DAHLONEGA — Some 150 people shared laughs and fond memories on Friday night as North Georgia College & State University inducted four honorees into the newly created athletics Hall of Fame.
Former basketball players Brenda Hill-Gilmore and Jim Hyder, former coach and athletic director Bill Ensley, and coach and former baseball player Bob Stein were inducted by NGCSU athletics director Lindsay Reeves and university President David Potter.
“As a group, you have a unique place in the history of North Georgia College & State University. In the coming years, we will induct many other deserving members into the Athletics Hall of Fame, but you four always will be remembered as the first class,” Reeves said during the induction ceremony.
Hill-Gilmore and Hyder both played basketball and graduated from East Hall High. Hill-Gilmore was coached by former East Hall basketball coach Seth Vining.
Hill-Gilmore, who coaches basketball at Winder-Barrow High School, was to be introduced by her former coach, current West Hall basketball coach Lynn Jarrett, who was unable to attend. Comments from Jarrett crediting “Sugar” Hill’s work ethic and talent were read by Haines Hill, North Georgia alumnus and former faculty member.
During her acceptance speech, Hill-Gilmore shared tales of hard work and camaraderie. She also thanked her family and especially daughter Tasha Humphrey, a former Gainesville High and University of Georgia basketball standout, for her patience in “sharing her with the world.”
Hill-Gilmore led the women’s basketball team to the NAIA Division I National Championship game in the 1986-87 season after transferring from Auburn University. She still holds numerous school records.
Hyder, formerly of Lula, was unable to attend the ceremony, but cousin Anne-Marie Campbell read a letter he had written thanking family and former coaches and fellow players for their role in his accomplishments. Several members of the Hyder family, who still reside in Lula, attended the ceremony.
Ensley, who was Hyder’s former coach, talked about his former star athlete, calling him the “best basketball player he ever coached.” Ensley also called his signing of Hyder, one of his first moves as the new basketball coach in 1971, “the best move he ever made.”
Hyder earned NAIA All-American honorable mention in back-to-back seasons and scored more than 1,800 points during his final three seasons. He still holds several school records.
Ensley, of Dahlonega, also was inducted into the Hall of Fame and was introduced by longtime friend and colleague Larry Dennis, chairman of the hall’s Board of Directors. Dennis, who explained that the two had been friends since the day Ensley interviewed for the coaching job, credited Ensley for molding gentlemen as well as quality student athletes.
After a stellar career as a high school basketball coach, Ensley established the men’s basketball program at North Georgia in 1971. He was head coach for 18 years and athletic director for 24. He led the team to district playoffs 11 times, winning district championship titles in 1983 and 1984. He also was recognized nationally by the NAIA with coach of the year and athletic director of the year honors.
Bob Stein, who was instrumental in reviving the baseball program at North Georgia after a nearly 30-year absence, was introduced by current baseball coach Tom Cantrell. Cantrell, recruited by Stein to help reinstate the program, described Stein’s dedication to helping young men excel at baseball and shared Stein’s philosophy that his years at North Georgia had made him the man he is today.
In 2010, the university’s new baseball stadium was dedicated as Bob Stein Stadium in recognition of his efforts. In his remarks, Stein explained that coaching baseball was a dream come true for him, and thanked his family for allowing him the opportunity to make that dream a reality.
Stein, who now lives in Westminster, S.C., commuted from his Atlanta home to Dahlonega every day to help Cantrell coach the team. He still remains actively involved with the team.
The induction ceremony and banquet were held as part of homecoming weekend activities at the university, which also included Saturday games versus Armstrong Atlantic and an afternoon get-together for alumni and former athletes.