PIKEVILLE – On Sunday, May 7, the University of Pikeville Athletic Hall of Fame will grow by four members that have been a part of five national championships at the annual awards banquet at UPIKE Gym.
The inductees include Justin Hicks from men’s basketball, Ron Damron and his daughter LaDeanna in women’s bowling and longtime sports information director Rick Bentley who covered all the previously named hall of famers throughout their careers.
This group’s national titles include men’s basketball in 2011 and women’s bowling in 2004, 2008, 2012 and 2015.The first two bowling wins came at the Intercollegiate Team Championships, with the final two being won at the NAIA Invitational.
The 2017 UPIKE Hall of Fame inductees follow.
Rick Bentley: Bentley spent 17 years as the only sports information director in University of Pikeville history before making a change to academics in 2013.
Bentley is a 1989 Pikeville College graduate, who went on to be an award-winning sports journalist in the newspaper industry for eight years.
After taking the SID position for the Bears, Bentley was awarded the Bill Sergent Sports Information Director of the Year honor four times by his peers in the Mid-South Conference.
In his 17 years at UPIKE, Bentley led the media coverage for four national championships and helped usher in the start of football at the school. He was also the media coordinator for the MSC Men’s and Women’s Basketball Tournaments twice, in 2006 and 2008, when they were played in Pikeville.
During his tenure as SID, Bentley was also the voice of the Bears for all men’s basketball and football games on East Kentucky Broadcasting radio, a role he continues to hold with men’s basketball after his move to academics.
Since leaving the SID position, Bentley has served as a professor in UPIKE’s Sport Management program.
LaDeanna Damron: Damron was a member of the women’s bowling team at the University of Pikeville, then known as Pikeville College, from 2002-2006, and played a pivotal role in bringing the first national championship to the school in any sport.
At the 2004 Intercollegiate Team Championship, Pikeville’s women’s bowling program was only in its third year of existence, but rallied to beat Wichita State 2.5-0.5 for the ITC title in Tulsa, Okla., in the best-of-three. Baker-format match.
Damron, a sophomore at the time, rolled four strikes in six frames against the Shockers in the finals while sparing on her other two shots.
Over four years, Damron’s career average was 190, while 195 was her highest one-year mark. During the 2004 championship season, she averaged 190.
Damron not only excelled on the lanes, she was also a standout in the classroom, earning Academic All-American honors in all four seasons.
Ron Damron: Damron is the only coach the ultra-successful women’s bowling program at the University of Pikeville ever knew for the first 15 years of its existence.
Damron led the team to the United States Bowling Congress’ Intercollegiate Team Championships in all 15 seasons in which it was eligible. He retired in 2016 with four national championships, the first coming in 2004 when Pikeville topped Wichita State 2.5-0.5, followed by the Bears beating Wichita State again in 2008 on its home turf in Wichita, Kan., winning two games to none.
Damron followed those titles by leading the Bears to NAIA Invitational Team Championships in both 2012 and 2015.
Initially, Damron came to the university 25 years ago as Vice-President of Student Services and Dean of Students, and quickly became the Director of Athletics. In that role, he oversaw the massive growth of a program from five sports to more than 20, as well as opening the university’s first sports information office, in 13 years.
Among the sports he started was men’s bowling, which he coached for one season before adding women’s bowling. He coached both teams for two more seasons before settling in as coach of just the women.
Accolades have flown in for Damron, as he has been named USBC Coach of the Year four times in 2004, 2010, 2012 and 2015.
Damron has coached 39 All-Americans in his time at UPIKE, including Kayla Bandy and Jennifer Wright, who were named national bowlers of the year.
Justin Hicks: Hicks was a member of the basketball team at the University of Pikeville from 2007-2011, finishing off his four-year career as a 2011 NAIA National Champion.
As of his induction to the university’s Hall of Fame in 2017, Hicks ranks 12th on the all-time scoring list at Pikeville with 1,571 points and holds the record for best free-throw percentage in a season at 91.4 percent (64-70) in 2007-08.
In all four seasons under head coach Kelly Wells, Hicks led the Bears to a 93-37 record, including a magical run through the 2011 NAIA National Championship in Kansas City. The unseeded Bears beat five straight seeded opponents, becoming the first team to do so in the history of the tournament.
Along the way, UPIKE won against top-seeded Robert Morris (Ill.) in the quarterfinals before going on to top No. 5-seed Martin Methodist (Tenn.) in the semis and finally an 83-76 overtime win against No. 3-seed Mountain State (W. Va.) in the national championship game.
Hicks finished with 21 points in the final while knocking down four 3-pointers. For the entire tournament run, he ended up with 68 points and made 14 shots from behind the arc.
The Hazard native was a four-time All Mid-South Conference selection who finished his career with 292 3-pointers, 434 assists and a 299-of-363 showing from the free-throw line.