Dodgers’ A.J. Ellis caught news of Dunbar’s title

March 28, 2016 FieldsColumn

454560GLENDALE, AZ — Even though he was in spring training in Arizona, 1,800 miles from Rupp Arena, Los Angeles Dodgers catcher (and former Paul Laurence Dunbar basketball player) A.J. Ellis followed Dunbar’s march to the Sweet Sixteen championship.

“I had friends on Facebook who kept me up on how Dunbar was doing,” Ellis said. “I was following them closely. I had a game (the Sunday of the state finals), and when I came off the field I had a barrage of text messages from some of my high school teammates letting me know Dunbar had pulled it out.

“I was so excited for them, for the school and all the alums. I know I was excited.”

Ellis was a sophomore reserve on Dunbar’s 1997 Sweet Sixteen team that lost to Paintsville in the first round.

“I was the last man on the bench and didn’t get to play in Rupp,” he said. “But man, what an atmosphere that was. Running out of that tunnel and having all the fans there — it felt like 100,000. I remember that, and I remember little Paintsville High School and the studs they had — (J.R.) VanHoose and (Todd) Tackett , and some other guys — who put it on us.”

Ellis said he knew Dunbar was rated No. 1 in the state during the season, and that once they got to Rupp, former coach Frank Watson returned to cheer them on.

“All of it brought back great memories,” Ellis said.