The South Carolina Athletic Hall of Fame will increase by eight this May when the new class is inducted in Columbia. The organization Monday announced the new members as Mark Berson, Robert Brooks, Woody Dantzler, Dawn Ellerbe, Joe Hamilton, Jermaine O’Neal, Larry Penley and Charles Smith.
The Induction ceremonies will be held May 15th at the Columbia Convention Center.
2023 S.C. Athletic Hall of Fame Class
Mark Berson (Soccer; USC, The Citadel)
Mark Berson retired in 2020 as the winningest active soccer coach in the country with a record of 511-261-76. Berson came to Columbia to start the varsity program in 1978 and promptly posted a 13-3-1 mark in his inaugural season with the Gamecocks. In 43 seasons, he guided the Gamecocks to 22 NCAA Tournaments (second amongst active NCAA Division I coaches), 34 winning records, one NCAA Championship game, two College Cups, four national quarterfinals and 11 rounds of 16 appearances. In his second season, he led USC to a 14-5-0 record and reached the school’s first NCAA Tournament appearance.
The Hartford, CT native and University of North Carolina graduate, began his coaching career at The Citadel in 1976 and served as an assistant under Eddie Teague. He took over the Bulldogs the next season and led The Citadel to an 11-5-0 mark and a second-place finish in the Southern Conference.
Robert Brooks (Football; University of South Carolina, Greenwood, SC)
A Greenwood native, Robert Brooks starred at South Carolina and remains their seventh-leading receiver with 156 career catches for 2,211 yards from 1988-91. He was a freshman All-America selection by The Sporting News in 1988 and is tied for fourth all-time with 19 career touchdown receptions.
A third-round pick (62nd overall) in the 1992 NFL draft, Brooks played for the Green Bay Packers (1992-98) and was part of Super Bowl XXXI championship team and is credited with the invention of the “Lambeau Leap” in Green Bay.
For his pro career, which included playing for the Denver Broncos in 2000, he caught 309 passes for 4,276 yards and 32 touchdowns. In 1997, he was the NFL Comeback Player of the Year and holds the record for longest pass reception in NFL history (99 yards).
Woody Dantzler (Football; Clemson University, Orangeburg, SC)
Woody Dantzler was a first-team All-ACC quarterback as a senior in 2001 and was the first quarterback in NCAA history to throw for over 2,000 yards and rush for over 1,000 in the same season. He finished his Clemson career as the school’s all-time leader in total offense (8,798 yards) and passing yardage (6,037 yards). He ranked 21st in passing efficiency in 2000, and ranked eighth in total offense in 2001. He also holds the Clemson career rushing mark by a quarterback with 2,761 yards, and the single-game rushing mark with 220 yards at Virginia in 2000. For his career he has 11 games of at least 100-yards rushing and at least 300-yards of total offense.
Dantzler was named the State of South Carolina College Football Player of the Year in 2001 and was the National-Back-of-the-Week in consecutive games in 2001, only Clemson player to be National-Player-of-the-Week in consecutive games.
Dantzler was a two-time Clemson team MVP (2000 & ‘01), Humanitarian Bowl MVP in his final game (2001), the 2001 McFadden Award as top college player in South Carolina, and a two-time semifinalist for the O’Brien Award (nation’s top quarterback). Dantzler played in the NFL for two years with the Dallas Cowboys. He helped Clemson to three bowl games at the end of 1999, 2000 and 2001 seasons. The 2000 season finished with a number-14 national ranking, Clemson’s highest final ranking between 1991 and 2012.
Dawn Ellerbe (Track & Field; University of South Carolina)
A native of Central Islip, NY, Dawn Ellerbe is a former track and field athlete who specialized in the hammer throw. She is a member of the University of South Carolina Athletics Hall of Fame and is on the Board of Directors for the United Way of the Midlands in Columbia. As a USC student-athlete, Ellerbe was a four-time NCAA champion, six-time All-American and five-time SEC champion. She earned her bachelor’s degree in journalism in 1996.
Ellerbe is a five-time USA Indoor champion (1996, 1998–2001) and six-time USA Outdoor champion in the hammer throw (1995–2001). Ellerbe also claimed the gold medal at the 1999 Pan American Games in Winnipeg, Canada.
Ellerbe represented the USA in the 2000 Summer Olympics and finished in 7th place in the women’s hammer competition with 66.80 meters. As a member of USA National team, she participated in the 1997 Universiade Games in Catania, Italy, the 1998 Goodwill Games in Uniondale, NY, the Universiade Games in Palma de Mallorca, Spain, the 1999 Pan American Games in Winnipeg, Canada, the World Championships in Seville, Spain; the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia, the World Championships in Edmonton, Canada, the 2001 Goodwill Games in Brisbane, Australia, the 2003 Pan American Games in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic and the World Championships in Paris, France.
Ellerbe, who is in her 10th year with California State University Northridge Athletics as the Associate Athletics Director for Marketing, Branding and Fan Development, received a bachelor’s degree in journalism with an emphasis on advertising and public relations from the University of South Carolina in 1996. She completed her master’s degree in communication at the University of Wyoming in 2001.
Joe Hamilton (Football; Georgia Tech, Alvin, SC)
Joe Hamilton started at quarterback as a freshman at Macedonia High School and finished his career with more than 6,000 passing yards and 3,000 rushing yards. He led the Foxes to an undefeated regular season during his senior year of 1995.
At Georgia Tech, he set the ACC record for total offense with 10,640 yards. He threw 65 touchdowns passes and accounted for 83 total TDs during his career. He finished as the runner-up for the 1999 Heisman Trophy and was also named the ACC Player-of-the-Year. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2014.
His professional career included stints with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers of the NFL and the Arena League’s Orlando Predators. He spent the entire 2002 season on injured reserve with the Buccaneers and received a Super Bowl ring following the team’s victory in Super Bowl XXXVII.
He also led Orlando to the Arena Bowl title game in 2006.
Jermaine O’Neal (Basketball; Columbia, SC)
During his senior season at Columbia’s Eau Claire High School and coached by the late Hall of Famer George Glymph, Jermaine O’Neal averaged 22.4 points, 12.4 rebounds, and 5.2 blocks per game. He was named first team All-State, South Carolina’s Player-of-the-Year and “Mr. Basketball.” He was also named to USA Today’s All-USA Basketball team and earned a spot in the McDonald’s All-American Game. He was recently listed among the all-time Top 45 McDonald’s All-Americans.
O’Neal, at just 17 years old, was selected in the 1996 NBA Draft by the Portland Trail Blazers with the 17th overall pick. He played his first professional game at 18 years old, becoming the youngest player to play in an NBA game. Overall, he played 18 seasons (1996-2014) for seven teams and averaged 13.2 points, 7.2 rebounds and 1.4 assists over 1,011 regular season games. He was selected to play in six All-Star Games.
In his eight seasons with the Indiana Pacers, he was voted an All-Star six times, made the All-NBA team three times, and was voted the NBA Most Improved Player following the 2001–02 season.
O’Neal helped Indiana reach the NBA Playoffs six times, including the Eastern Conference Finals in the 2003–04 season. He also played for the Toronto Raptors, Miami Heat, Boston Celtics, Phoenix Suns and Golden State Warriors.
Larry Penley (Golf; Clemson)
Larry Penley, who served as Clemson men’s golf head coach for 38 years, retired at the end of the 2020-21 season. In 2002-03, he became the first coach in the college golf history to lead a Division I program to a conference title, NCAA Regional title and NCAA National Championship in the same year.
He guided Clemson to 10 ACC Championships, including an 11-stroke win in 2016 and the 2021 crown – in his final season – through match play. His teams won an ACC-record 83 tournaments and he also holds the record for NCAA Regional Championships with seven, His team’s had pair of Regional Championship “Three-Peats.” Penley led the Tigers to a top-10 national finish seven consecutive years (1997-03). He led Clemson to 25 Top 20 seasons, and 29 trips to the NCAA National Tournament, more than any coach in any sport in Clemson history.
Penley, who earned ACC Coach of the Year honors nine times, was named the National Coach of the Year in 2003 after leading the Tigers to the National Championship. Additional highlights include enshrinement in the Collegiate Golf Hall of Fame in 2003 and the South Carolina Golf Hall of Fame in 2009. He coached two Ben Hogan Award winners (D.J. Trahan and Kyle Stanley), three US Public Links Champions (Kevin Johnson, DJ Trahan, and Corbin Mills) and two US Amateur Champions (Chris Patton in 1989 and Doc Redman in 2017).
Charles “Chino” Smith (Antioch, SC)
Charles “Chino” Smith, from Antioch, S.C., attended Benedict College in Columbia. He played six seasons in the Negro Leagues and his .423 career batting average is the best in league history.
Smith played against iconic Black stars and future Hall of Famers such as Josh Gibson, Satchel Paige and Oscar Charleston. He did this two decades before Jackie Robinson broke the Major League Baseball color line.
He holds the distinction and record of being the only professional player in any league at any level of play to have a career batting average of over .400. During his career with the Philadelphia Giants (1924), Pennsylvania Red Caps (1925), Brooklyn Royal Giants (1925-27, 1931), New York Lincoln Giants (1929-30), he established himself as one of the greatest hitters in baseball history.
Smith, an outfielder who stood 5 feet 8 inches tall and weighed 160 pounds, also was nicknamed “Scrappy” for his aggressive, often pugnacious style. He was a line drive hitter who could hit the ball to all fields, an excellent drag bunter and rarely struck out. He led the Negro American League in home runs (23), batting average (.464) and outfield assists (14) in 1929.
Smith played well in “barnstorming” games against major leaguers and hit .335 in Cuba’s famed winter ball circuit. He was particularly stellar in games at Yankee Stadium, where the Brooklyn Royal Giants played when Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig and the rest of the Yankees were on road trips.
Smith was listed No. 16 on the Sports Illustrated list of the “50 Greatest Sports Figures” of the 20th century from South Carolina.