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Column

Catching up with Bethany Ellis

Bethany Ellis and son, Arthur, 4.
Bethany Ellis and son, Arthur, 4.

It didn’t take the Bureau Valley Storm girls basketball program very long to get up and running when the new school district formed in the mid-1990s.

The Storm won its first regional in just its second year (1997), reaching the sectional finals, and won another the next year (1998). They lost to Dunlap both years at sectional, taking the No. 2 ranked Eagles into overtime the second time.

In the center of the Storm, was Bethany Ellis. The Storm point guard from Harmon averaged 16.8 ppg her junior year and 15.9 ppg as a senior, named First Team All-BCR both years. She was a Second Team All-BCR selection as a sophomore and was a leading contributor to the Storm’s 67-10 record over a three-year period.

Ellis, 38, Boston University’s associate athletic director for Student-Athlete Development, held the school scoring record with 1,284 career points for 21 years until topped by BV senior Saige Barnett last month. She had been kept updated by her mother, Rita Hanna, bookkeeper for the BV district, who took part in a passing-of-the-torch ceremony the night the record was broken.

“I think anytime anybody came in range, I had at least some sort of update,” Ellis said with a laugh. “When Saige was on track, I knew it was coming.”

But she never thought the record would last this long.

“It was really only three years of being at BV, so I didn’t think it would last that long. Plus we had such a good team, there were a lot of players that could score, and any one of them potentially in other circumstances could have had or held the record,” she said.

“I was surprised it lasted this long, but I’m excited for the next era to enjoy holding it for a while.”

Ellis said she has a lot of great memories from her days in the Storm blues, including the games and championships, but especially practices.

“Our practices were so competitive and fun,” she said. “Out at the (Bollman) field house in New Bedford, the temperature was always cranked up and really hot. I think coach (John) McKenzie was convinced it was an advantage to us to practice in that, so we took a lot of pride in that. I remember competitive shell drills all the time. We played to win every possession, even in practice.

“The regional championships were definitely exciting, and at the time that felt like a pretty big accomplishment. A lot of success really. We had lot of people who were really committed to basketball, and we worked well together, and it was a lot of fun.”

Ellis said all of her experiences as a player are “still really relevant, because I’m dealing with students on a day-to-day basis. Having been through that and knowing what the day-to-day challenges are helps me in my role as an administrator.”

The former Storm standout has never stayed far from the game. She went on to play for two years at Yale University, graduating in 2002 with a bachelor’s degree in psychology.

She launched her coaching career as a freshman girls coach in Milford, Conn. in 2002-03, guiding the Foran High School team to a sweet 16-0 season.

After serving two years as graduate assistant with the Providence College program in 2005, Ellis become the head women’s basketball coach at Johnson and Wales University in Providence. In her very first season, 2005-06, Ellis inherited a 1-25 team and turned it into a conference contender at 15-11, named as Great Northeast Athletic Conference Coach of the Year.

She returned to Providence College for the newly created position of director of women’s basketball operations for two years. She said it was a good opportunity with a “half foot in administration and half step in coaching.”

That led to Ellis becoming associate athletic director at Assumption College in Worcester, Mass., where she remained until April 2014 to go to Boston University.

At Boston, which is a Division I school in the Patriot League, Ellis has a broad range of duties. The senior staff member supervises six sports, working closely with coaches (“kind of a coach of the coaches”), and oversees anything student related, from academics to training and strength and conditioning.

“I really like the variety, it’s not the same thing day to day,” said Ellis, a mother of three children, ages 7, 4 and 8 months.

She advises students back home to be the type of person who puts yourself in the position to have luck come your way — through working smart, working hard, seeking opportunities and challenging yourself out of your comfort zone.

“It’s been pretty sequential in terms of my growth, and I feel pretty fortunate for that reason. I’ve had good mentors and opportunities as I’ve taken each step,” Ellis said.

BCR Sports Editor Kevin Hieronymus covered Ellis at Bureau Valley. Contact him at khieronymus@bcrnews.com.

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