RGV Sports Hall of Fame 2015 Inductees

RGVSportsHallOfFame

Rio Grande Valley Sports Hall of Fame 2015 Inductees

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Honoring the 1965 Brownsville High School Baseball Team – UIL Class 4A State Finalists

Biographies

Tommy Barker

Tommy Barker is the only person born in raised in the Rio Grande Valley to play in the National Basketball Association. He is also the best high school basketball player the Valley has ever seen.

Tommy was a force that nobody could reckon with during his high school days at Weslaco High. He was 6-foot-10 as a junior for the Panthers, averaging 25 points per game. As a senior, he was an inch taller and averaged 32 points a game. He earned All-State honors both seasons.

He played collegiately at The University of Minnesota as a freshman, at the University of Southern Idaho as a sophomore, and at the University of Hawaii for his junior and senior seasons.

He was taken in the fourth round of the 1976 NBA Draft by Atlanta, and played 59 games for the Hawks in 1976-77, averaging 8.1 points and 6.8 rebounds a game. Some teammates on those teams included Nate Archibald, Jo Jo White, Bob McAdoo, Dave Cowens, Rick Barry, Mike Dunleavy, Calvin Murphy, Moses Malone, Rudy Tomjanovich, Robert Reid, Earl “The Pearl” Monroe, Michael Ray Richardson, and Spencer Haywood. He left the Hawks after one season and played in the CBA in 1977-78. Tommy rejoined the NBA in 1978-79, playing with three teams – the New York Knicks, the Boston Celtics and Houston Rockets. After 22 games with the Knicks, Barker left to play in Holland.  In 1981 his rights were traded to the Portland Trailblazers, although he never reported there.

 


Juan de Dios Garcia

Juan de Dios Garcia is considered by soccer aficionados as the Father of Soccer in the Rio Grande Valley.

He grew up in Matamoros playing soccer in the early 1960s. After graduating from Brownsville High School in 1974, he played on multiple all-star teams in Texas and Mexico in the 1970s. He realized he needed to finish college, and did so in 1982 at Pan American University at Brownsville

The UIL approved soccer as a new sport in 1982, and Garcia was there to serve as the first coach at Brownsville Hanna that year. He stayed 30 years as the boys’ soccer coach at Hanna, the longest-tenured soccer coach in the Rio Grande Valley in any sport. His career record was 437-206-66, a winning percentage of .663. He took the Eagles to the playoffs 20 out of the 30 years, and took seven Hanna teams to the regional tournament, including five straight times from 1999 to 2003.

Hanna’s 1-0 victory over previously undefeated San Antonio MacArthur in the 1990 regional final marked the first time a Valley boys’ soccer team advanced to the state soccer tournament. That 1990 Eagles lost in the semifinals to Austin Westlake, 4-3, in a wild 22-player shootout.

Several of his former players are now successful coaches, including Rev Hernandez of Sharyland, Salvador Garcia of Rivera, and Amadeo Escandon of Lopez. After retirement, he served as a volunteer assistant coach for the UTB/TSC women’s soccer team from 2007 to 2010.

Garcia was inducted into the Texas Association of Soccer Coaches Hall of Honor in 2012.


 

Jaime Peña

Jaime Peña enjoyed a memorable basketball career, where he starred at Mission High School, had great success at New Mexico State University, and was drafted by the San Antonio Spurs.

He was Valley Freedom Newspapers Player of the Year in 1978, leading Mission to three straight District 28-4A championships under legendary Coach Roy Garcia. The Eagles were unbeaten in district in 1975-76 and 1976-77, and lost only once in 1977-78, going 51-1 Jaime’s three years. He was 6-foot-7 as a senior when Mission went 32-5. He was named to the All-State Team and played in the Texas High School Basketball Classic in 1978.

Jaime played two seasons at Lon Morris Junior College and transferred to New Mexico State University, where he scored almost 1,000 points in two years. As a junior and now 6-foot-8, he was co-Newcomer of the Year in 1980-81. He averaged 18.1 points to lead the Missouri Valley Conference in scoring. He also averaged 6.9 rebounds per game, earning Second Team All-Conference honors. As a senior, he averaged 17.5 points and 6.5 rebounds per game, and was named to the First Team of the MVC and MVP of the conference.

He was drafted in the sixth round of the 1982 NBA draft by the San Antonio Spurs, but never played for the team. He played professionally in with CAI Zaragoza (Spain) in the European League, and in Puerto Rico and Mexico. He later joined the Mexico Olympic team.

He was inducted into the Latinos in Action National Hispanic Sports Hall of Fame based out of San Antonio in 2009.


 

Aaron Ramirez

Aaron Ramirez wasn’t just one of the best long distance runners in the Valley or the state of Texas, he established himself as one of the best in the nation during his era. His specialty was distance running, and his time of 9:07.18 in the 3,200-meter run in 1982 has stood as a Valley record for 33 years. After graduating from Mission High School, Ramirez signed with Texas A&M University and but transferred after one year to The University of Arizona.

At Arizona, he set the collegiate distance running world on fire from 1984 to 1987.

Ramirez ran a personal best time in the 10,000 meters of 27:59.70. He won the Pacific-10 and District 8 Cross Country Championship to qualify for nationals in 1986. At the NCAA Men’s Cross Country Championships, Ramirez won the 10,000-meter run with a time of 30:27.53, winning the race by five seconds. He ended his college career by winning the Pacific-10 and District 8 championships. He finished his career at Arizona ranked in the Top 10 in the 3,000-meter steeplechase, 5,000-meter run, and 10,000-meter run.

He was a finalist at the 1988 U.S. Olympic Trials in the 3,000-meter steeplechase, and was a member of the U.S. team at the World Cross Country Championships in 1989, 1990, and 1991. At the 1992 Olympic trials, Ramirez qualified in the 10,000-meter run to earn a trip to the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona. At the Games, he finished in 13th place in his heat with a time of 29:00.12.


 

Lupe Rodriguez

Lupe Rodriguez was the leader behind the team that revolutionized offenses in the Valley in the 1980s. Mission was the first Valley team to use the shotgun formation exclusively and used a pass-first philosophy to move the football.

In his junior year in 1986, Lupe Rodriguez passed for 2,738 yards and 33 touchdowns, falling just eight yards short of the state passing title to San Antonio Holmes’ Wilbur Odom. Mission qualified to the state playoffs for the first time since 1968, advancing to the bi-district round to face Harlingen, a team Mission had not defeated since 1941. Rodriguez completed 26 of 41 passes for 422 yards and six touchdowns in the 54-7 victory over Harlingen witnessed by 18,000 fans.

In his senior year, Rodriguez’s 4,179 passing yards in 1987 still stands as the Valley’s single-season record, as do his 50 touchdown passes that year. The passing-yard mark was best in the nation at the time. His two top targets, Nati Valdez and Frank Hernandez, ranked 2-3 nationally in receiving that year with 104 and 98 catches, respectively.

Rodriguez still holds five Valley-best marks, including career TD passes (83) and single-season pass attempts (445). Lupe finished his two-year career with 6,917 passing yards. He held three national records at the time: the single-season passing mark, the single-season TD mark and the most TD passes in a game (seven). He was the Class 5A All-State offensive player of the year in 1987.

Rodriguez signed with Stephen F. Austin and later transferred to Texas A&I University.


 

Stacey Siebert Banks

Stacey Siebert Banks is perhaps the most successful female basketball player to come out the Rio Grande Valley at Harlingen High School and Texas Tech University.

At Harlingen High, Siebert terrorized opponents, leading the Lady Cardinals to District 32-5A championship in 1986. She averaged 23.1 points per game as a senior and finished her three-year career with 1,499 points and 843 rebounds. For her efforts, she was named to the All-District Team and chosen First Team All-Valley.

Siebert graduated from HHS in 1986 and earned a scholarship to Texas Tech University. Where she played four years. Between her freshman and sophomore seasons, she was selected to play in the 1987 U.S. Olympic Festival team.

At Tech, she earned second-team All-Southwest Conference honors in 1989 and 1990, and was on the SWC Classic All-Tournament team both years as well. She finished her career at Tech with 1,315 points, 154 blocked shots, which is ranked fifth all-time, and 10.4 rebounds per game average, which is ranked fourth all-time at Tech. She is also in Tech’s all-time Top 10 in free throws attempted and made. Her career-high rebounding mark came in 1989 when she pulled down 23 boards against Texas A&M. She was chosen MVP by her teammates in 1989.

Texas Tech had winning records each year Stacey was there under legendary Coach Marsha Sharp, who won a national championship in 1993 with Sheryl Swoopes. The Lady Raiders finished 18-11 in 1987, 17-13 in 1988, 16-13 in 1989, and 20-11 in 1990.


 

Nati Valdez

Nati Valdez was one of the most outstanding wide receivers the Rio Grande Valley has ever seen. He played at Mission High from 1986-1988, becoming a starter since the fifth game of his sophomore season. During Valdez’ senior season, Mission won its first district championship in 20 years.

He holds three Valley receiving records. His 104 receptions during his junior season was a state record at the time and remains a Valley best. Valdez finished with a three-year total of 252 catches, which ranks fifth all-time in Texas. At the time, it was the national all-time record. His 3,726 career receiving yards total is still a Valley record, and he scored 37 touchdowns in his career as an Eagle.

During his senior year, Mission played only eight regular season games, yet Valdez caught 70 passes for 987 yards despite playing hurt most of the year.

He was double-teamed by many teams, who knew they had to stop him, but few could. Nati ran his routes well and had good communication with his quarterbacks. Opposing coaches found it difficult to defend Nati.

Valdez was chosen to the Class 5A All-State team, a first-team selection to the Valley’s All-Millennium Team, and was inducted into the Texas High School Football Hall of Fame in 2008. Aside from lettering three times in football, he was also a three-year letterman in baseball, twice in basketball, and once in track.

He played collegiately at Brigham Young University, where he had three touchdown catches in his sophomore and junior seasons.


 

Alonso “Knot” Garcia

Alonso “Knot” Garcia enjoyed a baseball career that included playing collegiate and professionally.

After graduating from Edinburg High School in 1962, he started his two-year career as a shortstop for the Pan American’s 1963 team that started a 26-year run of winning seasons for the Broncs in the NAIA and NCAA. He played a big role in leading the Broncs to the NAIA District 8 championship in 1964, marking the team’s first postseason appearance in baseball.

After that 1964 season, he was drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates, and immediately went to the Salem Rebels in the Rookie League, where he batted .241 with two homers in 71 games.

He played briefly for the Monterrey Sultanes in the Mexican League in 1965 before the Pirates called him back to play at Class A Batavia. He hit .228 in 25 games in the New York-Penn League. He returned to the Mexican League and started the 1966 season with Monterrey when he was drafted into the U.S. Army that year.

Garcia spent 18 months in Vietnam. His service earned him the National Defense Medal, the Service Medal, the Sharpshooter (Rifle M-14) Medal, the Vietnam Campaign Medal and the Vietnam Service Medal. He was honorably discharged in May 1972.

He returned home to play baseball again in the Mexican League in 1968, where he played for eight seasons at the AAA level at Monterrey, Reynosa, Tampico, Pueblo, Yucatan, and Coahuila.

After his baseball career ended in 1975, he coached American Legion Baseball in Edinburg. Alonso passed away in 2005.


 

Harold L. Hees

Harold Hees was an elusive running back at Harlingen High in the mid-1950s, earning All-State honorable mention honors, and had a successful career as a running for Texas A&I University, where he earned Honorable Mention Little All-America for the Javelinas.

Hees was a bruising running back for the Cardinals, and was among the Valley leaders in touchdowns scored. He was a three-year letterman from 1953-55, and was a Cardinal tri-captain his senior year. Hees made Second Team All-District as a junior and then First Team All-District as a senior in 1955. He led District 8-AAA in scoring, and beat San Benito with a last-second touchdown run.

At Texas A&I, Hees lettered three years as a fullback in football.  As a sophomore, he was one of the team’s leading scorers and rushers. As a junior, Hees made the All-Lone Star Conference team as the Javelinas won their first-ever LSC championship and then took their first NAIA national title. Hees was at his best in the clutch, with touchdowns in both playoff games. Hees made the All-Lone Star Conference team two years, along with All-America in 1960.

The honoree was named to the All-LSC team again in 1960, was All-Texas College and was on the Associated Press Little All-America honorable mention list.

The 1959 team captured the first of seven national championships for Texas A&I and gained the South Texas campus nation-wide attention when it played the title game on CBS television.

He was inducted into the Javelina Hall of Fame in 1982.