WALLA WALLA - One of the most respected and well liked coaches in the history of Whitman College athletics, along with a trio of gifted athletes who excelled in basketball and baseball during their Missionary playing days,were inducted into the Whitman Athletics Hall of Fame last Saturday.
Induction ceremonies included honors for:
John Wilcox, who came to Whitman in 1967 as an assistant football coach, coached men's basketball during the 1970s, served as athletic director for five years during the 1980s, and then spent his final 15 years at the helm of the women's basketball team. He retired in the spring of 1996 as an associate professor of education.
Wilcox was introduced at Saturday's ceremony by Michelle Ferenz, now in her 11th season as coach of the Whitman women's basketball team.
Del Klicker ('56), starred in both baseball and basketball, earning all-conference honors in both sports. Klicker joins his brother, the late Dave Klicker, in Whitman's Hall of Fame.
Klicker was introduced Saturday by longtime friend Bob Becker ('58), who was a teammate at both Whitman and Wa-Hi, and who was inducted into Whitman's Hall of Fame in 2008.
Bruce Bennett ('70), a scoring whiz who collected more than 1,500 points and 800 rebounds in just three basketball seasons before giving up his senior year to pursue a 3-2 engineering program at Columbia.
Bennett was introduced at the ceremony by fifth-year Whitman men's basketball coach Eric Bridgeland, who led the Missionaries last year to their best season in more than two decades.
Dave Mastin ('88), one of only seven basketball players in the long history of the Northwest Conference (80-plus years) to earn All-NWC First-Team honors in four consecutive seasons. Mastin joins his father, the late Jim Mastin, in the Whitman Hall of Fame.
Mastin was introduced by his former academic adviser at Whitman, Timothy Kaufman-Osborn, who now serves the college as its Provost and Dean of the Faculty.
All four members were in attendance for Saturday's ceremonies and reception. Wilcox, Klicker and Mastin continue to make their homes in the local area, while Bennett lives in the Seattle area.
Saturday's ceremonies also included a presentation to the family members of the late Pete Jonas ('38), a standout baseball pitcher who was inducted in the Whitman Athletics Hall of Fame last year. Whitman baseball coach Jared Holowaty made the presentation to the Jonas family, who was not present at last year's induction ceremony.
Wilcox, a rookie defensive end for the Philadelphia Eagles during their 1960 NFL championship season, served as an assistant football coach at Whitman from 1967 through 1975. He was part of the coaching staff that guided Whitman to a share of the 1969 NWC championship.
Wilcox left the football staff a few years before Whitman discontinued its gridiron program in 1977, opting to concentrate on his role as head coach of the men's basketball team.
He coached men's basketball throughout the 1970s, and his teams averaged 14 wins a season from 1972 through 1975. His best season was 1975-76, when the Missionaries posted an 18-7 season record while missing an NWC title by one game.
Wilcox turned his attention to the women's basketball prgram during the 1980s, revitalizing that program before winning a conference title in 1987-88. In the eight seasons that followed, his teams advanced to postseason play five times and narrowly missed a sixth trip to the playoffs. He twice earned conference coach-of-the-year honors.
With 178 victories to his credit, Wilcox remains the all-time winningest coach in the history of Whitman women's basketball.
Wilcox and his wife Remy (who coached debate teams at Whitman for many years), continue to make their home in the rural Milton-Freewater area. Their two sons, Michael and Marcus (both Whitman graduates), and daughter Karen Carman live in Walla Walla.
Klicker played in an era when it wasn't unusual to see athletes compete in more than one sport, but Del Klicker ('56) was one of the relatively few Missionary competitors who had the talent to earn All-Northwest Conference First-Team honors in two sports.
After a standout prep career at Wa-Hi, Klicker made his first mark at Whitman on the baseball diamond.
As a freshman second baseman in the spring of 1953, he sparked the Missionaries at the plate, leading the team in hitting with a .350 batting average and 22 runs scored.
Whitman's 1954 baseball media guide noted that Klicker, as a freshman, had alternated between the leadoff and cleanup spots in the batting order, quickly establishing himself as one of the top performers for coach Joe Beidler. The pressbook also characterized him as "one of the outstanding players" players in the conference.
Klicker as rebounding guard
Klicker hit .306 as a sophomore while leading the team with 14 stolen bases in 16 games.
He hit well over .300 again as a junior, after opening the season with a home run against a team from the Walla Walla State Penitentiary - a team the school newspaper called the "rock crushers " - and spearheading a three-game sweep of College of Idaho with eight hits (including two home runs and a triple) in 14 at-bats.
While Klicker may have caught the rest of the conference by surprise as a freshman, that wasn't case during his last three seasons. He made the All-NWC First Team as a sophomore second baseman and as a shortstop during his junior and senior seasons.
Despite his relative lack of size as a 5-foot-6, 138-pound guard, Klicker played a major role on the Missionary basketball teams in his last two years at Whitman.
He was voted to the All-NWC First Team as a senior, one year after basketball coaches named him to the all-conference second team.
Klicker finished his senior season as Whitman's leading scorer, averaging 16.4 points and 5.0 rebounds per game.
Klicker, who was raised in Walla Walla, returned home after a two years of active duty in the Navy Reserve. He raised a family and involved himself in various Klicker family enterprises and remains active.
His brother, the late Dave Klicker (‘58), was inducted into the Whitman Athletics Hall of Fame in 2009.
Dave Klicker starred in track & field, winning an NAIA national title in the 400-meter hurdles in 1957.
The ultimate goal, when it comes to the game of basketball, is putting the ball in the hoop, and few players in the history of Whitman basketball did it any better than Bruce Bennett ('70).
Bennett enjoyed a stellar prep career at Mac-Hi in nearby Milton-Freewater. The 6-foot-5 center then made the jump to Whitman, where he continued to score baskets in bunches throughout his first three seasons.
Bennett averaged 516 points per season over that time span, amassing a total of 1,549 points. He needed just 471 points as a a senior to become the all-time career scoring at Whitman, passing the record (2,019 points) established in 1968 by Don Woodworth.
What most basketball fans didn't know at the time, however, was that Bennett's education plans left no room for a senior season.
He left Whitman after his junior year, transferring to New York's Columbia University to pursue a cooperative engineering program that still exists between the two schools.
Playing basketball at Whitman was " a tremendous amount of fun," he remembers, "but I was in college to get an education and begin a career."
After completing the 3-2 program, Bennett stayed at Columbia to complete his master's degree in engineering mechanics.
He earned his doctoral degree in applied mechanics at Stanford University, worked for an engineering consulting firm in San Francisco for 10 years, and then taught graduate-level engineering classes at Cal Poly from 1985 through 1988.
Bennett has lived in the Seattle area for the past two-plus decades, working as a structural engineer analyst for Boeing.
Dave Mastin ('88), a 6-foot-4 forward with the talent and versatility to play any position on the basketball floor, set a standard of excellence that few players have matched in the long history of the Northwest Conference.
Mastin, in fact, is one of just seven players in the conference who earned All-NWC First-Team honors in each of his four seasons.
Following an all-state prep career at Wa-Hi, Mastin turned down the chance to play NCAA Division I basketball to come to Whitman to play for coach Jim Mastin, his father.
Mastin wasted no time carving his own conference niche, averaging 14.4 points and 7.4 rebounds as a freshman while becoming the only non-senior voted by coaches to the All-NWC First Team.
Whitman, which had finished in a last-place tie the year before, rolled to a 16-10 season record that included a 7-5 mark and third-place finish in the conference.
Despite abdominal surgery that hampered his final season, Mastin averaged 15 points and 9.9 rebounds, leading the conference in rebounding for a third straight year.
He and teammate Brian Richard led the Missionaries to a share of the NWC title, although the team fell a few percentage points short of advancing again to the NAIA district playoffs.
Both Richard and Mastin were also voted to the NAIA's All-District team - an honor bestowed on Mastin for a third consecutive season.
Mastin still ranks fifth on Whitman's career scoring list with 1,605 points and second on the all-time rebounding list with 976, an average of 9.3 rebounds over 105 career games.
His career numbers also include 309 assists and 156 steals.
After Whitman, Mastin earned his law degree at Gonzaga University, practiced law and served multiple terms in the Washington State House of Representatives. He is now a financial consultant and lives with his family in Walla Walla.
Mastin joins his father, who passed away in 2005, in the Whitman Athletics Hall of Fame.