It was no surprise that Ethan Sellars ignited Ashland’s 62-55 victory over Boyd County on Thursday night in the 64th District boys’ basketball tournament.
I’ve seen that fire before, many times, and not just in Sellars. That burning desire to win comes naturally for the Tomcats’ sophomore. So does his no fear attitude and ability to make teammates better whether it’s taking the big shots like he did against Boyd County or diving on the floor for a loose ball. He is Greg Estep’s grandson and you can tell. I’m not sure if he leads the team in floor burns, but it has to be close. Not of these Tomcats seem to shy away from the dirty work on the basketball floor.
Ethan is special and his grandfather knew it was coming.
Greg left this earth in 2014 after a fight with cancer. He gave it all he had, which was typical of him. His 10-year-old grandson Ethan was the apple of his eye. He saw something inside of him even back then. Looks like he was right. Maybe the Good Lord gave him a glimpse of his future.
I grew up next door to Greg and saw those attributes whether we were playing Wiffle ball in his side yard, driveway basketball or Strat-O-Matic baseball. Greg wanted to win, always. He was never afraid of making the big play, like he did as a senior quarterback when directing a late-game 14-13 road victory over Ironton by connecting with Rick Sang for a touchdown and then repeating it on the two-point conversion. It seemed to be a springboard for what was to come the following fall with a team nicknamed JAWS. Maybe that team should have been Baby Shark.
He was a instrumental player in 1975 when the Tomcats were 16th Region basketball favorites before being stunned by Greenup County and Steve Skaggs in the opening round. They hadn’t lost to a region opponent all season. But that’s how it goes sometimes but it was a loss that ate at him (and others) a long time. Of course, a board game loss would eat at Greg, too. We called him “Mad Dog,” and with good reason.
Later in life, as a Junior Football League coach, all his teams did was win. No surprise to any of us.
That same fire-in-the-belly attitude was passed down to his children, Chris and Heather. They both played with their hearts on their sleeves. I know how proud he was watching them compete at high levels in an Ashland jersey and can’t imagine the joy that watching Ethan play on this team would have brought to him.
It would have come with some critique, that is if he could wipe the proud off his face (which he probably couldn’t). He would love the way this team plays so well together. Greg was always a proponent of teamwork whether it was 2-on-2 Wiffle ball,1-on-1 driveway basketball or a high school or JFL championship.
During a Putnam-Coles basketball game in the winter of our freshmen year, he was hustling hard down the floor to knock away a pass, which he did. His momentum carried him out the first set of doors and then the second set into a winter evening. He came back in the other side in full sprint with the crowd roaring. I’ll never forget that.
Greg averaged only 4.3 points per game as a senior, yet everybody remembers him for being a key contributor, which he was.
Eventual champion Fairview was supposed to be Ashland’s main block to the championship and the teams met only once in the regular season. Guess who stepped up? Estep scored a season-high 13 and the Tomcats subdued the Eagles, 77-60. Everybody expected a rematch in the regional tournament, but Greenup County spoiled the party for the Tomcats. We’d already made our state tournament reservations.
I’m not sure anybody would have enjoyed Ethan’s performance in the fourth quarter of the district final more than Greg. Sellars put the team on his back, scoring 10 of his 18 points when it was needed the most. The unbeaten streak would have ended without him. The next game, it might be somebody else. That’s what has made these Tomcats so good. Not only do they have five players capable of leading them, but none of them seem to care who gets the job done.
This time it was Sellars, next week it could well be somebody else.
Ethan’s grandfather would be smiling either way.
To read a column that was written about Ethan back in 2014 click HERE.