On Friday, three new members will be named to the Newton High School Hall of Fame. A former hoops star, football star and administrator will be honored during half time of the Buhler/Newton football game.
The trio includes Kab Kazadi from the class of 1995, Jordon Voelker from the class of 2008 and Fred Becker, current science teacher at the school.
There will be a reception at Santa Fe 5/6 Center following the football game Friday night.
Kab Kazadi was born in the Congo but grew up in the gymnasiums of Newton. He watched his older brother make a name for himself on the gridiron — a career that included making it to the NFL. Kab, however, found a love for a different sport — basketball.
“I grew up in a sports family,” Kazadi said. “Football was a passion of mine. In high school, I started to see a separation, as far as where my heart was leaning towards. Basketball became the sport that I loved doing.”
He did it well — earning an NCAA Division I scholarship before his career came to an end. He will be inducted into the Newton High School Athletic Hall of Fame Friday.
Kazadi is now a minister in Texas, following two years pastoring in Australia. Becoming a father beckoned him back to the U.S. In addition to pastoring a church in Texas, he is a physician recruiter.
A member of the Newton High School class of 1995, Kazadi earned all-state honors while averaging 17.5 points per game as a point guard.
He was just the kind of player — and leader — his coach was looking for.
“He was our team leader, especially defensively,” wrote Wayne Morrow on Kazadi's hall of fame nomination form. “He was a key factor in Newton pulling off a big upset over Tulsa Central in the first round of the Tournament of Champions. … Kab received numerous all-league and all-state honors, including the AVL player of the year award, but his leadership abilities and work ethic are difficult to put into stats.”
And he was a worker.
Faced with a tight family budget, basketball camps appeared out of reach — and it was those camps he needed to showcase his talent and try for college scholarships.
“I called a few teachers that needed some odd jobs done … and Kab was more than willing to earn his way to basketball camps where he could showcase his talent,” Morrow said. “It was at Hutch camp the summer before his senior year where Hutch Juco noticed his talent and started recruiting him.”
Kab went on to play two years at Hutchinson Community College, leading the Blue Dragons to the NCJAA National Tournament his sophomore year and earning all-tournament honors. That got him recruited by Washington State, where he would play two years of NCAA Division I basketball in the Pac-10 conference.
“I was fortunate, being part of great teams put me in a position to fulfill a dream I had … playing at the Division I level,” Kazadi said. “I had the privilege of playing on a great team at Newton, with a phenomenal group of guys and a great coach who believed in us. We had an incredible season that I don't think many people saw coming.”
Jordan Voelker had to make a decision about what sport to pursue as a student at Newton High School — and it was looking at his dad and thinking about what he saw that helped him make that decision.
“Basketball was my favorite sport. I liked it the most, but I thought my highest potential was in football because of the size,” Voelker said. “Figuring that I was going to grow into my body. … Knowing the size of my dad, I figured I was going to continue growing. I gravitated towards that instead of being a football player on the basketball court.”
He pursued football and that worked out very well − well enough to be inducted into the Newton High School Hall of Fame just 11 years after he graduated.
Voelker, who now owns his own construction company, won a national junior college title at Butler County Community College before heading to Kansas State to play under legendary coach Bill Snyder.
“I loved the local support,” Voelker said. “Being raised in Newton, everybody in town was involved in your life and was paying attention to what was going on. … They were always checking in on you and it was like a big family.”
At NHS Voelker earned his fair share of honors, including a trip to the Kansas Shrine Bowl. He also was an honorable mention all-state basketball player. At one time he held the school record in both the discus and shot put. He lettered in track all four years and finished as the state runner up in shot put and discus his senior year. A three-year state qualifier in track, he was also a two-time all-league pick in basketball.
“Jordan was a highly decorated Railer athlete in many sports,” wrote former football coach Brent Glann in a letter to the Hall of Fame committee. “...More importantly, at least to me, was Jordan's 'way of being.' His leadership skills were innate and very powerful. Jordan is simply a great guy, and this came through in everything he did. He treated everyone well and genuinely wanted everyone to feel good about themselves.”
Glann remembers a moment from Voelker's basketball career that will stick with him — Voelker's final game. It came in sub-state, a close loss to Salina. In the waning moments of the game, Voelker fouled out.
What came next is something Glann will not soon forget.
“The Salina crowd gave him a standing ovation,” Glann said. “That is something I have never seen in a high school game — the fans from a rival school giving a player a standing ovation to acknowledge their admiration for not just how well he played, but how well he conducted himself while excelling.”
Fred Becker is legend — he's a science teacher who has appeared on a T-shirt.
He started his career in education nearly 40 years ago, teaching freshman-level science at Newton High School. More than a decade ago, he took on the position of Athletic Events Coordinator.
“He tirelessly works to prepare each event and have all things ready such as locker rooms, ticket gates, hospitality and many other behind the scenes tasks,” wrote Brian Becker, current activities director, in a letter to the Newton High School Athletic Hall of Fame Committee. “When a visiting school arrives at NHS for an event, the first person that they typically see is Fred. He is always waiting with a smile and a friendly greeting for anyone who enters the doors.”
His commitment doesn't stop there, either. He is a regular at road games, often helping host schools with whatever needs to be done — including cleanup after the game.
In 2018, Fred Becker was named the recipient of the Kansas Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association Elmer Carpenter Award.
In the classroom, he works with students nonstop, and part of that is teaching the alma mater — which is sung after Newton victories.
Outside of school, Fred Becker volunteers at St. Mary' Catholic Church with youth groups and maintaining the grounds in the summer months.