DAHLONEGA, Ga. – The North Georgia College & State University Athletic Department is honored to announce the four outstanding individuals who will be inducted into the Athletics Hall of Fame at a luncheon on Saturday, Feb. 23, 2013. Those individuals include former baseball coach Jim Otte, Sr., former baseball player William Gieler, former women’s basketball player Anne (Smith) Hyams, and former softball and women’s basketball player Kara (Winkler) Leonard.
The Hall of Fame Luncheon will be at 11:30 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 23 preceding the Saints’ Peach Belt Conference doubleheader with Lander University at 2:30 p.m. and 4:30 p.m.
“Each year we have the opportunity to pay tribute to the finest student-athletes and coaches in North Georgia's history,” said Director of Athletics Lindsay Reeves. “We are proud to honor the 2013 Hall of Fame class for their achievements in athletics and in the community, and for being great ambassadors of this university.”
Coach Otte passed away on August 4, 2012 at Hospice of the Golden Isles and will be inducted posthumously. He was a fixture in the University System of Georgia for 34 years, including a nine-year tenure at North Georgia, before retiring in 1989 from Brunswick Junior College, now known as the College of Coastal Georgia.
A navy veteran and volunteer for the American Red Cross, Otte earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Tennessee where he played baseball and basketball for three years before starting his career in coaching. During his 34 years, he coached baseball, tennis, cross country and basketball and was also a well-respected educator and athletic director.
Otte came to North Georgia in 1958 to coach basketball as an assistant under former head coach Ulyses G. Matherly, Sr. The following year, he took over as the head baseball coach and held that position until he accepted the job at Brunswick Junior College in 1967. During his time at North Georgia, Otte was instrumental in keeping the baseball program going despite the school cutting other programs and also established several policies and procedures that are still in place to this day.
He had a deep and lasting impact on the lives of his players, especially away from the baseball field. He helped many decide to stay in school and hosted study sessions to help his players succeed in the classroom.
Gieler was an instrumental part of the first two North Georgia baseball teams since it was brough back in 2000, helping the Saints enjoy early success. He is considered by many to have been the best outfielder to play at North Georgia as his name is still etched in the baseball record book.
He was a member of the 2001 squad which won the Georgia Alabama Carolina Conference (GACC) title and collected several plaudits that season himself. He was named the GACC Player of the Year as well as the conference’s Male Athlete of the Year and was named to the NAIA All-Region Team.
Gieler is still third in North Georgia career batting average (.354), fourth for most stolen bases (48) and seventh for career slugging percentage (.525). His 2001 campaign was certainly one to remember as he recorded 65 runs batted in which still stands sixth all-time. His 26 stolen bases in 2001 is still fourth all-time for a single season while his 22 stolen bases in 2000 was sixth-best in program history.
Hyams, who played as Anne Smith from 1988-89, started her collegiate career at Northwestern and the University of Georgia before transferring for her final two seasons in Dahlonega. During her two years with the program, Hyams collected numerous awards and helped advance the women’s basketball program to new heights.
She was named an NAIA All-American both years at North Georgia, including earning first team honors in 1989 after earning third team honors in 1988, and was also a two-time winner of the James A. Naismith Award for the Most Outstanding Women’s Basketball Player (NAIA) in Georgia. Hyams was a two-time Atlanta Journal Constitution All-Georgia College Women’s Basketball Team selection and was named to the Georgia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (GIAC) All-Conference team twice.
After a stellar senior season that saw her average a double-double including 23.4 points and 10.0 rebounds per game, Hyams was named the NAIA District 25 Player of the Year and was named to the Kodak Women’s Basketball All-District Team.
The season before, she averaged 19.3 points and 9.7 rebounds per contest and shot above 52.5% in both seasons including a 53.4% performance during the 1988-89 season that was tops in NAIA District 25. She ended her career as a member of the prestigious 1,000 point club.
Hyams is currently the head coach for Dawson County High School’s junior varsity girl’s basketball squad where she teaches United State History and Economics. She was named the Dawson County High School Teach of the year this past year and is also the assistant coach for the varsity girl’s basketball team.
Leonard, who played both softball and women’s basketball for North Georgia as Kara Winkler, was most known for her play on the softball field under program founder Ricky Sanders. She was one of the first players as she helped build the program from 1997-2000.
During her time, Leonard was a three-time All-GACC First Team selection from 1998-2000 as well as a three-time National Fast Pitch Coaches Association (NFCA) All-Region member during that span. She was also a two-time NAIA All-Region honoree (1999-2000) and was twice named an NAIA and NFCA Academic All-American (1999-2000). In 2000, she helped lead her team to the program’s first-ever conference title and was named the GACC Player of the Year as well as the NAIA Region 13 Player of the Year.
A two-time Most Valuable Player for North Georgia, she was the team’s captain from 1999-2000 and also claimed the 2000 Lady Saint Award. She won five letters between softball and basketball and was named the GACC Female All-Sport Athlete of the Year in 2000.
During her softball career, Leonard recorded 206 runs, 44 doubles and 48 stolen bases. Her runs scored and stolen bases marks still stand as the second-most in a career in program history while her 44 doubles is still good enough to tie her for fourth all-time.