Chandler Sports Hall of Fame inducts latest class - SanTan Sun News SanTan Sun News

Chandler Sports Hall of Fame inducts latest class

March 2nd, 2023 SanTan Sun News
Chandler Sports Hall of Fame inducts latest class
Sports and Recreation

By Zach Alvira
Sports Editor

Seton Catholic girls’ basketball coach Karen Self’s tenure speaks for itself.

She’s won multiple state championships with the Lady Sentinels and is in the middle of a run to the coveted Open Division state title this season, which will crown a true champion among Arizona’s top three conferences.

Self was among the five individuals who were part of the 2023 Chandler Sports Hall of Fame induction class. The ceremony to honor them was held Saturday, Feb. 18 at Hamilton High School. It highlighted their achievements in athletics for the city. It also gave special recognition to Athletic Trainer Justin Deer and Athletic Announcer Dave Nardi.

“It’s kind of surreal,” Self said. “It’s just another opportunity to make connections with people and get a chance to meet people I don’t think I would’ve gotten a chance to meet before.”

Along with Self, Hamilton alum and wheelchair rugby star Joe Jackson, former Hamilton and Arizona State basketball star Eric Jacobsen, former Hamilton and Alabama volleyball star Brittany Kouandjio and former Chandler and current Los Angeles Rams quarterback Bryce Perkins were part of this year’s Hall of Fame class.

Self is currently near the end of her 30th season coaching girls’ basketball at Seton Catholic, where she has won 12 state championships.

She’s already a part of the Arizona Coaches Hall of Fame and in November was inducted into the Arizona Sports Hall of Fame. Along with Self’s induction into the Chandler Sports Hall of Fame last Saturday, her Seton Catholic championship teams received special recognition during the ceremony.

“There’s so many people that go into building up our program,” Self said. “Yeah, my name is at the top but it’s really about the people that helped us get there. It’s been a fun time.”

Jackson’s life was turned upside down when he was paralyzed from the waist down after a breaking his C6 vertebrae during a practice for the Hamilton football program on Nov. 1, 2005.

He didn’t let that set him back, however, as he quickly adapted to a new way of life.

Through Ability360, a gym that focuses on accessibility for people with disabilities, Jackson took up wheelchair rugby with the Phoenix Heat, a club that has won three national championships and helped lead Team USA to a silver medal in the 2021 Tokyo Paralympics.

“It feels great, I did not expect this,” Jackson said of his induction. “Like Karen Self said, it’s all about the hard work you do that people don’t see. It’s an honor.”

Jackson chose not to harp on his injury in high school.

Instead, he used to it mentor and become an inspiration for others with similar disabilities. He became the spokesperson for Saguaro Scuba, a company created in 2016 that specializes in adaptive scuba diving.

He also helped found the Joe Jackson Foundation, a non-profit that strives inform and enable children with spinal cord injuries. Jackson has become an inspiration to those in Chandler and beyond.

“I just put my head down and I worked,” Jackson said. “For me to pave the way for other kids or adults who get hurt and ask, ‘Well, now what do I do?’ Find a sport. I promise it’ll change your life.”

Jacobson starred at Hamilton during his high school basketball career. A 6-foot-10 power forward when he played for the Huskies, he went on to play four years for the Sun Devils and after going undrafted in 2016, played for the Cleveland Cavaliers in NBA Summer League.

Jacobsen has since had tenures with the Adelaide 36ers from Australia and the Fukuoza Rizing, Sendai 89ers and Ibaraki Robots in Japan.

Like Jacobsen, Perkins has also made a career out of his respective sport.

The former Chandler High School standout quarterback had a rough go in college, suffering a neck injury at Arizona State before transferring to Arizona Western College to resurrect his career. But that’s exactly what he did.

He went on to become a starter at the University of Virginia, leading the Cavaliers to the Orange Bowl in his final season. He was undrafted out of college but has found a roster spot with the Rams. He now joins former Chandler teammate N’Keal Harry in the Chandler Sports Hall of Fame almost a year to the day he won a Super Bowl ring.

Kouandjio was a star at Hamilton under Sharon Vanis, one of the many the legendary volleyball coach has mentored during her time with the Huskies. She was a four-year varsity player at Hamilton and went on to play at Alabama, where she continued her success on the court.

She was a four-year starter for the Alabama and is now top-10 all-time for kills, digs, attacks, career points and matches played for the Crimson Tide.

“Looking back on my career, it’s a reflection of the bits and pieces coach Vanis has taught,” Kouandjio said. “It’s all little ingredients for everything and this is it.”

Her accomplishments on one of volleyball’s biggest stages earned her the honor of being inducted into the Chandler Sports Hall of Fame.

“I was very shocked to be honored, be nominated,” Kouandjio said. “When I read the other submissions, I felt very humbled.”