The NWBA Hall of Fame class of 2017 was announced Friday by the NWBA Hall of Fame Committee. The 2017 inductees are a group of five individuals, who made their name staples in the wheelchair basketball community. This year’s inductees include: Carson Barnes of Chattanooga, Tennessee; Eddie Diggs of Baltimore, Maryland; Dug Jones of Gainesville, Florida; Ron Labar of Heath, Texas; and Alma Delia Rodriguez of Huntington Park, California.
Carson Barnes, Chattanooga Big Wheels, Player
Barnes came onto the scene at the early age of 14, and was considered one of the most feared players in the Southern Conference and then on the national level. This was before the Junior Division, and Barnes was a starter as a teenager. The Big Wheels team was in one of the toughest regions during Barnes playing days and faced the Nashville Wheelcats and Music City. He was an offensive sensation who contributed 20-plus points most of the time. He was superb as an outside shooter and unbelievably accurate inside the paint. Many athletes had a tough time guarding Barnes and earned the name of Mr. Pick and Roll.
What distinguishes Barnes from others was his ability maneuver the old E&J premier wheelchair (45 lbs.) with leg braces for his polio. Several players stated he was one of the hardest to defend because of his speed and quick turns. Throughout his career, Barnes earned numerous Invitational All-Tournament Teams, MVP awards, sportsmanship honors. He was consistently an All-American and has numerous National Tournament accolades. He last played in 1993.
Eddie Diggs, Maryland Ravens, Coach
Diggs, born with only two fingers on each hand, lives by his belief that disabled individuals can compete in all of life’s activities, contribute to their communities, share in the joys of meeting and succeeding in physical challenges. For 30 years, he volunteered his time promoting wheelchair sports, specifically wheelchair basketball in the Baltimore, Maryland area. He is the president of the Maryland Ravens, a non-profit organization that promotes and/or sponsors wheelchair basketball and disability awareness.
From 1984-2013, the Maryland Ravens competed in 656 games. Of the 656 games, Diggs coached them to a 486-170 record, capturing the No. 1 ranking in the country twice and winning the D-III National Championship in 2006. In 2007, he was awarded the Bill Duncan “Good Guy” Award, the Maryland Recreation and Parks Association Citation and the Governor Martin O’Malley Citation for his work with adaptive sports in Baltimore.
Dug Jones, Dallas Mavericks, Player, Coach, Administrator
Jones, presently the Divisional President of the NWBA’s Intercollegiate Division since 2012, enters the Hall of Fame as an individual who served in a variety of roles during his career. His career spanned 20 years, starting in 1982 with the North Florida Renegades. In 1995, Jones won the first of five National Titles as a player. From 2001-2008 he changed gears to coach the Gator Wheels and the Dallas Wheelchair Mavericks. As a coach, he won four National Titles for the Mavericks (2003, 2005, 2006, 2007).
From an administrative perspective, Jones has been involved in a variety of roles that started as serving as the President of the Florida Conference from 1992-1994. He was a member of the NWBA Tournament Selection Committee for 1996-1997. He was also a member of the D-I Executive Committee from 2003-2008.
Ron LaBar, Dallas Mavericks, Player
LaBar, a U.S. Army Ranger Veteran from the Vietnam War, received the bronze star for Valor in 1969. He served two tours in Vietnam before losing both legs. From 1976-1978, LaBar played for the now Dallas Mavericks from 1976-1992. His playing days included several turns on the U.S. Men’s National Teams playing in the 1983 ParaPan Am Games where the team earned gold, and the 1986 Australia Gold Cup with Team USA winning gold again. In his final year of play, LaBar led the Mavericks through the Regional Championships scoring 25 points for the title. He also won two World Championships for the United States.
Following his playing days, LaBar shifted gears to the sidelines, leading the Dallas Mavericks to the NWBA’s National Title in 2010, where the Mavs held off Atlanta’s Shepherd Stealers, to punctuate a perfect 31-0 record, and clinching the Mavs ninth National Championships. The winning continued into 2011 and 2012 with LaBar keeping the Mavs on top of NWBA for two more National titles.
Alma Delia Rodriguez, U.S. Women’s National Team, Athlete
Rodriguez came onto the wheelchair basketball scene in 1980, forging a path for many girls to follow as she played in three Paralympic Games (1992 and 2000 for the United States; 2008 for Mexico). Over her 37 year career, she helped the Southern California Sunrise win five Women’s National Championships; a third-place finish in the NWBA Championship Division; two USA Gold Cup Teams; and two ParaPan Am Games.
Rodriguez dominated the hardwoods nationally and recognized with selection to All-Tournament Teams, and Most Valuable Player Awards. She was selected to represent Team USA on six Women’s National Teams. Following her playing days, she turned her focus to coaching, giving back to the sport by sharing her skills and knowledge. She has coached the PossAbilities Shield Maiden Women’s Team since 2015. She is also an assistant coach for the Boyle Heights Kodiaks Men’s Wheelchair Basketball Team.
The 2017 NWBA Hall of Fame Induction Ceremonies will be held at the Crowne Plaza Airport in Louisville, Kentucky, on Saturday, April 1, starting at 6 p.m. EST. The annual NWBA Hall of Fame Induction is held in conjunction with the 2017 NWBA National Wheelchair Basketball Tournament presented by ABC Medical, set for March 30-April 2.
For more information on the 2017 NWBA Hall of Fame ceremonies, contact NWBA Hall of Fame Committee Chairperson Frank T. Burns by clicking here.