Four former Shawnee State University athletes will be inducted into the 2021 class of the school’s athletics Hall of Fame.
Basketball player Vernita Provitt, baseball player Jason Burcham, tri-sport athlete Tara Walker and cross country and track performer Michael Owen all earned the recognition.
This marks the third consecutive year where at least four former student-athletes will be honored and the fourth in five academic years.
Vernita Provitt (1995-98, women’s basketball)
Provitt, who played inside the SSU women’s basketball program for three years from 1995 to 1998, made made her presence felt from the beginning.
In her first two seasons with the Bears alone, Provitt averaged 20.5 points and 9.2 rebounds per contest for Shawnee State on 60.3 percent shooting. SSU advanced to the NAIA Division II Second Round in each of her first two years on campus.
SSU made a third trip to the NAIA D-II Second Round in Provitt’s final season as a Bear and also won the Mid-Ohio Conference regular season and tournament championships in each of Provitt’s three seasons on campus.
Provitt, who finished her career with averages of 17.1 points and 7.9 rebounds per game on 59.4 percent shooting, was a two-time First-Team All-MOC honoree. She was named as a Third-Team NAIA All-American in 1995-96 and a First-Team NAIA All-American in 1996-97.
For her career, Provitt led SSU to an 85-11 overall record. She still stands as the Bears’ all-time leader in free throws made and attempted in a season (181 and 257, respectively, in1995-96), and sits third in single-season points (763, 1995-96), third in single-season scoring average (21.8, 1995-96), and fifth in field goals made (291), field goal percentage (.628), and rebounds (334).
Provitt also sits second in program history in career scoring average (17.1), fourth in field goal percentage (59.4), sixth in rebounding average (7.9), seventh in free throws attempted (495), eighth in free throws made (340), ninth in field goals made (557), and 10th in career points (1,454).
Jason Burcham (1997-00, baseball)
Ace pitcher Jason Burcham, a member of the 2000 unit that reached the NAIA World Series, joins this year’s group of inductees after an outstanding career that saw Burcham win 20 games on the bump.
Burcham’s best season proved to be in the year 2000, when the senior developed into a reliable performer on the mound, posting a 12-2 overall record with a 2.71 ERA in 16 starts and 18 pitching appearances.
Burcham struck out 57 batters and walked just 24 for a 2.4-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio and threw seven complete games in his 16 starts as a workhorse for the team. He was named as a 2000 First-Team All-American Mideast Conference selection as well as a 2000 Honorable Mention NAIA All-American.
Besides leading Shawnee State to a 48-win season and a fifth-place finish in the NAIA World Series, Burcham led SSU to a 147-58-1 overall record in his four seasons with the Bears. Shawnee State averaged nearly 37 wins per year during Burcham career.
Burcham, who joins Brandon Doss, Jayson Pratt and Brian Harrison in the Shawnee State Hall of Fame from that 2000 squad, is SSU’s all-time leader in pitching wins in a season (12), second-all time in starts in a season (16), and third in innings pitched in a season (103 and one-third).
Burcham is also tied for fifth all-time in career pitching wins (20), fifth all-time in career ERA (4.10), sixth all-time in career walks allowed, and eighth all-time in innings pitched (191) and complete games (11).
Tara Walker (2002-06, women’s basketball, soccer, softball)
A versatile talent for any era, Tara Walker earned Hall of Fame induction for a career that spanned from 2002 to 2006 — in three different sports.
Best known for her play on the hardwood, Walker played all four years for Shawnee State Hall of Fame Coach Robin Hagen-Smith and was a two-year starter for the Bears, leading SSU to a 98-34 overall record and three NAIA National Tournament appearances in her four seasons.
Walker, who averaged 11.6 points and six rebounds per game on a fantastic 61.9 percent shooting mark in her four-year career, boosted those averages to 17.8 points and 8.7 rebounds on 62.4 percent shooting in her last two seasons as a starter.
On the softball diamond, Walker also proved to be a valuable cog in Shawnee State’s softball program, also lettering for SSU Hall of Famer Ralph Cole for four seasons and starting in her junior and senior campaigns.
During her softball career, Walker hit .288, notched four home runs and 40 RBI, and committed just four errors in 98 defensive chances. She hit .346 as a junior and .271 as a senior while notching steals in each of her six stolen base attempts, posting three homers and 15 RBI as a junior to go along with a single home run and 16 RBI as a senior while playing and starting in 57 games over her final two years of competition. The Bears went 53-24 on the diamond with Walker on the roster in her junior and senior seasons.
Besides playing basketball and softball for four years at SSU, Walker also took up soccer for the Bears, and started in each of the 10 games that she played in. Despite never having played the sport in college before her senior season, Walker made a major impact, notching 76 saves and two shutouts in 754 minutes inside the posts.
Between softball and basketball, Walker was named as a three-time All-American Mideast Conference honoree, earning First-Team All-AMC honors twice in 2005 and 2006 in women’s basketball and obtaining Honorable Mention All-AMC honors in 2005 in softball. Walker was named as a 2006 Honorable Mention NAIA All-American in women’s basketball.
Walker remains as one of SSU’s more prolific scorers, leading all women’s basketball four-year graduates in all-time field goal percentage (61.9). Walker also sits third in single-season field goal percentage (66.0), seventh in single-season rebounds (317), seventh and ninth in single-season field goals made (278 and 237), eighth in single-season points (643) and single-season scoring average (19.5), ninth in career field goals made (604) and 10th in single-season rebounding average (9.3).
Michael Owen (2007-11, men’s cross country and track)
An outstanding runner and entrepreneur that laid the groundwork for Shawnee State’s most successful cross country teams as well as the start of the track and field programs at SSU, Michael Owen proved to have a stellar career in all circles.
A three-time NAIA National Qualifier in cross country and a three-time NAIA Scholar-Athlete at Shawnee State, Owen led the Bears to three top-15 national finishes in back-to-back-to-back years in 2008, 2009 and 2010.
In those meets, Owen finished 122nd, 156th, and 46th in those races — all while leading the Bears to their best-ever showings as a team at the national level — a fourth — in 2009 and 2010. Owen was the Mid-South Conference Runner-Up in the 2010 conference meet.
In track and field, Owen not only became the school’s all-time record holder in the men’s marathon, but notched the program’s first NAIA All-American honor in the sport. His third place finish in the 2011 NAIA National Championships still represents Shawnee State’s best outdoor track and field showing in a national meet in school history.
Official plans for the 2021 Hall of Fame class induction will be announced at a later date.