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Old 03-11-2020, 05:11 AM   #1
bluesooner17
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Default Dunbar making most of her move from volleyball to basketball

By Ryan Aber
Staff writer raber@oklahoman.com


NORMAN — In the aftermath of OU’s volleyball season ending at Texas A&M in the NCAA Tournament, Ashlynn Dunbar wasn’t sure what life after competitive sports was going to be like.

“Next year it’s going to be hard just going to school and not having anything to look forward to like volleyball or sports,” Dunbar told an academic advisor while the team was still in College Station, Texas.

The advisor, who also helps with the Sooners’ women’s basketball team, offered an alternative.

“Would you like to play basketball?” she asked.

Dunbar jumped at the chance, but figured it was a longshot.

What would coach Sherri Coale’s team need from someone who hasn’t played competitive basketball in four years?

But on the bus ride back to Norman, Dunbar’s phone

buzzed with a text that included the number of Coale’s chief of staff, Jan Ross, and instructions to reach out to her immediately.

Soon after she got back to Norman, Dunbar visited with Coale and took in a couple practices.

“As long as you can add value to this team, come on, we’ll take you,” Dunbar remembers Coale saying.

“I want to be here,” Dunbar said.

Dunbar was a star on OU’s volleyball team during her lone season with the Sooners, helping the program to its first NCAA Tournament berth since 2014. Now, she’s mostly a practice player for the basketball team.

But there’s certain things that translate over to hoops.

Dunbar was a high-energy player for volleyball team and has tried to infuse the basketball team with that same energy, calling herself the “hype man.”

“That’s still my role,” Dunbar said. “I get so excited for them whenever they do well because we work hard every single day in practice. … They deserve to be successful.”

Since joining the team in early January, Dunbar has played in just one game — she played two minutes at West Virginia on Jan. 15 with no other stats — but Coale said she’s been a valuable player to have around.

“She’s got a great, competitive spirit,” Coale said. “Her experience and her successes as an athlete, her age, helps our group from kind of a big sister standpoint of this is how you’ve got to compete here.”

Dunbar’s father, like most dads, is proud of his daughter.

“Ashlynn can jump,” Lou Dunbar said. “She has that hang time. I was all right. I could jump a little bit, but I wasn’t jumping like that.”

That’s saying something coming from Lou Dunbar, who starred at Houston in the mid-1970s and became a legendary showman for the Harlem Globetrotters. During her freshman year at San Diego State, Dunbar called her father after going to see an Aztecs’ basketball game.

“Dad, one day I’m going to play college basketball,” she told Lou.

Her father wasn’t convinced.

But that conversation popped back to mind after Ashlynn joined the Sooners.

Ashlynn still marvels at the way it’s worked out, not only that she came back to basketball but how she wound up at OU — which was a winding path that included a bout with depression, quitting the San Diego State volleyball team, thinking she’d never play the sport again and then being reenergized to play volleyball after coaching a youth team.

“I have so much to offer to this game and it’s not fair for me to just give up on myself and on everyone else,” Dunbar said.

So she put her name in the NCAA transfer portal, and wound up at OU to the delight of her family.

“We went to so many games this year, my wife had me feeling like a truck driver coming up from Houston,” Lou said.

Lou could hear his daughter’s voice cracking a bit a few weeks ago when Ashlynn called.

“What’s wrong?” the father asked.

“We had to do ballhandling today and I just couldn’t keep up,” Ashlynn said. “I’m about to get back into the gym and work.”

But Lou told her to get away for a bit.

“Clear your mind and when you come back, call me later,” Lou said.

After their conversation that night, Ashlynn got a tripod so that she could FaceTime her dad while she was in the gym.

Sometimes Sam Worthen, who played point guard for the Chicago Bulls in the early 1980s and is now coaches the Washington Generals, the Globetrotters’ opponents, will help Ashlynn as well.

“She calls me at 10 at night,” Lou said. “She had me on the phone until midnight one night and I had to say, ‘Ashlynn, go home, I’ve got to go to bed.’

“She’s gotten better already. She’s going to be fine.”

Ashlynn still has a year of eligibility remaining in basketball after this year.
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