Where Are They Now?

Where+Are+They+Now%3F

Jay Wright:

Jay Wright ’83, certainly most known for his leadership role as head coach for Villanova’s men’s basketball team, played on our University’s basketball team in 1979-1983 under head coach Charlie Woollum.

“My favorite part of playing at Bucknell was playing in Davis Gym with the rowdy crowds, fraternity guys behind the basket, and awesome atmosphere we had in that arena. I also loved our style of play–Coach Woollum’s fast-breaking style. The ‘Breaking Bison’ style was amazing to be a part of,” Wright said.

After graduating from the University as a four-year basketball player, Wright had many different coaching roles around the country. Right out of college, he became an assistant coach at Rochester (1984-1986). He went on to assistant coach at three other Division I basketball schools–Drexel (1986-1987), Villanova (1987-1992), and UNLV (1992-1994). His first big break came back in 1994, as his first head coaching job was at Hofstra. He coached Hofstra until 2001 before moving over to Villanova, where he still coaches the elite and prestigious Wildcat team.

“[The change from college player to college coach] is very different. I am much more mature as a coach than I was as a player. Coach Woollum was very patient with me as a player, and I never forget that. As a coach, I have to be a lot more mature and responsible. I learned a lot of that from Coach Woollum,” Wright said.

Wright has been very successful in 13 years as head coach of the Villanova men’s basketball team. In a talented Big East conference, the intensity and competition is as high as it can get. Wright owns a 408-234 coaching record all-time, with a 286-149 record at Villanova. Several athletes coached by Wright have even been drafted into the NBA, including Kyle Lowry, Randy Foye, and Dante Cunningham. Villanova has made it to the NCAA Tournament in nine of the last 10 years, including a Final Four appearance back in 2009.

“I never thought I would be at this stage. As a kid growing up, Villanova was my favorite team. Then I went to Bucknell and obviously Bucknell became my favorite team. I got into coaching at the Division III level at the University of Rochester and loved it. I would have loved it every day no matter what level I was at. This has been a dream come true to be in my hometown coaching a school I grew up rooting for as a kid,” Wright said.

Still, there is one major upcoming barrier for Wright and his Villanova squad: the Bison basketball team. The two teams will clash on Nov. 20 at Villanova at the Legends Classic.

“I hope Villanova wins by one. I know it will be a tough game. I have great respect for Coach [Dave] Paulsen and where their program is. Every time we have played them in our time here, it has been a very difficult game. I would be happy with a one point win,” Wright said

Lonnie Fertik Williard:

Lonnie Fertik Williard ’83 was a track and field star back in her time as a student-athlete. As the first Bison woman to ever qualify for a national track and field championship in addition to being the first Bison All-American in the sport, she had a lot of success in her time in the early 1980s.

“My favorite part of the track and field team was probably the camaraderie of belonging to something that was very energetic. It was great being a part of the whole varsity sport experience with a group of like-minded students,” Williard said.

Some of her key performances include a fourth-place finish in the heptathlon at the AIAW Division Two National Championships in 1982 and titles in the East Coast Conference indoor and outdoor high jump in 1983. Williard also set the program’s heptathlon record of 4,816 at the 1983 Penn Relays. Her excellent performances landed her a spot in the Bucknell Hall of Fame in 1994.

“The Bucknell Hall of Fame is one of the proudest accomplishments of my life for sure. The recognition that the dedication of being a student athlete resulted in, especially as one of the first women to be inducted, is phenomenal,” Williard said.

Williard set seven total indoor and outdoor school records. Six times she was able to finish in the top-six at the EAIAW indoor and outdoor heptathlon and pentathlon championships. Finally, she graduated with school records in both the outdoor high jump and the pentathlon. Her skills as an athlete were evident, and she has moved on to her own profession outside of the University.

“I am the Head of Marketing for a natural snacks company. As for hobbies, I do anything sporty. Skiing, biking, kickboxing, hiking, anything sporty. That part of me has never changed,” Williard said.

As a talented athlete, the Bucknell-Hall-of-Famer hasn’t quite had the opportunity to bring all of her experiences with her, but Williard’s done her best to stay involved around her community.

“It’s hard to hurdle a high jump socially, so it’s not really a sport that you can take with you. I wasn’t a long-distance runner, I was a sprinter; I was a jumper. I’ve maintained it as far as staying active, doing 5ks, 10ks, and more short-range races. A lot of it was also converted to other sports. Being involved in many different events on the track team, I retained that outlook of being active with a lot of different sports. I ended up joining my company softball league years ago, teaching my kids how to ski, and more,” Williard said.

Karin Wegener Knisely

As one of the first two women to be elected to the Bucknell Hall of Fame Karin Wegener Knisely ’79 was the University’s first three-sport captain in 40 years. She captained the field hockey, basketball, and lacrosse teams. She worked with a lot of student-athletes in her experiences at the University.

“My favorite part of being on a Bucknell team was the camaraderie and teamwork. My teammates and I just loved playing sports, and because we got along well, we also had fun. I think we were genuinely happy for whoever had a good game. Our coaches had just the right balance of strictness and humor. They expected us to give 100 percent during practices, but they also understood that academics came first,” Knisely said.

Knisely set scoring records in both field hockey and lacrosse, and still holds the program’s career records in field hockey with 55 goals and 122 points. In 1977, she set single-season records for the sport with 21 goals and 49 points. For four straight years, she was chosen to be on the Mid-East Team for the National Field Hockey Tournament. Still, college athletics were a lot different back when she played for the school.

“We played field hockey in the fall, basketball in the winter, and lacrosse in the spring. Because the coaches were the same two people for all three sports, it was impossible for them to organize practices and tournaments in the off-season. There was no recruiting; we were all walk-ons by today’s standards. Weight training and conditioning was something you did in season for your in-season sport,” Knisely said.

Obviously, three sports takes plenty of commitment and time management skills. Still, Knisely was able to handle all of that. She finished her basketball career averaging 10.8 points and 7.2 rebounds, while her 52 goals for the lacrosse team were a record at the time.

“At the end of hockey season, I looked forward to basketball. At the end of basketball season, I looked forward to lacrosse. Having a new sport to look forward to every three to four months prevented ‘burnout.’ I cannot imagine having had to choose one sport and play that same sport year-round. So while I did not have much time for other activities besides sports and academics, I never felt that playing three sports was overwhelming,” Knisely said.

Now, she is still involved with the University as the Director of Core Course Labs. After she and her husband, Professor of Mechanical Engineering Charles Knisely, returned to Lewisburg, she joined the faculty. She had previously spent two years at the University of New Hampshire before studying freshwater biology in Konstanz, Germany. Knisely also lived in Tokyo, Japan and Washington D.C. before returning to the University.

“When I was a student-athlete at Bucknell, I never imagined that I would come back here as a lab instructor. When my husband was offered a faculty position in the Mechanical Engineering Department at Bucknell, our travels took us full circle. Soon after coming back to Lewisburg, I ran into one of my biology professors, Richard Ellis, in the grocery store. He told me the Biology Department was always looking for someone to teach a couple of labs every semester. I taught part-time for about four years until I was hired as Lab Director of Core Courses, a position I’ve had for 20 years,” Knisely said.

As for sports, she is still involved. She coached high school girls’ lacrosse since 2002, and still recruits and trains officials. She helped start the Central Susquehanna Lacrosse Club in the local area as there was no lacrosse at the youth or high school level until 1999.

 

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