October 27, 2013

Berkman, Miller, Wade, Watson Join National Lacrosse Hall of Fame

Newest men's inductees honored at induction ceremony on Saturday evening

by Paul Ohanian | LaxMagazine.com | Team USA Lineage Represented in Women's HOF Class

Pictured l-r: Michael Watson, Bill Miller, Ryan Wade and Jim Berkman. Berkman is the all-time winningest coach in NCAA men's lacrosse history and Waston, Wade and Miller were teammates on the 1998 U.S. men's national team.
© John Strohsacker/LaxPhotos.com

HUNT VALLEY, Md. — The all-time winningest coach in NCAA men's lacrosse history and three teammates from the world champion 1998 U.S. Men's National Team were formally inducted as the newest male members of the National Lacrosse Hall of Fame Saturday evening at the Grand Lodge in Hunt Valley.

The four inductees – Jim Berkman, Bill Miller, Ryan Wade and Michael Watson – have achieved unparalleled individual and team successes at the collegiate, professional and international levels during their careers. Berkman was inducted as a "truly great coach", while Miller, Wade and Watson were inducted as "truly great players."

The class of 2013 was officially welcomed during the Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony, sponsored by RPS Programs-Bollinger Sports Insurance and the Markel Insurance Company.

Each of the inductees was introduced by a short video that summarized many of their career highlights and included comments from a presenter. Following that introduction, each inductee had the opportunity to address the gathering of current Hall of Fame members and the several hundred additional friends, family and lacrosse supporters who gathered for the event.

Berkman, a product of Watertown, N.Y., has re-written the NCAA coaching record book during his 25 seasons at Salisbury (Md.) University. He has led the Sea Gulls to 10 NCAA Division III national championships and four national runner-up finishes while producing 178 All-American players. Including one season at SUNY Potsdam, Berkman has a career coaching record of 428-48 through the 2013 season, with a winning percentage of 90.1 percent – the highest of any men's college coach in history.

Berkman's son, Kylor, an All-American midfielder who played on two of his father's national championship teams, served as his presenter.

"He's done it all," Kylor said. "There's not a whole lot more that he could accomplish and people would be surprised about it. He has an amazing ability to motivate people and to make them want to give 100 percent. He would never overlook an opponent. He was always ready for every game."

Berkman has bypassed a number of NCAA Division I coaching opportunities through the years to remain at the Division III level. One of the reasons, he said, is that the demands of coaching are uniformly high, regardless of the competitive level.

"I've loved what I've had for the past 25 years at Salisbury," said Berkman, who has the most coaching victories in men's collegiate history. "The way the sport has evolved, the commitment is the same in a lot of ways when you start talking about what it takes to be successful. It's a pretty strenuous commitment in this day and age."

Miller is recognized as one of the top players in the history of NCAA Division III, having twice been selected as the USILA's Division III national player of the year during his career at Hobart (N.Y.) College. Miller led Hobart to four straight national championships from 1988-1991, while earning All-America honors each season, including first team recognition in 1989, 1990 and 1991. He finished his career as Hobart's all-time leader in goals scored, with 173, and second in assists, 145, and points, 318.

"It was an incredible opportunity to play at Hobart, in that system and for those coaches, while being mentored by so many All-Americans," Miller said. "Back then, we played more than half of our schedule against Division I teams, and we were battling against Syracuse and Cornell and Penn State."

"The way the sport has evolved, the commitment is the same in a lot of ways when you start talking about what it takes to be successful," Salisbury coach Jim Berkman said. "It's a pretty strenuous commitment in this day and age."
© John Strohsacker/LaxPhotos.com

Following college, Miller played professionally in the indoor NLL for the Philadelphia Wings from 1991 to 1998, and was MVP of the NLL's championship game in 1998. He was also a two-time member of the U.S. Men's National Team, helping Team USA to world championships in both 1994 and 1998.

"Going into the National Lacrosse Hall of Fame hits you pretty hard," he said. "While I was playing, I never thought about it. But as you get a little older and have a chance to think about it, this is now a reminder to me as to why you make those sacrifices and why you did things differently from some of the folks you were with at the time. Those were the commitments you made and here's the payoff."

Miller's friend and former colleague, G.W. Mix, served as his presenter and noted that Miller has probably won more sanctioned championships, 10, as a player (high school, college, professional and international) than anybody else in the game.

"He just has this ability to get it done," Mix said of Miller. "Bill is one of those guys that once he sets his mind to it, he's going to do what he believes he needs to do to be successful."

Wade, from Severn, Md., was a three-time All-American at the University of North Carolina and the national midfielder of the year in 1993. Known for his incredible work ethic on and off the field, he helped lead the Tar Heels to the NCAA national championship in 1991 as well as four straight ACC championships during his career (1991-1994). He was selected as the ACC's player of the year following both his junior and senior seasons.

"Lacrosse has brought great value to my life," Wade said. "It taught me that you can do anything in this life as long as you put in the effort and are willing to work harder than everybody else. I'm not sure where I'd be today without lacrosse."

Wade was a member of three U.S. national teams, playing on the U-19 squad in 1992 and then winning two world championships as a member of Team USA in 1994 and 1998. He was selected to the All-World Team in 1998 and also tabbed as the tournament's most valuable player. The 1998 game, a 15-14 Team USA victory over Canada in overtime, is regarded by some as the best game ever played. Wade had the assist on the eventual game-winning goal in overtime.

"I can't explain how much it means to me to be inducted into the National Hall of Fame," Wade said. "I'm overwhelmed to be considered with all those who have come before me and come with me today."

Jason Zach Wade, Ryan's brother who also played at North Carolina, served as his presenter.

"He's an intense guy, but what people don't see is the amount of effort and work that it takes to maintain that intensity," Jason said. "He consistently puts in the effort that results in success."

Watson, a Baltimore native, enjoyed a stellar collegiate career at the University of Virginia as well as in Major League Lacrosse and on the international level. He was a four-time All-American at Virginia, including first team honors as a junior and senior in 1996 and 1997, and was named the national attackman of the year in 1996. He also won the ACC's Rookie of the Year Award as a freshman in 1994 and the ACC's Player of the Year Award as a senior in 1997.

Watson teamed with Doug Knight and Tim Whitely to form one of the most formidable attack units in the collegiate game over the past two decades. Watson finished his career ranked second on Virginia's all-time scoring list with 141 goals.

"We were able to play the game in a little bit of a different way from the attack position," Watson said. "We attacked the goal hard, in a reckless way, but we developed that part of our game."

Watson played seven seasons professionally in Major League Lacrosse, earning all-star honors five times. He is also credited as being the model for the player depicted on the MLL logo.

Watson's longtime friend, Patrick Doyle, served as his presenter.

"To say that Michael has been decorated is an understatement," Doyle said. "He succeeded at every level from the time he picked up a stick. What made Michael stand out was a unique blend of freakish athleticism along with his will, determination and fearlessness on the field."

Along with Miller and Wade, Watson was also a member of the world champion 1998 U.S. Men's Team, and joins them in the Hall of Fame's Class of 2013.

"It's a little surreal because I feel like it was just the other day that I was on the field playing," Watson said. "This is a tribute to all the great teams that I was on and all the great players that I had a chance to play with. Everybody gets a little piece of this."

The National Lacrosse Hall of Fame, a program of US Lacrosse, was established in 1957 to honor men and women who by their deeds as players, coaches, officials and/or contributors, and by the example of their lives, personify the great contribution of lacrosse to our way of life. More than 380 lacrosse greats are honored in the National Lacrosse Hall of Fame, which is located with the Lacrosse Museum at US Lacrosse Headquarters in Baltimore.

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