CLASS OF 2014 – From left, Gloria Wright accepting for daughter Denise Wilson, Sarah Lentz, Justin Watts, Debbie Wall, Jerry Lee, Leslie McAllister and Antone Brooks. Tiffany Thompson not pictured.
Eight local athletes were inducted into the Florence Athletic Hall of Fame on Saturday evening, Jan. 4, at the Florence Civic Center. The Class of 2014 includes Antone Brooks, Jerry Lee, Sarah Lentz, Leslie McAllister, Tiffany Thompson, Debbie Wall, Justin Watts and Denise Wilson. Sports Hotline co-host Ernest Robinson served as the master of ceremonies for the evening. The keynote speaker was Chad Holbrook, University of South Carolina head baseball coach. Prior to the athletes induction ceremony, new officers and board members were installed. 2014 officers for the Athletic Hall of Fame are Terri Planter, president; Gerald Holley, vice president; Missy Burgess-Planter, secretary and David Johnson, treasurer. Elected to three year terms on the board were Rocky Rietkovich, Carroll Hanna and Ted Greene. Class of 2014 inductees:
Antone Brooks graduated from West Florence High School in 1992. He was a three- year letterman in baseball at West Florence and made All-Conference his junior year. His senior season, he had a batting average of .370 with three homeruns and 21 RBI, and had a pitching record of 8-1 with a 1.83 ERA and 72 strikeouts in 61 innings pitched. He was named All-Conference, All-State, and was selected for the North-South All Star Game. He was also named to the Florence Morning News All Area Team, and was the Florence Morning News Co-Player of the Year. He led the Florence Dixie Majors baseball team to World Series Championship held in Alabama in 1992 and was #1 starter of the pitching staff. He attended Francis Marion University where he was a starting pitcher and right fielder. As a freshman, he batted .339 with five homeruns and 32 RBI, and had a pitching record of 4-3 with a 3.74 ERA. Antone was named All-Conference, and was also named to the All-Tournament Team, and led Peach Belt Athletic Conference in Triples. He attended Norfolk State University and as a junior was a starting pitcher and rightfielder. He batted .394 with 12 homeruns and 43 RBI, and had a pitching record of 5-2 with a 1.75 ERA. He was named All-Region, All-Conference, All-Tournament Team, and named to the 1995 Virginia Pilot All-Area Team. He was drafted by the Atlanta Braves in the 11th round in 1995. He was named Braves Minor League Pitcher of Year while playing for the Macon Braves in 1996. He won 400 Braves Club Phil Niekro Award for Braves Outstanding Minor League Pitcher in 1996. He made the 1996 South Atlantic League All Star Team. Antone won the Arthur Zwack Award for Community Service in 1999 while pitching for the AAA Richmond Braves. He was invited to Atlanta Braves Spring Training Major League Camp in 1997 and 1999. He participated in Arizona Fall League in 1998 with the Sun Cities Solar Sox and in 1999 with Maryvale Saguaros
Gerald L. “Jerry” Lee graduated in 1952 from McClenaghan High School where he lettered in football and baseball. He was the captain of McClenaghan’s 1951 football team. He was the 1952 recipient of the Ira S. Rainwater trophy, given annually from 1947 until 1975 to the best all-around senior athlete at McClenaghan. He played on the 1950 and 1951 Florence American Legion baseball teams. Due to age restrictions, in 1952 he served as assistant coach of the Florence American Legion team under head coach Kirby Jordan. Jerry was awarded a football and baseball scholarship to Newberry College in 1952. He served in the U.S. Army from 1956-58, the Active Reserves from 1958-60, and the Standby Reserves from 1960-62. He served on the Florence County Recreation Commission from 1964 to 1970, and coached Palmetto Boys baseball teams (ages 13-14) to the State Championship in 1965 and State Runner-Up in 1966. He served on the American Legion Athletic Committee off and on for a total of 15 years, including the last five years. He was the founder and chairman of the Florence District One Male and Female Athlete of the Year Awards and Banquet. The “You Gotta Have Heart” Athletic Award was established in his honor in 2010 by Florence District 1 Supt. Larry Jackson, and is given annually to the District One Athlete of the Year finalist that best exhibits persistence, courage, honesty, integrity, work ethic and support their team and their school. He is an active member of the Francis Marion University Booster Club, Patriot Brigade/ Swamp Fox Club for over 35 years, and was the 2005 recipient of FMU Athletics Department Florence Community Member Most Valuable Partner Award. He served on the inaugural board of directors for the Florence Athletic Hall of Fame and served three terms on the Board (2005-2006, 2007-2009, and 2010-2012)
Sarah Lentz graduated from South Florence High School in 2000 and from the University of South Carolina in 2004 with a degree in business administration. She played soccer and basketball at South Florence. She led the girls soccer team in goals and assists all five years she played. She was the soccer team MVP, was All Region and team captain. She made All-State and the North-South Team in soccer her senior year. She won the Coaches Award in basketball her senior year. She was named the 1999 Female Soccer Player of the Year by the Florence Morning News. She scored 27 goals her senior year. She made the SC Sports Report Top 30 her senior year. She scored 114 goals and had 27 assists during her high school soccer career Sarah was a four-year starter at USC and played in every match. She was named USC team Co-defensive MVP in 2001. She earned second team All-SEC Honors in 2003 and first team All-SEC honors in 2004. She was co-captain of USC woman’s soccer team her senior year. She was named to the Soccer Buzz National Elite Team in 2004. She played for Stjarnan’s Iceland Team in summer of 2004
Leslie M. McAllister graduated from South Florence High School in 1997 and from Winthrop University in 2007 with a B.S. in business administration/health case management. She played softball at South Florence from 7th grade to 12th grade and she made All Region her 8th and 9th grade years. She was All Region and named the team’s Best Offensive Player. She hit three home runs in 1995 Lower State title game. As a junior she was All Region, Best Offensive Player, and named a Florence Morning News All Star. She won the 1995 and 1997 state championship in softball Class AAAA. She was selected to play in the North–South All Star Game. As a senior, Leslie was All Region, C.A.W. All Star and team captain. She earned national honors as First Team All American to the 1997 Louisville Slugger/ National Fast Pitch Coaches Association All American Team. She was the first high school All-American in softball from Florence. Leslie was second in South Carolina High School League history with 53 runs scored in a season. She was the recipient of the McLeod Sports Medicine’s 1997 Athletic Excellence Award. She received a softball scholarship to attend Winthrop University. She was named Big South All Conference all four years at Winthrop. She Earned Big South Scholar Athlete Honors her freshman year at Winthrop.
Tiffany N. Thompson graduated from Wilson High School in 2002 and attended Walter State University and Clinton Junior College. She played Girls’ J.V. Basketball in 7th and 8th grade and was MVP both years. In 9th grade, she was Varsity Girls’ Basketball Team MVP, scoring 21 points per game. She made All Conference and All Tournament Team her freshman year. As a sophomore, Tiffany was Varsity Girls’ Team MVP, averaging scoring 23 points per game. She made All Conference, All State, All Hoop Zone and All Tournament as a sophomore. As a junior, Tiffany was Varsity Girls’ Team MVP, averaging 27 points per game. She made All Hoop Zone, All Conference, All State, and All Tournament as a junior. She was Hoop Zone Finalist and was Region 6-3A Player of the Year as a junior. As a senior, she was again Varsity Girls’ Team MVP and averaged 30 points per game. Tiffany was named All Hoop Zone, All Conference, All Tournament and All State. She was Hoop Zone Finalist and was named Region 6-3A Player of the Year. She was 2002 Female Athlete of the Year and recipient of 2002 Rainwater Award. She scored 2,395 career points – top 15 in state career scoring leaders.
Mary Deborah “Debbie” Wall graduated in 1968 from McClenaghan High School and in 1972 from USC-Florence (later Francis Marion University). She was a multi-sport athlete who excelled in tennis, basketball, softball and golf. In tennis, she was City of Florence Singles Champion 6 times and Doubles Champion seven times, SC Tennis Association & USTA ranked Junior and adult player for 12 straight years. In girls tennis, she played #1 her sophomore, junior and senior seasons and was part of the McClenaghan’s 40 game winning streak – a state record at the time. Debbie was #1 player on USC Florence Women’s Tennis Team and #2 on Men’s Tennis Team and had only two career losses. In basketball, she averaged over 20 points per game during her career. She was named McClenaghan High School Most Promising Athlete, Outstanding Offensive Player, and Most Valuable Player. She was named Pee Dee All Star Player in SC High School League North South Basketball game in 1968. In softball, Debbie played in 18 state tournaments in both fast pitch and slow pitch. She was a member of 1965 and 1966 Amateur Softball Association Fast Pitch State Championship Teams. She was named All Tournament Player eight times. In golf, she was five-time Tifton Golf Club Champion. In the 2003 National Senior Games, she was a silver medalist. She was a nine time gold medalist at SC Senior Sports Classic. Debbie served as Florence-Darlington Technical College’s Head Coach of Womens Basketball Team and assistant coach to Men’s Team. She coached three SC Amateur Softball Association state championship teams. In 1985, she initiated the SC Senior Sports Classic, the sanctioned event of the National Senior Games Association, which is a member of the US Olympic Committee She was a 2004 Charter member and two time president of the Florence Athletic Hall of Fame Board. She is a member of the SC and National Amateur Softball Association Hall of Fame, the SC Recreation & Parks Association Hall of Fame and the SC Senior Sports Classic Hall of Fame.
Justin Michael Watts graduated in 1996 from South Florence High School and from Clemson University in 2000 with a degree in sports management. He lettered in football and baseball at South Florence. In baseball, he was an All-State outfielder with a career batting average of .396, while hitting 10 home runs and 47 doubles, scoring 166 runs and stealing 181 bases He attended Team One in Cincinnati, Ohio, which was a showcase event for the top high school junior baseball prospects in the country. He played varsity football from 9th – 12th grades coached by his father, Mike Watts. Justin accounted for 7,979 yards and 74 touchdowns during his high school career as a receiver and quarterback. His career totals include 2,618 yards and 40 touchdowns rushing, 4,757 yards and 30 touchdowns passing, and 604 yards and 4 touchdowns receiving He was named All-Region VAAAA in football all four years. He was named WBTW All-Area his freshman, junior and senior seasons, and was named WBTW Player of the Year his senior season. He was named All-State his junior and senior seasons. He was named to the Shrine Bowl as a quarterback his senior season, and was a finalist for the South Carolina Mr. Football Award. He was ranked as the 17th best quarterback in the nation, and #6 player in South Carolina by Super Prep, and was named a Blue Chip Super Prep All American. He accepted a football scholarship to Clemson University where he played wide receiver. He has the rare distinction (one of only two players) of winning five athletic letters in football. He finished his career at Clemson with 51 catches for 561 yards. He was a member of Clemson’s 1996, 1997 and 1999 teams that played in the Peach Bowl and the 2000 team that played in the Gator Bowl.
Wilhelmina Denise Wilson graduated from West Florence High School in 2001 and from University of Southern Mississippi in 2006. She played Varsity Girls’ Basketball at West Florence for four years. She made Region V AAAA All Conference all four years. She was the team MVP for sophomore, junior and senior years. She was named Class AAAA All State her junior and senior years. She was named the River Pilot Tournament All Star her junior and senior years. She was named Region V AAAA Player of the Year her senior year. She was selected to the North–South All Star Game her senior year. She was named the first Florence Female Athlete of the Year in 2001. She attended S.C. State, Southern Mississippi, and later Lees McRae College on a full scholarship for basketball. During her sophomore year at Southern Miss, she averaged 15 points per game and six rebounds. She led the Southern Miss team in shooting percentage, and was second on the team in both scoring and rebounds. Her senior year at Lees McCrae College, she was named Team MVP as she averaged 26.4 points per game, 14 rebounds per game and 4 assists per game She played one season in the WBCBL development league with the Atlanta Diamonds where she averaged 20.6 points and 11 rebounds per game. Since 2006, she has played professionally in Europe. In the 2007-2008 season, she played for Cassovia Kocise in Slovakia and was named to the Slovakian All Star Team. Since 2008, she has played on teams in Hungary, Ecuador, Puerto Rico and Poland.