FOUR HILLTOPPER GREATS TO BE INDUCTED INTO WKU ATHLETIC HALL OF FAME
Bowling Green, Ky. — Four former Western Kentucky University athletes will be inducted as the 21st class into the WKU Athletic Hall of Fame in ceremonies set for Homecoming Weekend this fall.
The 2011 class includes Forest "Frosty" Able (basketball), Kannard Johnson (basketball), Mike Murray (baseball) and Jack Turner (basketball).
The induction of the 2011 class brings to 126 the number of former WKU athletes and coaches who have earned berths in the school's Athletic Hall of Fame since its founding in 1991.
The 2011 class will be inducted in ceremonies highlighting the annual W-Club Homecoming Brunch, set for 10 a.m. (CDT), Saturday, Oct. 22, on the main floor of E.A. Diddle Arena on the WKU campus in Bowling Green.
Tickets for the event, which is open to the general public, are $15 each and can be purchased and/or reserved:
• online at alumni.wku.edu (click on "Events Calendar" down the column on the left just under the "Big Red" box; scroll down the list and click on "W-Club Homecoming Brunch"; then click on the "Registration" box and fill out the reservation form)
• by calling 1-888-WKU-ALUM (1-888-958-2586) or, locally in the Bowling Green area, 745-4395;
Each W-Club member who has paid his/her 2011-12 dues is entitled to two complimentary tickets to the event; however, seating is limited and reservations MUST be made — either online or with Edwards or Just — to ensure seating is available. Non-members, and the general public, are welcome, but must purchase tickets — either online (see above) or with Edwards or Just. Letterwinners who have not yet paid their ‘11-12 dues may do so online via credit card or at the door with a prior reservation.
The inductees will also be honored in ceremonies on Jimmy Feix Field at halftime of the annual Homecoming Football Game, set to kickoff at 3 p.m., that afternoon. Head Coach Willie Taggart will pit his Hilltoppers against Sun Belt Conference foe Louisiana-Lafayette at Houchens Industries - L.T. Smith Stadium. Tickets for the game are available by calling 1-800-5-BIG-RED (or 270-745-5222). A reminder: W-Club members with a valid 2011-12 membership card are entitled to one free ticket to the football game as well.
Now, more about the members of the 2011 WKU Athletic Hall of Fame class:
• Forest "Frosty" Able / Basketball, 3 letters (1954,55,56)
"Frosty" Able came to The Hill from from suburban Louisville in 1953 and played a pivotal role on three Hilltopper basketball teams that each earned Ohio Valley Conference championships. Those three clubs combined to win 63 of 88 games — a 71.6% success ratio — highlighted by a sparkling 29-3 mark by the ‘54 club that won 21 in a row, earned a national ranking as high as 3rd in the nation and was one of the favorites in the NIT that March (finishing fourth in the tourney). Along the way, he earned All-OVC honors as a junior in 1955 and would have probably repeated in ‘56, but the league did not select an All-Conference Team that year. Able led the Toppers in scoring (470 points; 18.1 ppg) and accuracy at the free throw line (80.9%) as a senior. He was a double-figure scorer all three of his varsity seasons (11.0 ppg as a sophomore and 14.2 ppg as a junior before pacing the club with his 18.1 ppg average as a senior in ‘56-57) on his way to scoring 1,221 career points, the third highest total in the Hilltopper record books at the time and still 21st on the WKU all-time scoring leaders' list. His field goal from the corner in the closing seconds in WKU's thrilling 93-92 overtime home win over Eastern Kentucky on Feb. 6, 1956, is still remembered as one of the great shots in Topper basketball history. He was drafted by the Syracuse Nationals of the NBA and played pro ball in the ‘56-57 season. Able was one of five members of that great 1954 team that would go on to play professional basketball (Tom Marshall, Jack Turner, Art Spoelstra and Dan King were the others). Following his playing career, Able returned to his prep alma mater where he enjoyed a long career in coaching, teaching and administration at Fairdale High School. He is retired and living in Fairdale.
• Kannard Johnson / Basketball, 4 letters (1984,85,86,87)
Kannard Johnson came to WKU from Taft High School in Cincinnati and went on to start four years at forward for the Hilltoppers, earning Freshman All-America honors along the way. He is the only Topper in history to earn a berth on the All-Sun Belt Conference Men's Basketball Team four straight years. In addition, the 6-9 frontliner is one of only two WKU cagers (the other is Jim McDaniels) named to the NABC All-District Team three times. In 2006, he was selected as a member of the SBC's 30th Anniversary Team. He set Hilltopper records for games started (188 out of a possible 126 — still third on that list) and minutes played (3,301 — now second on that list). Johnson was a key factor in WKU's 1986 and ‘87 NCAA Tournament teams that each posted a win in the event (his buzzer-beating power bucket underneath provided the winning points in the Toppers' 64-62 opening round victory over West Virginia in ‘87). That ‘87 club won 29 games (the second highest total in school history) and the SBC regular season title. Johnson is one of only four Hilltoppers to average double-figure scoring all four varsity seasons — the others: Ralph Crosthwaite (1955,57,58,59), Johnny Britt (1973,74,75,76) and Courtney Lee (2005,06,07,08). He led WKU in scoring as a sophomore (15.0 ppg); in rebounding both his sophomore (6.4 rpg) and senior (8.2 rpg) seasons; in field goal percentage as a rookie (60.7%) and as a junior (52.8%); in free throw percentage (80.9%) as a freshman and again as a senior (80.3%); in blocked shots (18) his frosh year; and, he paced the club in dunks all four years (including a single-game school record six slams against South Alabama in 1987. Johnson completed his career ranked fifth all-time among Topper scorers (1,738 points — he's still seventh on that list); and, he's still 10th in career rebounding with 840. He was a second-round draft choice (41st overall pick) of the Cleveland Cavaliers of the NBA in 1987 and played several seasons in Europe after a year with the Cavs. Johnson now resides in Las Vegas, Nev.
• Mike Murray / Baseball, 4 letters (1977,78,79,80)
Mike Murray came to WKU from Ft. Mitchell, Ky., in 1976 and broke into the lineup early on. He earned four letters on the diamond, playing for Coach Barry Shollenberger (‘77-79) and Coach Joel Murrie (‘80) as infielder, primarily at shortstop. He was named to the All-Ohio Valley Conference Team in both 1978 and in 1980, when he was also the OVC Player of the Year after hitting .383 with 20 doubles, five triples, 10 home runs, 46 RBI and 34 stolen bases. He set Hilltopper school records for career at-bats (804), runs scored (180), hits (236), doubles (46) and stolen bases (89 — still, here, 31 years later, the WKU standard); and for single season at-bats (240 ), runs scored (71), hits (92), doubles (20) and stolen bases (34), all set in 1980. That record for career stolen bases still stands and Murray continues to rank among the top 10 Toppers in all of those categories — 3rd in runs scored, 5th in at-bats, 7th in hits and 10th in doubles. He was a prime factor in perhaps the greatest season ever for a Topper baseball club, helping lead the 1980 club to the best record in WKU and OVC history — 47-13-1 (and a sharp 17-3 in conference play). That also included a near-miss opportunity for a berth in the College World Series. Making the school's first-ever appearance in the NCAA Tournament, the Toppers finished as the runner-up to host Florida State in the regionals. For his career on The Hill, he hit .335 with 46 doubles, seven triples and 22 home runs. Murray was taken in the 22nd round of the 1980 Major League Baseball draft by the Cincinnati Reds. After playing two years of pro ball, he began a career teaching and coaching on the high school level in the Cincinnati area. He resides in Edgewood in Northern Kentucky.
• Jack Turner / Basketball, 4 letters (1949,50,51,54)
Jack Turner came to WKU from his native Bedford, Ind., in 1948 and went on to earn All-Ohio Valley Conference honors three times — 1950 and ‘51, and then, after missing two years while serving in the military during the Korea War, he returned to campus in 1953 and earned All-OVC honors for the third time in 1954. The four Hilltopper teams he played on were a combined 98-23 (81.0%) — 25-4 in 1949 (ranking fifth in the final AP poll); 25-6 in ‘50 (eighth in the final poll); 19-10 in ‘51; and 29-3 in ‘54 (sixth in the final UPI poll and eighth in AP) — winning three OVC championships along the way (1949, ‘50 and ‘54) and making three appearances in the NIT — 1949, ‘50 and ‘54. Turner scored at a double-figure rank each of his last three seasons (11.2 points per game in 1950; 13.5 ppg in 1951; and 12.7 ppg in ‘54). He completed his career on The Hill with 1,123 points, the ninth highest total for a Hilltopper at that time and still ranking him 31st among all Toppers. In 1954, for the first — and only — time in WKU history, Hilltopper basketball had two players selected in the first round of the NBA professional basketball draft. Turner was the first-round pick of the New York Knicks (eighth overall pick) and teammate Tom Marshall went in the first round to the Rochester Royals (seventh pick overall). That was also the second of four times in WKU history that a Topper team had three-or-more players selected in the NBA draft — Rochester also selected Art Spoelstra in the fourth round (the other times were 1948, 1987 and 1971, when four Toppers were picked). Turner is retired and living in his hometown.