2023 Hall of Fame
George Kerr, Men’s Track & Field, 1958–60
Kerr won back-to-back NCAA Championships in 1959 and 1960 in the 800-meter and was a seven-time Big Ten champion in middle distances with three titles in the 800-meter, two in the 400-meter and two in the 4 x 400-meter relay. Kerr went on to win the gold at the 1959 Pan American Games in the 400-meter and the 4 x 400-meter relay. He next competed for the British West Indies at the 1960 Olympics in Rome, where he won the bronze in both the 800-meter and the 4 x 400-meter relay. In 1962, he became the first Jamaican athlete to have his national flag flown in recognition of his double gold-medal victories in the 400-meter and the 800-meter at the Central American and Caribbean Games in Kingston. That same year, he was named the Jamaican Sportsman of the Year. Representing Jamaica at the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo, Kerr finished fourth in both the 4 x 400-meter relay and the 800-meter. He broke the Olympic record for the latter in the semifinals but lost the bronze by less than one-tenth of a second. Kerr died in 2012 at age 74.
Thomas Pieters, Men’s Golf, 2010–13
A native of Belgium, Pieters was the 2012 NCAA individual champion in golf, the second Illini in the program’s history to win the title. He helped lead the Illini to consecutive Big Ten Championships in 2011, 2012 and 2013, including a national second-place finish in 2013. Pieters was a two-time All-American, a 2013 Big Ten individual champion and the first Belgian ever to compete in the Palmer Cup, where he represented the victorious European team in 2012. He represented Belgium again at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, finishing fourth. Pieters has become one of the world’s top golfers with seven professional wins, six of which he achieved on the PGA European Tour. He tied for fourth at the 2017 Masters Tournament, reaching No. 23 in the Official World Golf Rankings. In 2018, he placed sixth in the PGA Championships and won the World Cup of Golf title for Belgium with his team partner.
Jack Trudeau, Football, 1981–85
Trudeau maintains the Fighting Illini record as its all-time passing leader with 8,725 yards, as well as the record for pass completions with 797. He holds the second-place Illini record for pass-completion percentages at 64.02 percent and remains tied for third in touchdowns passes with 55. He also set an NCAA record of 215 consecutive passes without an interception during his college career. Trudeau was the starting quarterback for the Fighting Illini from 1983 to 1985, helping lead the team to the 1983 Big Ten Championship and a 1984 Rose Bowl appearance with a perfect 9-0 conference record, the only time in Big Ten history that one team beat all other conference schools in the same season. He also earned Second-Team All-Big Ten honors in 1983 and 1984. Trudeau was selected in the second round of the 1986 NFL Draft by the Indianapolis Colts and enjoyed a 10-year professional career. After eight seasons with the Colts, he played a year with the New York Jets and one season with the Carolina Panthers.
Kenny Battle, Men’s Basketball, 1988–89
Arguably the best dunker in Fighting Illini history, Battle transferred to the U of I from Northern Illinois University, where he topped 1,000 points over his freshman and sophomore seasons. He did the same at Illinois, averaging 16.1 points per game over two seasons for a total of 1,112 points, making him one of a handful of players to score more than 1,000 points at two schools. As co-captain of the celebrated Flyin’ Illini, Battle was named Third-Team All- Big Ten in 1988 and Second-Team All-Big Ten in 1989 when he helped lead the team to the Final Four. He was a first-round NBA Draft pick by the Detroit Pistons in 1989 and played for the Phoenix Suns, Denver Nuggets, Golden State Warriors and Boston Celtics over four seasons. He earned Honorable-Mention All-American honors at both NIU and Illinois and is a member of the NIU Athletics Hall of Fame. In 2005, Battle was named to the Illini All-Century Team.
Nicole Evans Cazley, Softball, 2014–17
Evans was honored as the Illini Female Athlete of the Year after her senior season in 2017, as well as the 2017 Arthur Ashe Jr. Female Sports Scholar of the Year. She also received the Big Ten Medal of Honor that year and was a First-Team All-Big Ten pick. A 2016 National Fastpitch Coaches Association First-Team All-Midwest Region and Second-Team All-Big Ten honoree, Evans helped lead the Fighting Illini to its first NCAA regional appearance since 2010. Evans remains the Illini career leader in home runs (53), RBIs (176) and slugging percentage (.675), and ranks second in total bases (419) and third in career doubles (50). Evans also ranks second in single-season home runs (19) and RBIs (58), both achieved during her senior season. The outfielder was an Academic All-Big Ten her final three seasons and was named to the Academic All-America First Team in 2017. Evans also was named an Easton/NFCA All-America Scholar Athlete in 2015 and 2016.
Al Brosky, Football, 1950–52
Brosky still holds the college record for career interceptions (29) within the NCAA’s Football Bowl Subdivision, as well as its record for consecutive games with an interception (15). That remarkable streak—an average of more than one interception per game—stretched over three seasons and was capped by his 30th pick at the 1952 Rose Bowl. Brosky was a two-time All-Big Ten selection in 1951 and 1952, a Second-Team All-American in 1952 and a consensus First-Team All-American in 1951, when he helped the Illini win that year’s Big Ten title. Brosky was named to the College Football Hall of Fame in 1998 and is a member of the Illinois All-Century Team. Brosky died in 2010 at age 82.
Aja Evans, Women’s Track & Field, 2008–10
A five-time All-American and three-time Big Ten champion, Evans remains the U of I’s women’s indoor shot put record holder at 56-feet (17.08 meters), as well as the women’s outdoor shot put record holder at 55-feet, 10-inches (17.03 meters). Evans also competed in the outdoor 100-meter and the indoor 60-meter, finishing first for the Illini in the 60-meter dash at Southern Illinois University’s Saluki Athletic Scholarship Fund Invitational in 2010. Following her track and field career at Illinois, Evans competed in bobsled racing for Team USA at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, winning the bronze medal in the two-woman event. She won another bronze medal in bobsledding at the 2017 World Championships.
Ken Holtzman, Baseball, 1965
Although he only played one season at Illinois, Holtzman was an All-Big Ten selection and the Fighting Illini’s MVP, leading the team with six wins, 57 innings pitched and 72 strikeouts. That same year, at age 19, he made his major-league debut after he was selected in the fourth round of the MLB draft by the Chicago Cubs. Holtzman quickly became one of the best pitchers in the majors, and pitched two no-hitters for the Cubs. He later helped the Oakland Athletics win three consecutive World Series titles (1972, 1973 and 1974) and was an All-Star in 1972 and 1973. Holtzman played 451 games over his 15-year MLB career and compiled a record of 174-150, with a career ERA of 3.49 and a total of 1,601 strikeouts for the Cubs, A’s, Baltimore Orioles and New York Yankees. He was inducted into the St. Louis Sports Hall of Fame in 2018 and is an inductee in the Chicagoland Sports Hall of Fame.
Rashard Mendenhall, Football, 2005–07
Mendenhall was the 2007 Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year and that year’s Chicago Tribune Silver Football Award winner after helping to take the Fighting Illini to the 2008 Rose Bowl. He rushed for a total of 2,539 yards at Illinois and set the U of I single-season record of 1,681 rushing yards in 2007 (now the second-highest record) as the team’s MVP. Mendenhall earned First-Team All-Big Ten recognition three times before being drafted in the first round of the 2008 NFL Draft by the Pittsburgh Steelers. During his six-year NFL career, he helped the Steelers win the 2009 Super Bowl. Mendenhall later became an award-winning writer for the HBO comedy, Ballers.
Mike Hebert, Coach, Volleyball, 1983–95
During his 13 seasons heading the Fighting Illini volleyball program, Hebert compiled a record of 323-127 and led Illinois to four Big Ten titles and two national semifinal appearances. He began his coaching career as head volleyball coach at the University of Pittsburgh, where he compiled a 128-53 record with the women’s team and a 60-21 mark as the men’s coach. Hebert then coached the women’s team at the University of New Mexico from 1980 to 1982 before coming to Illinois in 1983. His 1988 squad was the first volleyball team east of the Mississippi River to be ranked No. 1 in the nation. Hebert was named the American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) Division I National Coach of the Year in 1985 and served as president of that organization from 1985 to 1988. He left Illinois in 1996 for the head coaching position at the University of Minnesota, where he led the Gophers to the 2002 Big Ten title, followed by three more Final Four appearances. Hebert was inducted into the AVCA Hall of Fame in 2006 and passed away in 2019 at age 75.
Melissa Fernandez, Women’s Gymnastics, 2008–11
Named as her team’s Most Valuable Gymnast in 2010 and 2011, Fernandez was a four-time All-American, earning First-Team honors on the balance beam in 2009 and 2011, First-Team all-around accolades in 2011 and Second-Team recognition for floor exercise in 2011. She tied for seventh on the balance beam at the 2009 NCAA Championships, the first Illini in the history of its women’s gymnastics program to compete in the national individual-event finals. Fernandez returned to the NCAA Championships in 2011, where she tied for third in all-around and placed fifth on the balance beam. She was named First-Team All-Big Ten in 2010 and 2011 and earned Second-Team Academic All-American honors in 2011. She also was a four-time Scholastic All-American from 2008 to 2011 and earned Academic All-BigTen recognition from 2009 to 2011.
Don Sunderlage, Men’s Basketball, 1948–51
Sunderlage’s senior season in 1951 was a phenomenal finale to his college career. In addition to leading the Fighting Illini to the Big Ten Championship and the Final Four as the team’s captain and MVP, he earned All-American honors, was named the U of I’s Athlete of the Year and the Big Ten Player of the Year, and won the Chicago Tribune’s Silver Basketball Award. Sunderlage also was the starting guard for the 1949 Fighting Illini that won the Big Nine title and advanced to the Final Four. He was a first-round NBA Draft pick by the Milwaukee Hawks in 1951, but fulfilled a required year of military service before starting his professional career. Sunderlage played the 1953–54 season for the Hawks and represented the team at the 1954 NBA All-Star Game before being traded to the Minneapolis Lakers for the 1954–55 season. Sunderlage and his wife died in a car accident in 1961, but he was posthumously inducted as a player into the Illinois Basketball Coaches Association’s Hall of Fame in 1973.