COLUMBIA – From humble beginnings in Talbotton, Georgia, Miriam Walker arrived at Claflin College in the late 1980s and graduated as one of the most prolific record-setting scorers in NAIA women's basketball history.
On Monday, Miriam Walker-Samuels achieved another career milestone as Claflin University’s first-ever inductee into the S.C. Athletic Hall of Fame.
Walker-Samuels was among seven new members recognized during a press conference prior to the evening dinner and ceremony at the Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center.
“It’s a great honor,” she said. “I can’t put into words what it really means. I’m still in a disbelief myself. Being voted in by Bill Hamilton and others, I’m just excited and ecstatic about this moment.
“Any time you’re number 1, that’s a tremendous honor by itself. So I’m hoping that everybody else that came to Claflin, went to Claflin or by coming through Claflin that when you work hard, understand that you work hard, great things come to you.”
A former “Miss Georgia Basketball,” Walker-Samuels played at Claflin from 1987 to 1990. During that span, she led Claflin to the 1988 and 1989 NAIA national championship games and set nine NAIA records during her prolific career, including most points in a game (62 vs. Dillard, 1988), most points in a career (3,855) and most points in a season (1,303; 1989-90).
Walker-Samuels averaged 35.5 points per game during the 1988-89 season, and 34.7 points per game over her career. She twice won the NAIA National Tournament MVP Award and was a two-time first-team All-American.
Walker-Samuels later served as Claflin's women’s basketball coach in 2003, succeeding her mentor the late Nelson Brownlee, and led the Lady Panthers to two consecutive national tournaments.
“Brownlee was like a father figure,” Walker-Samuels said. “I grew up without my father and Brownlee recruited me. Actually it was my husband who brought me up here to meet Coach Brownlee. He was a person I just fell in love it. He was very humble, down to earth. He came straightforward. He’s actually honest in what he was looking for in a player and he gave me the opportunity and I’m forever grateful for it.”
According to Hamilton, long-time sports information director at South Carolina State University, Brownlee is expected to earn nomination into the SCAHOF next year, based on the voting categories available.
The other inductees on Monday were former Clemson and NFL place-kicker Chris Gardocki, University of South Carolina and College of Charleston women’s basketball coach Nancy Wilson of Lake City, former Gamecock and NFL defensive lineman John Abraham of Lamar High, Clemson baseball player Shane Monahan, linebacker Dexter Coakley of Mount Pleasant and Appalachian State, USC-Aiken and former major league pitcher Roberto Hernandez.
Longtime sports journalist and Orangeburg native Bob Gillespie received the Herman Helms Excellence in Media Award. Gillespie started his career as a sports editor with The Times and Democrat before moving to the (Charleston) News and Courier and later The State, where he captured numerous writing awards.