First Posted: 8/4/2014
Tom Gauntlett seldom has reason to talk about his days playing in the Final Four.
Karen (Stefanowicz) Brubaker does not remember many details of being the winning pitcher in an NCAA championship game.
The athletic accomplishments of Gauntlett and Brubaker will be remembered at 4 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 17 . at Genetti’s Hotel and Conference Center in Wilkes-Barre.
Back Mountain residents Gauntlett, Brubaker and Tom Rokita, who continues his contributions to athletics as a Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association official in four sports, will be inducted as new members of the Luzerne County Sports Hall of Fame John Louis Popple Chapter.
A total of 13 athletes and sports contributors will be honored at the Joseph DeSimone Memorial Banquet. The 4 p.m. cocktail hour will be followed by dinner and inductions.
“It’s nice to look back at it when you get to be my age,” said Gauntlett, a 1963 Dallas graduate, who played three years of men’s basketball at the University of North Carolina, including the 1967 NCAA Final Four. “It’s an experience I went through at that age and kind of left it behind me when I got away from school.”
Brubaker, a Lake-Lehman graduate, won two NCAA Division III titles in softball at Trenton State and was the winning pitcher in the 1996 title game.
“It just brings back some fond memories and it’s kind of exciting,” Brubaker, a Hunlock Creek resident, said of her selection. “It’s kind of neat to be honored after all these years of not playing.”
Rokita transitioned from playing tennis and soccer at Wilkes College to a long career in coaching, sports administration and officiating, including serving as Lake-Lehman athletic director from 2005 to 2012.
Other inductees include Ashley basketball standout Leonard Augustine, retired Citizens Voice sports editor Neil Corbett, Meyers football and track athlete Ronald Hungartner, 2014 Paralympics Winter Games medalist Stephanie Jallen, former Wyoming Area High School and Greater Pittston Legion baseball coach Ron Musto Jr., West Hazleton three-sport standout Charles Podlesny, Crestwood state wrestling champion Gary Siegel, GAR multi-sport athlete Elliot Silkowski, and Pittston Area and Syracuse University basketball and track athlete Gordon Williams.
Alex “Rep” Junevitz Jr., who had seven no-hitters at Harter High in West Nanticoke in the 1940s, will be inducted posthumously.
“I think it’s quite an honor for me,” said Gauntlett, who returned to Dallas after a year of law school and serving a military commitment, before moving to Clarks Summit 14 years ago. “I’m really kind of humbled by it.
“There are really a lot of good athletes from this area that went on and did big things. It’s really quite an honor that they think I should be included in that group.”
Gauntlett lettered in basketball, football, baseball, track and golf at Dallas. He said he figured that basketball was the sport for his future by the time he entered his freshman year at Dallas. After considering an offer to play both football and basketball at Bucknell, Gauntlett committed to North Carolina at the end of his junior year in high school.
As a teenager, Gauntlett put his off-season time in the summer into developing his basketball game, but that was not accomplished the same way it is now.
“It’s so different now than when I was playing,” he said. “When we were going through high school, in the summer, there was no one to play with. I used to work out by myself because there were no summer leagues back in the ‘60s.”
Gauntlett’s North Carolina teammates included future professional stars Billy Cunningham and Charlie Scott.
After earning all-Atlantic Coast Conference freshman all-star honors, Gauntlett played three years for the Tar Heels, starting for two of them and producing more than 500 career points. The 6-foot-4 forward averaged 9.8 points per game as a junior and contributed 4.1 points as a senior reserve on the 26-6 team that reached the 1967 Final Four.
Gauntlett played a combined 26 minutes, scoring eight points and grabbing four rebounds when North Carolina finished fourth by losing to Dayton, 76-62, and Houston, 84-62. Unbeaten UCLA, led by Lew Alcindor, who later changed his name to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, won the title that year in Louisville, Ky.
After returning to the Back Mountain, Gauntlett continued playing in high-level men’s amateur leagues and tournaments with other former college players from the area. They played for the team sponsored by Payne Printery of Dallas where he worked for four decades.
Brubaker was an all-state honorable mention, then second-team selection in volleyball while at Lake-Lehman.
After helping Lake-Lehman win the District 2 Class AAA title as a senior in 1992, she went on to Trenton State where she compiled a 52-5 pitching record during her career.
Brubaker came on in relief in the NCAA Tournament in 1994 during Trenton State’s run to a national title. Two years later, Trenton State won another national championship with Brubaker throwing a five-hitter during the 7-2 victory over Chapman in Salem, Va.
Following the national title, Brubaker was named second-team NCAA Division III All-American by the National Fastpitch Coaches Association. She was also a two-time, first-team New Jersey Athletic Conference all-star.
Brubaker moved on to teaching and coaching after college. After three years as a substitute, she has been at Northwest since 2000, teaching mathematics, primarily on the eighth-grade level.
At Northwest, Brubaker was head softball coach from 1998 to 2004 and also served two stints, totaling four years, as assistant coach.
Rokita also moved from playing to coaching and teaching.
The Kingston High graduate was a four-time Most Valuable Player for the Wilkes tennis team and three-year starting goalkeeper on the soccer team in the late 1960s. Rokita moved to the coaching staff at Wilkes in those two sports for five years following his graduation.
“I had some great mentors at Wilkes,” Rokita said. “John Reese, the athletic director, gave me the opportunity to get into coaching.”
Rokita, who is now retired from education, spent 33 years at Wyoming Seminary, including 25 years as athletic director of the lower school. He was head coach of the varsity soccer team from 1983-93, leading the school to its first District 2 soccer title.
As an official, Rokita remains active in soccer, football, basketball and track and field. He has officiated NCAA tournament games and PIAA state championship games in soccer.
“I enjoyed the players from a coaching standpoint,” said Rokita, who was inducted into the Wilkes Hall of Fame in 1999. “As far as officiating, I just enjoy the games.”