Later, he left Evergreen to coach at Luverne and Elba and had success at both of those schools. He eventually returned to Evergreen as a head coach and teacher, and later coached at Lyeffion. His health eventually forced him to give up coaching.

When you take into account his entire career and the impact he had on so many young people, he more than deserves inclusion in the AHSAA Sports Hall of Fame in the “Old Timer” category.

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The Sweet Sixteen round of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament is scheduled to tip off tonight (Thursday) when Miami takes on Villanova at 6:10 p.m. in Louisville, Ky. Other teams making the Sweet Sixteen include Texas A&M, Oklahoma, Maryland, Kansas, Duke, Oregon, Iowa State, Virginia, Wisconsin, Notre Dame, Gonzaga, Syracuse, Indiana and North Carolina.

In tonight’s games, I look for Villanova to beat Miami, Oklahoma to beat Texas A&M, Kansas to beat Maryland and for Oregon to beat Duke.

The four other Sweet Sixteen round games will be played tomorrow (Friday) night, and in those games, I look for Virginia to beat Iowa State, Notre Dame to beat Wisconsin, Gonzaga to beat Syracuse and for North Carolina to beat Indiana.

The Elite Eight round of games will be played on Sat., March 26, and presuming that my Sweet Sixteen round picks are correct, I look for Kansas to beat Villanova, Oregon to beat Oklahoma, North Carolina to beat Notre Dame and for Virginia to beat Gonzaga.

A week later, the winners of those games will meet in the Final Four round of games on Sat., April 2, and I predict that Kansas will beat Oregon and that North Carolina will beat Virginia.

If that comes to pass, that will set up a championship game featuring Kansas and North Carolina, which in my book is a pretty decent match-up. Anything can really happen in a game of that type, but I look for Kansas to win it all.

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