CLEVELAND, Tenn. — The most nationally known new member of the Cleveland State Cougar Athletics Hall of Fame, former major league baseball player Bubba Trammell, was unable to attend the induction brunch Saturday at Cleveland Country Club, but the other seven all were present and very enthusiastic in talking about what the school meant in their lives.
For one there was Brian Hartsell, the point guard on the 1988-89 team that made the school's only appearance in the NJCAA men's basketball national tournament. That team was coached by Roby Phillips, another of the honorees in the ceremony presented by SouthEast Bank and emceed by former Cleveland State president L. Quentin Lane.
"In June 1987 I was sitting at home wondering about my future," said Hartsell, who had just finished high school but lived in a poor part of Knoxville.
Now he's the supervisor of enrollment for Knox County Schools, after moving on from Cleveland State to a bachelor's degree at Carson-Newman and a master's at Lincoln Memorial.
That all followed a call from the Rev. Bethel Hendricks Sr., informing Hartsell that the coach who had just landed star forward Bethel Hendricks Jr. after a chance conversation with Hendricks Sr. at a summer tournament in Chattanooga wanted Hartsell also.
"I was the first member of my family to get to go to college, and that started right here," Hartsell said.
Phillips explained that after talking Hendricks into becoming a Cougar, he mentioned that he still needed a point guard.
"'You can quit looking, Coach. I've got one for you,'" Phillips said Hendricks told him. "I said, 'Well, I've got to see him play.' 'No you don't, Coach. Take my word for it.' There I am, being asked to take the word of a player I barely knew about another player. Two years later we were in the national tournament in Hutchinson, Kansas.
"Brian Hartsell is the epitome of a student-athlete. He is the greatest overall student-athlete I've ever been around — and a blessing to this Earth."
Phillips was the first inductee Saturday and began a theme of the event by saying, "God gets all the glory."
A Cleveland State student and tennis player as the 1970s began, he had a 31-year coaching career with a 342-189 record as a head coach.
The other 2017 inductees were Melinda Godfrey-Dalton for women's basketball, Michelle Lowery Sorrell for softball, Hobert Brabson II for tennis, Ron Waters for golf and Brainerd High School graduate Greg Bowles along with Trammell for baseball.
Godfrey-Dalton and Sorrell were Lady Cougars basketball teammates from 1993 to 1995. The latter was a former Polk County standout who was on the first edition of Cleveland State's revived softball program in 1994, with her Polk coach dad as coach, and she became the catcher the next year after not having played the position before.
She also recruited basketball teammate Godfrey to join the woefully short diamond roster.
"I loved my two years at Cleveland State. I wouldn't take anything for it," said Sorrell, who went on to play at Martin Methodist for coach Dan Lumpkin, now a longtime Lady Cougars coach, and became an award-winning teacher.
Godfrey averaged 19.5 and 22 points a game in her two seasons of Cleveland State basketball and was all-region both years and the region tournament MVP as a sophomore. She praised coach Rusty Melvin and his part in her going on to LMU.
Brabson came to Cleveland State as a 29-year-old with 2015 inductee Louis Royal, whom he described as the real standout but who told coach Bob Taylor he was going where Brabson was. Brabson, who made the all-region team as a Cougar, got two degrees from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and now works and preaches in Cleveland. He's also an inventor — of a compartmented container.
"You do not get here by yourself," Brabson, crediting God and his parents above all but also noting, "Bob Taylor was not only a great coach also a great motivator of young people. And Dean (Jim) Cigliano always had time for me."
Waters played golf at the two-year school from 1974 to 1976 and went on to Tennessee and 30 years as a high school coach and teacher, including 12 years heading the golf teams at Maryville Heritage. Then in 2008 he started the golf program at Maryville College and coached both men and women, at the same time continuing an outstanding amateur playing career.
Among many other achievements, he's been picked for the Tennessee Challenge Cup team 10 times and has won the state PGA's Chattanooga Coca-Cola Open in 2000, the Tennessee Senior Amateur in 2011 and the Tennessee PGA Senior Players Championship in 2012.
Bowles batted .395 and .403 in his 1988 and 1989 baseball seasons at Cleveland State, leading the team in stolen bases both years, and went on to North Alabama for an All-America career that put him in that school's hall of fame in 2008. He hit .376 with 48 steals and .373 with 33 steals for the Lions.
He got a bachelor's in social work at UNA and now is supervisor of probation for Hamilton County Juvenile Court, but he said Cougars coach Steve Longley "took two years" but got him finally thinking as much about classroom success as baseball success.
"There's not enough words to say about Coach Longley. I love him to death," Bowles said.
Longley said Trammell was kept from the event by watching out for his ill mother, but the former Knoxville Central star batted .368 with 12 homers in the 1992 season at Cleveland State between a year at Roane State and two at Tennessee, where he hit .368 with 22 homers and 105 RBIs and made the all-century team. Then he went to pro ball and played seven years in the big leagues, batting .261 with 82 homers, 96 doubles, seven triples and 285 RBIs with six teams and went to the 2000 World Series with the New York Mets.