Sessions leads this year’s class for Nevada Wolf Pack Hall of Fame
Special to The R-C
Former Wolf Pack basketball player Ramon Sessions called his time at the University of Nevada, Reno special.
Now in his 11th year in the National Basketball Association, Sessions played for the Wolf Pack for three years, earned Western Athletic Conference Freshman of the Year and led Nevada to three straight NCAA postseason appearances. His appearance at Friday’s Nevada Athletics Hall of Fame induction at the Reno Ballroom was also emotional for the South Carolina native. Earlier in the day, Sessions visited a basketball performance center which bears his name. Sessions donated $1 million to the facility.
In addition to Sessions being inducted Friday night, other Wolf Pack standouts included Kali Baker Bennett, Nick Fazekas, Laura Bartle Jacobsen, Brett Hayes and Jeff Rowe.
The Voice of the Wolf Pack, John Ramey served as both emcee and interviewed each inductee.
“I am committed to come back to Reno every summer to conduct basketball camps,” Sessions said, calling Nevada his second home. “My best years were at the University of Nevada with Kevinn Pinckney and Nick Fazekas.”
Sessions signed late with the Wolf Pack as an incoming freshman. He expressed gratitude to former Coach Mark Fox for his support.
“He gave me a chance while others didn’t,” he said.
Sessions said once his professional career progressed Fox and assistant coach David Carter encouraged him to give back to the University of Nevada.
“It was the right time to do it,” Sessions said of his generous donation to the basketball performance center.
Bennett earned All-American honors with Nevada when she placed eighth at the NCAA Indoor Championships. She earned all-WAC honors in cross country and indoor and outdoor track in each of her seasons competing for the Wolf Pack. Nevada awarded her the Ruth Russell Award at the top female senior in 2007.
“I never planned on running in college,” she said, but acknowledged she made the right choice to compete at Nevada. “My teammates were amazing — all of them. We supported each other, and their support helped me.”
The 6-foot-11 Fazekas played four years for Nevada, leading them to postseason NCAA appearances from 2004-2007. The WAC named him Player of the Year three times starting with his sophomore year. He has played professional basketball in Japan since 2012 where he earned league MVP honors and led the Toshiba Brave Thunders Kanagawa to numerous championships.
“This is my sixth year in Japan, and it’s been home away from home in a way,” Fazekas said.
Fazekas could not make the Hall of Fame dinner, but offered his comments on video.
“The NBA came true,” Fazekas said, noting his career was short-lived with the Dallas Mavericks and Los Angeles Clippers. “I went to Europe, but I didn’t enjoy the experience.”
Instead, the three-time All-WAC selection an WAC All-Newcomer took his talents to Asia.
Fazekas congratulated Sessions, his teammate for three years, on his induction and said they developed something great at the university.
“It is cool,” Fazekas said, “one cool guy from Colorado and a cool guy from South Carolina met and meshed well.”
Jacobsen swam at the University of Nevada from 1997-2001. She won 14 Big West championships as a member of Nevada’s relay teams and also captured individual titles in the 200 freestyle and the 100 butterfly in 1998.
“I have always been a competitive person, and I took it beyond my career,” she said. “I had the opportunity to get an education and be part of the community.”
Jacobsen credited her teammates and coaches for the Wolf Pack’s successes and the team’ camaraderie.
Brett Hayes made a name for himself in the WAC and also played seven years in Major League Baseball with the majority of time spent in Miami. He called the university the heart of the city.
“Everywhere you go in town you see the people sporting Wolf Pack sweatshirts or T-shirts or they’re talking about football, basketball or baseball,” he said.” Everything revolves around this school.”
Hayes, who grew up in Southern California, said the Reno community helped him in every step from his career in baseball to the day he married. He thanked his parents for their wisdom.
“Mom and dad allowed me to find my passion on my own,” he said.
He originally wanted to attend either USC or UCLA, however, neither university offered him a baseball scholarship. Instead, he said Nevada called and wanted him. He came to the team as a utility player, but early in his career, he transitioned into a catcher. The WAC tabbed him Freshman of the Year and he earned first-team league honors in 2004-2005.
“You never know when opportunity comes,” he said.
In 2016 as a member of the Arizona Diamondbacks organization, Hayes returned to Reno to play for the Aces for most of the 2016 season before he was traded to the Chicago White Sox. Hayes said his baseball plans for next season depend on the free agency market, but it’s too early to make a decision.
Football quarterback Jeff Rowe started four years for the Wolf Pack from 2002-2006. Known as the original “Pistol” quarterback because of the team’s offensive formation, Rowe finished his career in the top 10 for passing yards, touchdowns, attempts and completions. Under his play-calling, Nevada won the both the WAC in 2005 and Hawaii Bowl, and nearly led Nevada to an upset over Miami in his second bowl game.
Rowe remembers the Pistol formation well.
“(Coach) Chris Ault came in my third year and changed my life,” Rowe said. “He is such a unique person in my relationship.”
Rowe, who attended McQueen High School in Reno, also enjoyed his time in the NFL and said players coming from the smaller conferences showed their pride because they succeeded at the top of their game.
For four years, he played in the NFL for Cincinnati, Seattle and New England.
“It was a special time in my life,” he said.
The Silver and Blue Service Award went to Julie Martinson, who has worked on the statistic crew for women’s basketball since 1974. Since the 1986-87 season, Martinson has operated the shot clock for men’s basketball.
Director of Athletics Doug Knuth congratulated Martinson for her years of service and praised the six athletes. He said the athletes have made a big impact on their team, the community and the university.
Knuth said only a small number of athletes play in Division I for the Wolf Pack. Fewer than 200, he pointed out, have been inducted into the Nevada Athletics Hall of Fame.
“Thank you for all you have done for this university,” he said.