Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame opens this month

(Source: Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame
(Source: Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame

The newest and most dazzling cultural attraction for the state of Louisiana is having its grand opening on Friday, June 28.

That newest attraction is the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame and Northwest Louisiana History Museum.

This expansive 27,500-square-foot building is in Natchitoches, one of the oldest cities in Louisiana.

The facility will provide a permanent home for the Sports Hall of Fame and its collection of portraits and memorabilia celebrating the achievements of more than 300 Louisiana athletes, coaches and other sports figures.

The Northwest Louisiana History Museum explores the evolution of unique cultural traditions from early native-American civilizations to the present.

The building itself, designed by Trahan Architects of New Orleans, evokes the region's rivers and plowed fields with sinuous molded stone interiors and earth-colored exterior sheathing.

The festivities will be hosted by Lt. Governor Jay Dardenne and the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame Foundation.

"Louisiana's sports tradition is on par with our world-class food, music and culture so we are proud it finally has a space to call its own," said Lt. Governor Jay Dardenne.

The Friday evening grand opening reception is a benefit for the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame Foundation. Tickets for this exclusive event are $125 per person and are available at LaSportsHall.com or by calling 318-238-4255.

Following the grand opening on Saturday, June 29, the Sports Hall of Fame will induct 11 new members.

These following Louisiana standouts will be inducted: 

Ronald Ardoin – Horse Racing

Ardoin was a top jockey for 30 years in both Louisiana and Texas.

On August, 20, 2000, he became only the 16th jockey to reach the 5,000 win plateau during a race at Louisiana Downs.

He finished his career with 5,226 wins in 32,335 career mounts. He claimed five riding titles a Louisiana Downs and is the tracks' all –time leader by wins and stakes wins.

Ronald Ardoin was from Carencro.

Tommy Hodson – Football

Hodson was born in Mathews, Louisiana and attended LUS and had an illustrious career as a four-year starting quarterback from 1986 to 1989. He compiled a 31-14-1 record during his time with LSU where he is also the all-time leading passer with 9,115 yards, he also leads the school in career touchdown passes with 69.

Hodson was also high school football standout when he played for Central Lafourche High School, guiding the Trojans to a 13-1 record and passing for 4,361 yards and 36 TDs as a senior.

Hadson was drafted in the third round of the 1990 NFL draft by the New England Patriots and played seven seasons for four teams finishing his career in 1995-96 as backup with the Saints.

Ervin Johnson – Basketball

The 6-foot-11 Jonesville native never played high school basketball and was bagging groceries in Baton Rouge when he was brought to the attention of then UNO coach Tim Floyd.

Johnson played four season at UNO from 1990-93 and was even awarded Sun Belt Conference Player of the Year in 1993.

During Johnson's time at UNO the team made two NCAA Tournament appearances and one NIT appearance. Johnson finished as the second-leading scorer in UNO history with 1,608 and was the school's all-time leader in rebounds (1,287), blocked shots (294), and field goal percentage (.590).

Johnson was eventually drafted into the NBA in 1993 (23rd overall) He played 13 seasons professionally with Seattle, Denver, Milwaukee and Minnesota. Johnson was born in New Orleans.

James Jones – basketball

James Jones was a Tullulah native and was the star of three straight Southwestern Athletic Conference championship teams at Grambling.

After his career at Gambling Jones went on to be a stand out player in ABA, while averaging 19.2 points, 5.1 assists and 4.9 rebounds during seven years in the league and was only the second player to score 2,000-plus points in a single season.

After the ABA – NBA merger, Jones played three more seasons with Washington in the NBA. His combined 10 year professional career averages are 16.3 points ( 11,366 total), 4.6 rebounds (2,930) and 4.5 assists (3,069).

Anna Koll –Athlete

Koll was described as New Orleans' "Greatest All-Around Girl Athlete" in the 1930s by The Times-Picayune, Koll won the Southern women's tennis championship twice, the Louisiana women's title several times and state titles in Mississippi, Alabama and Tennessee.

She set Southern AAU records in the 80-meter high hurdles (13.0) and the broad jump (15-11) along with the 50-yard dash and 120-yard hurdles.

She was part of the New Orleans team which won the Southern AAU championship for four straight years (1926-29) and in each year she competed, she won at least one individual title.

She helped the Wiltz gymnasium win the AAU indoor baseball title three straight years, leading the league in batting each season. She also played on the Wiltz basketball team and made the All-Star Team three straight years.

Kevin Mawae – Football

Mawae was a standout player at Leesville High School and used his talents to become talented left tackle, left guard, center, and long snapper at LSU from 1990-93. Mawae's college career was capped off when he earned first-team All-SEC honors in 1991 in addition to playing in the Blue-Gray Game and Senior Bowl.

Eventually, Mawae went on to be drafted into the NFL in 1994 and was the 36th overall pick by the Seattle Seahawks. He played 14 seasons in the NFL for the Seahawks, New York Jets and Tennessee Titans. He started 238 of 241 games played during his career. Mawae become a 8 time Pro Bowl selection during his 16 seasons in the league.

Shaquille O'Neal – Basketball

One of basketball's greatest players, the 7-foot-1, 325 pound center exploded on to the national scene during his days at LSU.

While at LSU O'Neal was named national player of the year in 1991, and a two time Southeastern Conference Player of the Year (1991, 1992), SEC athlete of the year 1991-92, and World Amateur Athlete of the year in 1991.

After a stand out college career O'Neal was drafted at number 1 into the NBA by the Orlando Magic.

He went on to win NBA rookie of the year honors in for 1991-92 season. Later in his career O'Neal was pivotal figure for the Los Angeles Lakers who won three consecutive NBA championships from 2000-2002. O'Neal was also played a crucial role for the 2006 Miami Heat Championship team.

"Shaq" is one of only three players to in NBA history (Joining Willis Reed; and Michael Jordan) to win All-Star Game MVP, NBA MVP and NBA Finals MVP in the same season (1999-2000).

Chanda Rubin – Women's Tennis

Rubin the Lafayette native became an international star and frequent contender for some of the most prized titles in tennis. She reached such prestige to be ranked No. 6 in the world in April 1996.

Though she enjoyed a very successful singles career, winning a Wimbledon Juniors singles crown at the age of 16.

Where Rubin really shined was in doubles play where she posted 226-160 career record with 10 WTA and 3 ITF tournament crowns and achieved her highest ranking at No. 9 in 1996.

She teamed with Aranxta Sanchez-Vicario to win the 1996 Australian Open doubles title and also reached the 1999 U.S. Open finals as well as the semi-finals at Wimbledon in 2002 and French Open in 2003.

Ed "Skeets" Tuohy – High School Basketball Coach

A legendary high school coach whose career 84.5 winning percentage included three state championships among nine state tournament appearances in 15 seasons, Tuohy coached basketball at Newman High in New Orleans until a stroke ended his career.

Newman's record was 13-12 the year before he took over and in his first year the team went 32-0 and won the state championship. Newman won state titles in 1960-61, 1962-63 and 1963-64 and went to the state tournament nine times in his 15 seasons, including six in a row from 1961-66.

His teams were district champions in all 15 years - the last six teams didn't lose a district game. Tuohy's overall record was 403-74 (.845).  He never lost more than nine games in one season.

Bob Marshall – Distinguished Service Award in Sports Journalism Recipient

The Times-Picayune's Pulitzer Prize-winner has spent much of his career chronicling the people, stories and issues of Louisiana's wetlands culture.

Marshall's extensive work as a reporter and columnist covering the outdoors, professional, college and Olympics sports, feature writing, op-ed columns, and special projects specializing in environmental issues.

In 1997 Marshall was a member of the T-P's three-man team that won a Pulitzer Prize for the series "Oceans of Trouble" which examined the plight of the world's fisheries.

In 2005 Marshall's investigations into Corps of Engineers missteps in building the New Orleans levees and floodwalls was part of the T-P reporting package that won the Pulitzer for its coverage of Hurricane Katrina.

In addition, Marshall was a finalist for the Investigative Editors and Reporters award and the Polk Award for his on-going coverage into the causes of the disaster.

In 2007, Marshall was co-author of the series entitled "Last Chance: The Fight to Save a Disappearing Coast," about Louisiana's coastal erosion problems, which won the 2007 John H. Oakes Prize for Distinguished Environmental Reporting from Columbia University, and the Keck Award for outstanding science reporting from The National Academies of Sciences.

His environmental reporting and essays have also earned recognition from a wide range of conservation and environmental groups, and including Conservationist of the Year awards from the Louisiana Wildlife Federation.

And in 2004 Marshall was elected to the Circle of Chiefs by the Outdoor Writers Association of America, that group's highest award for contributions to conservation.

Marshall's other national and regional awards for journalism include top honors from the Associated Press, United Press International, Scripps-Howard Foundation National Journalism Awards, Society of Professional Journalists, National Association of Sportswriters and Sportscasters and the Pro Football Writers of America, Outdoor Writers Association of America, Louisiana Sportswriters Association, Louisiana Outdoor Writers Association, and Southeastern Outdoors Press Association.

Milton Retif – Dave Dixon Louisiana Sports Leadership Award Recipient

Milt Retif has a lifelong record of sports leadership and accomplishment, along with being a benefactor of prep, college and amateur sports in New Orleans and a friend to the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame.

He is a member of the Greater New Orleans Sports Hall of Fame (2001) as an athlete, coach and civic contributor and three years later was enshrined in the Hilton Riverside Walk of Fame for "positive contributions to the way of life in New Orleans." He was the cornerstone of a push to raise funds for the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame earlier this century, helping organize support in New Orleans from civic and business leaders.

A former outstanding infielder at Jesuit (an All-State selection who played for a state title team in 1950) and Tulane where he was captain of the team in the early 1950's, Retif saved the program with financial contributions in 1966 when the Green Wave gave consideration to making baseball a club sport.

He took over the program a year later as an unpaid head coach and built a 123-73 (.628) record and coached the Wave to national prominence including a No. 1 national ranking in 1971.

A highly-successful businessman and a major backer of the Green Wave program, financing team locker rooms and other necessities, his uniform number at Tulane is retired for his impact as a player, coach and supporter.

He holds an annual golf tournament benefitting many of his New Orleans-area charitable causes.

For years, Retif has been a major sponsor of American Legion baseball programs for Jesuit and Archbishop Shaw high schools.

He has received Shaw's Don Bosco Award for being a "role model for youth through sports and school activities."

His alma mater, Jesuit, voted him Outstanding Alumnus in 1993.

He has created an endowment for students there. Coaches, parents, and former players  say his support far surpassed check-writing and fund-raising.

Soon after the Superdome opened, Retif was instrumental in staging a baseball exhibition between the Yankees and Red Sox, with proceeds going to Grambling State and Christian Brothers School in New Orleans.

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