During Homecoming festivities on October 5, 2019, Wagner College inducted four standout athletes into the Seahawk Athletic Hall of Fame: Bob Malizia ’68 (football), Josh Russell ’04 (track and field), Carrie Walker ’04 (basketball) and former men’s basketball coach Dereck Whittenburg (1999–2003).
Bob Malizia was co-captain and driving force behind the undefeated 1967 Seahawk football squad, which won the Lambert Bowl as No. 1 small-college team in the East. (The Seahawks were also undefeated during Malizia’s freshman year, in 1964.) His 1967 team led Division III collegiate football in rushing yardage, recording four shutouts and allowing opposing teams an average of just 4.67 points per game.
Despite his modest size — Malizia was 5’11” and 190 pounds — he starred as both an offensive guard and a linebacker, usually facing much larger foes on the field. Known for his toughness, Malizia was awarded a game ball for battling through an injury in a late-season victory over Springfield College.
Regarded as a superb leader and a smart linebacker, Malizia was endorsed by more than 20 of his former teammates for induction into the Seahawk Hall of Fame. Bob Malizia is a Wyckoff, N.J., native and a graduate of Ramapo Regional High School.
“I want to acknowledge everyone who has been involved in this,” Malizia said at the induction ceremony, “especially the teammates and friends who sent in those letters of recommendation. It’s just over the top.”
Josh Russell is widely regarded as the finest shot putter in Wagner track and field history, competing in the National Collegiate Athletic Association championships in 2003 and 2004 and winning the event in both the IC4A championship, one of the oldest annual track meets in the country, and the Northeast Conference championship.
The Neptune, N.J., native continues to hold the Wagner records in outdoor and indoor shot put, both set in 2004, and remains the all-time NEC record-holder in outdoor shot.
“There’s no doubt that Josh Russell was the greatest thrower in Wagner history,” said his coach, Joe Stasi, “and it’s not even close.”
Russell also competed on the Seahawk football team in 2001 and 2004, concentrating on his shot put career in-between. On the 2004 football squad, he was a defensive starter credited with 26 tackles, including 17 solo stops.
“You can't help but want more, and that was my determination,” Russell said at his induction.
A 6’0” forward from Gibsonia, Pa., Carrie Walker ranks 13th in Wagner women’s basketball history in career scoring with 1,288 points while possessing the school’s 10th highest scoring average (13.6 points per game) of all time. She also remains among Wagner’s top 10 in career rebounds (813), free throws made (354) and free throws attempted (458).
As a senior in 2003-04, Walker led the team with an average 17.5 points and 10.7 rebounds per game en route to earning All-Metropolitan Basketball Writers Association honors.
A shining star academically, as well, Walker was named to the 2004 Third-Team Verizon Academic All-America Team, announced by the College Sports Information Directors of America, and was the recipient of the 2004 Northeast Conference Scholar-Athlete of the Year Award.
A two-time All-NEC selection (First Team in 2003, Second Team in 2004), she was named to the 2001 NEC All-Rookie Team and won Rookie of the Year honors, averaging 12.1 points and 7.3 rebounds per game.
“When I was in high school, my dream was to play Division I basketball. Just signing here at Wagner was a dream come true for me,” Walker said at her induction, “but it was all the things I was able to accomplish because of that original opportunity that were bigger than anything I ever could have dreamed.”
In 2002-03, Dereck Whittenburg was head coach of the only men’s basketball team from Wagner College to win the Northeast Conference championship and the accompanying NCAA tournament bid.
Named the 2002-03 NEC Coach of the Year, “Whitt” had the distinction of being the first men’s basketball coach in Wagner’s Division I era (starting in 1993) whose teams won more than half their games (67-50 overall, 46-30 NEC). Additionally, he was the first Wagner men’s basketball coach in the D-I era to earn two post-season tournament bids (2002 National Invitation Tournament, and 2003 NCAA tournament).
Whittenburg, a former North Carolina State star, helped develop seven Seahawks who went on to play professional basketball overseas: Jermaine Hall, Dedrick Dye, Nigel Wyatte, Doug Viegas, Courtney Pritchard, Sean Munson and DeEarnest McLemore.
“What an opportunity for me to come here to Wagner. It was a special place,” Whittenburg said at the induction ceremony, “but what makes a place special is always the people.”
Since inducting its first member in 1988, the Wagner College Athletic Hall of Fame has chosen 186 athletic directors, coaches, trainers and former student athletes for distinction, starting with Herb Sutter, Wagner’s longtime athletic director, basketball coach, golf coach, and just about everything sports at the College.
The Hall of Fame owes thanks to several Seahawks for developing the institution from its inception in 1972: college communications director Brian Morris, athletic trainer John Knudson, assistant football coach Mike Walsh, and trustees Sal Alberti and Walter Pagan, both former student athletes.
Located on the second floor of the Spiro Sports Center overlooking the basketball court, the Wagner College Athletics Hall of Fame remains a tribute to our sporting heritage.