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Courtesy: Kyle Terada/WCC

Former Great Blake Stepp Inducted Into WCC Hall of Honor

Courtesy: Gonzaga Athletics
          Release: 03/03/2012
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            LAS VEGAS - Former Gonzaga University men's basketball great Blake Stepp was one of nine new inductees to enter the West Coast Conference Hall of Honor Saturday morning in ceremonies in conjunction with the Zappos.com WCC Basketball Championships.

            In addition to Stepp, the 2012 WCC Hall of Honor class includes BYU's Elaine Michaelis (Volleyball/Administration), Loyola Marymount University's Billy Bean (Baseball), Pepperdine University's Dana Jones (Men's Basketball), University of Portland's Kasey Keller (Men's Soccer), Saint Mary's College's Tom Candiotti (Baseball), University of San Diego's Thomas Burke (Administration), University of San Francisco's K.C. Jones (Men's Basketball) and Santa Clara University's Kurt Rambis (Men's Basketball).

            "I had a great time in this tournament both as a player and now as a fan," Stepp said.

            He was joined by his parents, Dean and Judy, and his wife, Ashley.

            But little did the Stepp family know there would be a connection with current WCC Commissioner Jamie Zaninovich, like Stepp a native of Eugene, Ore.

            "Our commissioner's brother (George) was All-State at South Eugene High and played for my Dad.  As well as my brother, I grew up watching his (Jamie's) brother. My Dad is one of the best shooting coaches out there I've seen. My brother was probably the best shooter and George was very close to the best I've ever seen. I had the right roots growing up, and grew up in the gym," Stepp recalled.

            But with a basketball coach as a father, and a brother as well as himself players, Stepp looked to his mother, Judy, for support.

            "I had a lot of support having my Mom at home. My Dad and I would bring basketball home a lot, and sometimes after a bad game or a bad practice my Mom was always there to make certain he stayed cordial and not say something he would regret," Stepp joked.

            Stepp also said his wife Ashley, a Spokane native, "has been through a lot the last few years. I was able to play a few years professionally. After I got out of school I had a lot of knee injuries. I was in kind of that in-between where I wanted to play and my body wasn't agreeing with me. She was a rock and very solid. She kept me humble and kept me moving forward."
            Stepp praised the Gonzaga experience.

            "Gonzaga was truly a great experience. I feel very fortunate I was able to attend the university and play basketball there. It truly is a family and that's very special. My job now is doing what every ex-athlete does - in sales," he mused. "My job now, when I got out in the community, east to Montana and even into Seattle there are Zags everywhere. It's not just the team; it's the faculty, the staff. Once you're kind of a part of the program you're always a part of it. Not a day goes by I'm not talking about Gonzaga basketball. I was trying to make a sale and this one guy talked basketball for an hour before we got around to trying to show him what I was really trying to talk about and sell him this product."

            But that's the notoriety that has come with wearing the Bulldog uniform.

            Still the seventh leading scorer in Bulldog history with 1,670 points and second in 3-point field goals made (98) and assists (207), Stepp has seen the changes of recent years.

            "Gonzaga has come a long way. The staff, the students, the community - everybody buys in. It's very special," he said.

            Stepp played for the Bulldogs from 2001-04. As a freshman, the native of Eugene, Ore., started all 33 games, was named the WCC Freshman of the Year and tabbed as a WCC honorable mention pick as well as an All-WCC Tournament selection. He averaged 10.3 ppg and 3.5 assists/game.

            He had surgery on his right knee in the spring of 2001 following his freshman season to repair a torn meniscus. Doctors found a deterioration of the knee joint and a procedure called micro-fracture was performed in late spring. He was hampered most of his sophomore season but still started 29 of his 31 appearances and missed two games early in the season with a sprained ankle. He was named to the All-WCC Tournament team. He averaged 9.2 ppg and 3.9 assists/game, and recorded a single-game record and career high 16 assists against Long Beach State University.

            Had knee surgery again in the off season heading into his junior year and was given a clean bill of health. He scored a career-high 33 points against the University of Washington, then broke it two nights later with a 34-point effort against Washington State University. He tied the single-game record for free throws made with a 16-for-20 night against UW. He scored in double-digits the final 17 games of the season, averaging 18.0 ppg while earning All-WCC First Team honors and was named the WCC Player of the Year..

            He scored 28 points in WCC Tournament semifinal victory over Saint Mary's, going 6-for-11 from the field and 14-of-15 from the line. He scored 10 points in the WCC Tournament title game, giving him 38 points and a 19.0 ppg average in the tourney and he was once again named to the All-WCC Tournament team. He was an Associated Press honorable mention All-America, a National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC) District 4 first-team pick and a Basketball Times All-West Region first team selection

            He capped his career by averaging 14.6 ppg his senior year and recorded 207 assists to rank second on the all-time Gonzaga list behind Matt Santangelo. Scored 33 points in two WCC Tournament games, including 19 in title game against Saint Mary's and was named to the All-WCC Tournament team.  He was named the WCC Player of the Year for the second straight season, the ninth player to earn back-to-back honors. He was also named the to the AP All-America second team, to the NABC District 14 second team, to the John R. Wooden Award Top 10 and was the United State Basketball Writers of America (USBWA) District 9 Player of the Year and All-District first team.

            Stepp still ranks on several single-season and career lists. He is seventh on the career scoring list with 1,670 points, first in 3-point field goals made (288) and attempted (755), seventh in free throws made (386), 10th in free throw percents (81.3), second in assists (640) and sixth in steals (152).

            On the single-season lists he is second in 3-point field goals made (98), second in 3-point field goals attempted (243), second in assists (207) and sixth in steals (54). He also grabbed 500 career rebounds.

            In the classroom Stepp was a two-time Verizon/College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA) District VIII first-team selection. As a junior he was a Verizon/CoSIDA third-team Academic All-America pick and as a senior was a second-team All-America selection with a 3.24 GPA in business administration.

            Stepp was selected to represent the United States men's national team at the Pan American games in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, in the summer of 2003 and appeared in all five games.

            Following graduation, he entered the Chicago NBA pre-draft camp and was drafted in the second round by the Minnesota Timberwolves. Near the end of 2004, Stepp left to play overseas in Serbia and Montenegro in a Euroleague. He then returned to the U.S. in the summer of 2005 to compete in the Reebok Vegas Summer League before heading back to Europe to sign with a team in Spain.

            The following are the biographies of the other eight inductees who joined Stepp in the Hall of Honor.

            Elaine Michaelis, Brigham Young University: Elaine Michaelis guided the BYU women's volleyball program for 40 seasons before retiring from coaching in May, 2002. She also served as Director of Women's Intercollegiate Athletics at BYU from 1995-04, overseeing one of the country's most successful intercollegiate women's athletics programs.

            A legend in the coaching profession, Michaelis retired as the all-time leader in victories among female coaches in collegiate volleyball at any level with 886 wins (which included only the 33 seasons since volleyball records were maintained at BYU starting in 1969). She ranks second overall in Division I women's volleyball victories, trailing only UCLA's Andy Banachowski. When Michaelis retired from coaching, only six other female coaches (all softball coaches) had ever achieved more wins than Michaelis in an NCAA Division I sport.

            While compiling an overall record of 886-225-5 (.792), Michaelis never suffered a losing season. With a 20-9 mark in her final season, Michaelis completed her 28th consecutive 20-win season while advancing the team to her 12th straight NCAA tournament. Overall, her teams qualified for 30 of the 33 national tournaments, including 20 of 21 NCAA tournaments.

            Billy Bean, Loyola Marymount University: Billy Bean spent four seasons with the Loyola Marymount Lions baseball team where he still is a record holder in numerous categories. Bean led the Lions to the program's inaugural College World Series appearance in 1986 during his senior season. He was named to the All-WCC first team twice in his career, and was a member of the ABCA All-American second team in his senior season. Collegiate baseball named him Honorable Mention All-American as a junior. Bean holds the WCC single-season record for walks with 66, is the LMU single-season record holder for runs scored with 84 and still ranks among WCC career leaders in five offensive categories.

            He was a fourth round draft pick in 1986 by the Detroit Tigers where he played two seasons and was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers in mid-season. He took some time off and was picked up in 1993 where he played two seasons with the San Diego Padres where he finished his professional baseball career.

            The Loyola Marymount baseball team retired his No. 44 jersey and in 1986 he was inducted into the LMU Hall of Fame.

            Dana Jones, Pepperdine University: Dana Jones played four seasons for the Pepperdine Waves as a 6-6 forward from Los Angeles. Jones was named the 1993 WCC Player of the Year as well as being a three-time All-WCC first team selection and the 1991 WCC Freshman of the Year. He was the first player named to the WCC All-Tournament Team all four seasons and was also named MVP in 1994. In his senior year, he led the team in scoring (18.4 ppg), rebounding (9.7), steals (2.5) and blocks (1.3). Jones led the WCC in rebounding in each of his final two seasons.

            He ranks No. 2 all-time on Pepperdine's career scoring list with 1,677 points and ranks No. 1 in rebounds with 1,031, first in steals with 211 and in field goals made with 719.

            Jones capped his career with three WCC regular-season titles and three WCC Tournament championships. He competed for three NCAA Tournament teams and one NIT squad.

            Kasey Keller, University of Portland: Kasey Keller, who most recently was an All-Star for the Seattle Sounders of the MLS, retired in 2011, ending a career which spanned 23 years, four World Cups and four countries. Keller, who starred at UP from 1988 until 1991 and led the Pilots to their inaugural College Cup, has been named U.S. Soccer's Athlete of the Year an unprecedented three times.

            Keller is the U.S. National Team's all-time leader for goalkeepers in caps (102), wins (53), shutouts (47) and World Cup qualifying appearances (31). He was named U.S. Soccer Athlete of the Year an unprecedented three times (1997, 1999 and 2005) and has competed in four World Cups. The native of Olympia, Wash. played more than 300 matches in three of the world's top leagues: England's Premier League, Spain's La Liga and Germany's Bundesliga.

            While at UP, Keller (1988-91) was a three-time All-American and was named the collegiate goalkeeper of the year in 1991. He is still the school's all-time leader in career shutouts (43.0) and goals-against average (0.64). In 1988, he helped lead the Pilots to the school's inaugural NCAA College Cup appearance. Portland, which lost to host Indiana University in the 1988 semifinals, reached the post season all four seasons with Keller between the pipes.

            Tom Candiotti, Saint Mary's College: Tom Candiotti played four seasons for the Saint Mary's Gaels as a baseball player and still stands among the school's all-time leaders in several statistical categories. A native of Walnut Creek, Calif., Candiotti won 37 career games for the Gaels, which is third on the school's al-time list. His career ERA of 2.51 is the ninth best in SMC history. He is also Saint Mary's career leader with a .740 winning percentage, 413.1 innings pitched, eight shutouts and 30 complete games.

            In 1977, Candiotti was named the Northern California Baseball Association Pitcher of the Year. He made All-NCBA First Team in 1977 and 1979. In 1979, Candiotti was also an Honorable Mention All-American.

            Candiotti, nicknamed "The Candy Man," pitched in the Major Leagues from 1983-99. He made his major league debut with the Brewers on Aug. 8, 1983. Best known for a dancing knuckleball, Candiotti pitched for the Brewers, Indians, Blue Jays, Dodgers and A's throughout his 16-year career in the big leagues. His best season came in 1988 with the Indians where he went 14-8 with a 3.28 ERA and 137 strikeouts. He finished his professional career with a 151 wins and a 3.73 ERA in 2,275 innings pitched with 1,735 strikeouts.

            Thomas Burke, University of San Diego: Thomas F. Burke served as Vice President for Student Affairs at the University of San Diego for 28 years. He arrived in 1973 as dean of students, and played a major role in building a strong student affairs division from the ground up. He put his stamp on the university by helping shape the identity it enjoys today on a national level. With athletics under his watch, he guided USD's move up to the NCAA Division I collegiate ranks and membership in the West Coast Conference in 1979. Under his leadership, USD was able to build a successful athletic program while maintaining the academic integrity of the university's educational mission.

            He worked closely with the development of the Sports Banquet, USD's single largest fund-raising event for athletics; he was President of the West Coast Conference Executive Cabinet from 1983-1994; and he played an important role in seeing a dream become a reality with the opening of the Jenny Craig Pavilion in October, 2000. He was inducted into USD's Chet and Marguerite Pagni Family Athletic Hall of Fame in 2005.

            K.C. Jones, University of San Francisco: KC Jones played four years for the San Francisco Dons, competing in 78 games between 1952-56. He played alongside the likes of Bill Russell and was guided by Hall of Fame coach Phil Woolpert. Jones helped the Dons capture back-to-back NCAA titles in 1955 and 1956. During his time with the Dons, he made 247 field goals and 273 free throws, totaling 767 career points. Jones had 281 rebounds with a high of 148 in his junior year. He had a career .368 shooting percentage and a .625 free throw percentage, averaging 9.8 points per game. Following his outstanding college career, Jones was selected to compete in the 1956 Olympics where the team won the Gold Medal in basketball for the United States.

            During his nine seasons playing for the Boston Celtics (1958-67), Jones recorded 676 games played earning the reputation of a play-making guard and a defensive specialist. He rejoined Russell and helped the Celtics to eight consecutive NBA champion teams (1958-66). He had a .387 field goal percentage, scoring 5,011 points as well as a .647 free throw percentage making 1,173 from the line. He recorded 2,399 rebounds and 2,908 assists with the Celtics. Jones coached the Celtics leading them to the 1984 and 1986 NBA championships. In all, he earned 12 NBA championship rings.

            Kurt Rambis, Santa Clara University: Kurt Rambis played basketball for the Santa Clara Broncos from 1976-80. He was named WCC Freshman of the Year, averaging 15.0 points and 11.6 rebounds. He still is ranked in numerous all-time school leader categories, including first in points with 1,735, field goals with 686 for second, and second in rebounds with 1,037. Following his senior season, he was named the WCC Player of the Year.

            Rambis headed to Greece after being drafted into the NBA and released by the New York Knicks. After four months overseas, Rambis signed with the Los Angeles Lakers in September, 1981. Head coach Pat Riley put Rambis on the roster where he became a regular contributor starting in 43 of the final 45 games in the regular season and played a key role in the Lakers' 1982 NBA title. Playing alongside Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, James Worthy and Byron Scott, Rambis helped the Lakers to Pacific Division titles in his first seven years and earned four NBA Championships. Rambis' playing career spanned nearly two decades in the NBA also playing for the Phoenix Suns, Sacramento Kings and Charlotte Hornets. Aside from his playing career, he also has spent time coaching, working in the front office for NBA teams and sharing his expertise as a television analyst for ESPN.

 

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