When Ashlynn Dunbar was attending San Diego State University, curiosity got the best of her.
She was playing college volleyball at the time. But years earlier she’d been a basketball standout, too, at Clear Falls High School outside of Houston.
Dunbar wanted to check out the Aztec women’s program on the hardwood, so she grabbed her roommate and they sat through a game.
“I was like, ‘I think I could do this,’” Dunbar said. “I called my dad and said, ‘One of these years, I don’t know how, but I’m gonna play college basketball.’”
Louis “Sweet Lou” Dunbar, is a Harlem Globetrotters veteran, now head coach and director of player personnel for the organization. He’s one of just eight Globetrotters to have their jersey number retired, a symbol of his dedication to them after his career at the University of Houston.
Louis averaged 22 points with the Cougars in the early 1970s. He was one of basketball’s first point-forwards, years before Magic Johnson, creating matchup problems as a 6-foot-9 guard. It helped get him into the UH Hall of Fame.
When his daughter called and said she wanted to get back into the game someday, he stopped.
“I said, well, all right … She was off for a while. Volleyball was her big passion,” Louis said. “People say they’re gonna do something, but after a hiatus, you don’t know.
“You know, sometimes I say I’m gonna go do a little shooting myself again.”
But Dunbar found her way back to hoops — at Oklahoma.
Last year, she transferred to OU for one more season of volleyball eligibility after graduating early from SDSU. When the Sooners’ season ended at the NCAA Tournament in December, she was prepared to keep studying for her master’s. But she told academic adviser Jaye Rideaux that school would seem different without sports.
Rideaux’s advice: Have you ever thought about basketball?
Dunbar touched base with OU women’s basketball coach Sherri Coale and attended the Sooners’ upset over LSU a few weeks later. There were more serious conversations after that about what she might add to the team, which had an open spot at guard following Kamryn Lemon’s departure.
“I had her to think about it long and hard,” Coale said. “Lindsey [Gray-Walton, OU volleyball coach] had nothing but fantastic things to say about her. It was a win-win. But they’re not always. You can’t take a chance if a kid’s not going to add value, and that’s what we talked about.”
Three games after joining the team, she saw her first official action in a blowout over West Virginia. Dunbar hasn’t played since, but the experiment has been beneficial for both sides.
She’s a redshirt junior in terms of eligibility, which makes her the team’s most experienced player. OU has been burdened by lack of experience the past two seasons.
“I understand needing leaders and needing mature players to guide them,” Dunbar said. “They thought my maturity would help. And I’ve been a senior, I’ve had my senior season.”
Coale has taken on volleyball players before, but it’s not common. Tara Dunn and Eden Williams joined the team in 2012 when injuries hit the Sooners hard.
Dunbar is enjoying herself, though still figuring things out. At 6-feet tall in high school, she played inside. But the Sooners needed her to be a guard.
It was tough at first.
“It consists of a lot of shooting and dribbling. I was just like … I don’t know how I’m gonna do this,” Dunbar said. “I’ve never had to dribble a ball, I don’t like dribbling the ball and I’ve never really shot anything outside the paint or mid-range.
“They’ve been very encouraging and supportive.”
Dunbar never learned the Globetrotter tricks mastered by her dad and brother, Louis Jr., a former Oklahoma City University player who later joined the Globetrotters.
“I have zero skill when it comes to that,” she said, “and I’ve tried to learn to spin a ball on my finger for years.”
But Dunbar has put in extra time to contribute to the Sooners, who at 12-12 and 5-7 in the Big 12 are running out of time to assemble a quality NCAA Tournament resume. OU hosts Kansas State on Sunday (2 p.m., FS1).
“Her experience and successes as an athlete, her age, really helps with our group from a big-sister standpoint. Those locker room things I think she’s been good at,” Coale said. “Then in practice she’s selfless. She’ll run the other team’s stuff and do what we need her to do.
“The thing I love about her is she’s coming in before practice working on her shot. She wants to figure it out. It’s not enough for her to be part of what we’re doing. She wants to get better.”
Kansas State at
Time/Place: 2 p.m. Sunday| Lloyd Noble Center
Records/Rankings: OU (12-12, 5-7 Big 12); Kansas State (11-11, 5-6)
OU projected starters: G 22 Ana Llanusa (6-0, Jr./16.7 ppg, 5.1 rpg); 25 G/F Madi Williams (6-0, So./15.2 ppg, 7.3 rpg); 30 G Taylor Robertson (5-7, So./19.7 ppg, 3.2 rpg); 12 G Gabby Gregory (6-0, Fr./9.9 ppg, 4.5 rpg); F Mandy Simpson (6-1, Jr./5.7 ppg, 7.0 rpg)
KSU projected starters: F 11 Peyton Williams (6-4, Sr./15.3 ppg, 11.5 rpg); C 50 Ayoka Lee (6-5, R-Fr./15.6 ppg, 11 rpg); G 03 Angela Harris (5-6, Sr./11.2 ppg, 3.6 rpg); F 25 Jasauen Beard (6-5, Sr./6.2 ppg, 3.4 rpg); F 25 Christianna Carr (5-10, Sr./10.2 ppg, 2.7 rpg)
Series: OU leads 40-29
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