University of Alaska Fairbanks athletics director Gary Gray has announced the 2015 inductees to the Nanook Hall of Fame. The four new Hall of Fame members include a pair of legendary Alaska Nanooks head coaches, as well as a pair of basketball standouts.
Al Svenningson and Bart LeBon of men’s basketball, as well as Cathy Cox-Graves of women’s basketball and Ric Schafer of hockey were elected by the Nanook Hall of Fame Committee. The committee, which is comprised of several former UAF student-athletes, coaches and athletic administrators, selected the four newest members based on the impact each individual had for both their program and UAF athletics. The Nanook Hall of Fame Class of 2015 will be inducted on Sept. 26.
The following is a brief description of each of the four inductee’s achievements. All statistical numbers represents what information was found in the Alaska athletic archives.
Al Svenningson – Head Men’s Basketball Coach (1967-85)
Svenningson was the head men’s basketball coach for Nanooks from 1967-1985. Under his tutelage, UAF won a school record 245 games during his 18 years and captured the school’s first postseason tournament championship. He is still the longest-tenured men’s basketball coach at the University of Alaska Fairbanks and coached several players who still rank inside the top five in both the all-time scoring and rebounding list.
Svenningson arrived at UAF during the 1967-68 season, which was only the second season of full intercollegiate competition for the men’s basketball team, and quickly elevated Alaska into a regional power. He coached arguably the most successful 10-year stretch in program history: From 1971-72 to 1980-81, the Nanooks finished above .500 in all but two seasons, winning 172 games during that time.
In just his sixth season at the helm, Svenningson led the Nanooks to the 1973 NAIA District I Championship, which was the first postseason tournament victory for Alaska in school history. The following season, UAF won a then-school-record 22 games, a mark which is still the second-highest to date, and made it back to the 1974 NAIA District I Championship Game.
The head coach led the Nanooks through their transition into NCAA Division II, which began in the 1982-83 season. In just their second season as a NCAA Division II member, Svenningson guided UAF to a .500 record at 13-13. Overall, he collected a program-best 245 wins and posted a school-record eight winning seasons.
Bart LeBon – Men’s Basketball (1972-74)
LeBon was a two-year member of the men’s basketball team, playing under fellow 2015 Nanook Hall of Fame inductee Al Svenningson. In his first year on campus, LeBon helped the UAF men’s basketball team to its first postseason tournament championship, as the Nanooks captured the 1973 NAIA District I Championship.
During the 1973-74 season, LeBon averaged a double-double with 11.8 points and 10.7 rebounds per game as he helped the Nanooks win a then-school-record 22 games and made the school’s second-straight appearance in the NAIA District I Championship game. He was named the both the team’s Most Valuable Player and Most Outstanding Player during the ’73-74 season and was named the NAIA’s Player of the Week in December of 1973, when he collected a total of 36 points and an astounding 36 rebounds for the week. LeBon is a member of the Nanooks 500-point club, as he scored 615 points during his two-year career.
After his graduation, LeBon, who is the executive vice president of Mt. McKinley Bank, has been a huge booster of the athletic program. He is the founder of the Mt. McKinley Bank North Star Invitational, which is a women’s basketball tournament that has been played every year since 2001, and also served as chairman of the now-defunct Top of the World Classic Men’s Basketball Tournament. The Bart LeBon Humanitarian Award, which annually goes to a UAF student-athlete who lends a hand to the community and spends several hours volunteering, was named after him.
Cathy Cox-Graves – Women’s Basketball (1986-90)
Cox-Graves played basketball for the women’s team from 1986 to 1990. She is the program’s all-time leading scorer with 2,075 points and ranks fourth on the school’s all-time rebounding list with 787. In her four-year career, Cox-Graves averaged 19.6 points and 7.4 rebounds per game. The 19.6 points per game is also the highest career points per game average by a Nanook women’s basketball player.
Cox-Graves made an immediate impact during her first year on campus, as averaged 20.6 points and 8.4 rebounds per game to earn American Women’s Sport Federation All-American freshman team honors. The Illinois native would go on to be a four-time All-Continental Divide Conference selection and she was named the team’s most valuable player in each of her four seasons in Alaska.
After graduation, Cox-Graves turned down several opportunities to play professional basketball and instead began her coaching career, as she was the graduate assistant coach for the College of Saint Rose in Albany, New York. After earning her MBA at Saint Rose, Cox-Graves resumed her playing career, as she was drafted by the Harlem Rockets. She also played on the Empire State Open Women’s basketball team, where she was team captain, and won the Triple Crown World Three-On-Three Championship.
Ric Schafer – Head Hockey Coach (1980-87)
Schafer continuously grew the Alaska Nanooks hockey program to what it is today during his seven-year tenure. Schafer was hired prior to the 1980-81 season and took charge of a program that was playing in its first year as a NCAA-sponsored team. After a four-year stint as a NCAA Division II team, Schafer guided the Nanooks through the NCAA Division I transition, which began in 1984. Schafer is still holds the program’s highest winning percentage amongst coaches, as he holds a .505 mark.
During his seven-year tenure, Schafer posted a 105-97-3 record and guided the Nanooks to 20-or-more wins in a season four times. His best season came during the 1983-84 campaign, as Alaska captured a then-school-record 22 wins and made a NCAA Division II semifinal appearance in the program’s final year at the Division II level.
The 1983-84 season also started a string of four-straight 20-or-more win seasons for Schafer and the Nanooks. He led UAF into the NCAA Division I transition during the 1984-85 season and his team won an impressive 21 games in their first season as a Division I member. Schafer would go on to coach two more years for the Nanooks, winning 20 games in both seasons. He led the Nanooks to a remarkable 61 wins during his final three season, all of which came during the first three seasons in NCAA Division I for the program.
Since its inception in 2008, the Nanook Hall of Fame Committee has inducted 38 members into the Hall.
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