Virginia State Basketball Champions

Coach -
Bill Chambers; Captain - Slade Dunn ('56); Manager - Wade Hancock ('56)

1956 Anchor - p. 86 1956 Anchor - p. 87 1956 Anchor - p. 88 1956 Anchor - p. 89 1956 Anchor - p. 90 1956 Anchor - p. 91



From the Daily Press - 03/27/11:

  Nelson Ellis ('56) leaves a lasting legacy as a basketball official on the Peninsula

By Marty O'Brien, | 247-4963
1:44 p.m. EDT, March 26, 2011

  Six years after helping Newport News High win the 1956 state basketball title as the team's lockdown defender, Nelson Ellis coached a Hampton Roads-area adult team. That was competitive stuff back in an era when lots of former college standouts played in the league, and Ellis admits he was tough on referees.

Annoyed by what he considered the low quality of officiating in the league, Ellis and friend    Jesse Kersey
('58), who coached a rival team, took action. They, and Ellis' younger brother    Don ('58), joined the area officiating association.

"We couldn't see how they were missing so many calls, so we decided to do it," Ellis said. "I was in for a rude awakening, because it just wasn't easy as it looked."
Nelson Ellis
March 24, 2011
Photo by Adrin Snider, Daily Press

Difficult or not, Ellis quickly fell in love with officiating basketball games. And only now — and only because he is battling cancer — is Ellis giving it up.

Ellis, who will undergo surgery in Houston this week for renal cell carcinoma, resigned 13 days ago as commissioner of the Tidewater Basketball Officials Association. That ended a nearly 50-year career in officiating.

Ellis, 73, officiated on the high school and college levels for more than 20 years, then served as commissioner for the Peninsula officials association for almost 30 years. This past season, Ellis formed and ran the new Tidewater association.

"Nelson Ellis officiated because he loved and respected the game, not for money," Tabb coach Doug Baggett said. "You felt like he was a guy who you could call and talk to, and he would understand the point you were trying to make.

"His officials did a great job."

Kersey, who went on to referee for 36 seasons in the NBA and ABA, said Ellis' knack for developing talent is why his officials were so respected by area coaches.

"Nelson knew how to recognize talent," Kersey said. "He sent the best of the best to work the most important games, but he also sent the best of the young officials to work with veterans who served as mentors.

"He was like a coach who sees a special player and wants to recruit him, guide him and make him better. His recognized talent that would continue to make the association better, along with the veterans who were the foundation.

"That's how the association became so strong."

Steve Whitley, who succeeds Ellis as commissioner of the Tidewater association, agrees.

"His fairness and ability to judge officials, and put them in the right game, is what impressed me most," Whitley said. "A lot of people think they're ready for prime time.

"But Nelson just had that knack of knowing when it was time, and when someone was ready for a big game."

Ellis learned the hard way. He remembers cutting his teeth in the Peninsula District, when guys like
Charlie Woollum (Newport News), Wilbur Thompson (Warwick) and Bob Shamblin (York) could be far tougher on a ref than Ellis ever was in the adult league.

"They used to have a scratch list," Ellis said, referring to a coach's option to bar one official from calling his school's games the next season. "I remember one coach telling me, 'Well, I won't be seeing you next season.'

"When I became commissioner (in the early 1980s) that scratch list was the first thing I got rid of. I learned you had to be able to referee a little bit to get the coaches' respect, but once you had their respect they were a lot easier to deal with."

Ellis said he learned to by modeling himself after the good refs, guys like Peninsula area sport legend Otis "Cootie" Almond.

"He could make a call from half court on a play under the basket and be right 99.9 percent of the time," Ellis said. "He had the best judgment of any official I ever saw."

By the late 1960s, Ellis was respected enough among his peers to get college assignments. His first one, a freshmen game — and unexpectedly the ensuing varsity game — between Virginia and George Washington was memorable.

"The second official for the varsity game was delayed by snow, so I was asked to help officiate that one," Ellis recalled. "The guy with me told me he was hearing that the George Washington coach would get fired if they lost.

"I wondered what the heck I'd gotten myself into. But at halftime, when the second official showed, the coaches called me back to the floor and said they wanted me to continue working the game.

"By the way, George Washington won."

Ellis became a regular in the Southern Conference and called an NCAA tournament game. He says he also was one of the first two white officials in the CIAA, the popular Division II conference of historically black colleges.

"Great experience," he said of the CIAA. "They treated us very well."

Following a knee injury in the early '80s, Ellis hung up his whistle to become commissioner of the Peninsula association of high school and recreation league officials. He built a lasting legacy, one that is growing with the debut this past season of the Tidewater association — the group that calls Bay Rivers District games.

"Nelson made the (Peninsula association) into a professional group because of his superb organizational skills," said   Horace Underwood
('61), a longtime area assistant principal and former referee. "He was very honest in his assessment of his referees, and they took his advice to heart and used it to get better."

Said    Ron Fowler
('60), a long-time area basketball official, "Nelson taught me to let the play complete itself before making a decision. Don't blow the whistle on what you think you're seeing."

Bobby Kipper, another long-time area official, added, "I learned from Nelson not to overcall and not read anything into the situation. Just let it happen and try to be as invisible as you can."

Kersey said that Ellis — who worked full-time more than 30 years as a banker — could have risen as high as he wanted as a basketball official. He added that the Peninsula was lucky that Ellis focused his efforts here.

"He's done so much for so many, and made the game of basketball and the profession of officiating stronger because of his input," Kersey said. "The local high schools, principals, athletic directors and coaches, even the players, will all miss Nelson Ellis."

Copyright © 2011, Newport News, Va., Daily Press

Hi, Carol:

The news regarding
   Nelson Ellis ('56) of VA broke my heart today. The article in the Daily Press paid such a fine tribute
to a truly honest and humble man. Few basketball players could defend as well as Nelson Ellis when he played for the
 Coach Bill Chambers. He defended fairly, and his jump shot was deadly...all net. It was a thrill
to watch him play the game.

His genuine cheerfulness was always present, and it was a joy to be in his company. Thank you for sharing the article
with the TYPHOON NATION by way of your Newsletter.

- Joe Madagan ('57) of FL - 03/29/11

Thank you, Joe!

  Class Notes - NNHS 1958

  Nelson "Moocher" Ellis (NNHS1956) is retiring after almost 30 years as Commissioner for the Peninsula
Basketball Officials Association.  The Daily Press recently published an article on Moocher and his contributions to officiating. 
Our classmate
  Jesse Kersey, retired NBA official, was quoted in the article.

Moocher was the oldest of the 3 Ellis brothers to play on NNHS State Championship basketball teams.  The middle brother,  
, is a member of our 1958 class.

Other facts about that 1956 State Championship basketball team:

Nelson “Moocher” Ellis graduated in 1956 from NNHS. Moocher was a starting guard on the Basketball State Champion Typhoon
that year. The team, coached by Bill Chambers, finished the 25-1 season by defeating GW of Alexandria 65-52
in the State Championship game. The Typhoon's only loss was to Wilson of Portsmouth (54-77) during the regular season.
NNHS won the other regular season game against Wilson 72-70 and defeated Wilson for the Eastern District Championship
Tournament 59-58.

The 1956 State Championship team was lead by Captain Slade Dunn at center. As I recall, Slade had his appendix out
during the season and only missed a couple of games.

Our NNHS 1958 classmates (then in the 10th grade) that played on the 1956 varsity included Kenny Roberts,
  Bucky Keller, Jack Tesh and Bill Bradley.

Our NNHS 1958 Classmates playing JV in 1956 included: Jerry Phillips, Jimmy Van Noy, Virgil Meares,
Donald Parker, Donald Hardy, Roger Heflin, Donald Ellis, and    Allen Foster.

- Joe Drewry ('58) of VA - 03/30/11

Thank you, Joe!

We Are the Champions


I've paid my dues
Time after time
I've done my sentence
But committed no crime
And bad mistakes
I've made a few
I've had my share of sand
Kicked in my face
But I've come through
And I need to go on and on and on and on

We are the champions - my friend
And we'll keep on fighting till the end
We are the champions
We are the champions
No time for losers
'Cause we are the champions of the world

I've taken my bows
And my curtain calls
You've bought me fame and fortune
And everything that goes with it
I thank you all
But it's been no bed of roses no pleasure cruise
I consider it a challenge before the whole human race
And I ain't gonna lose
And I need to go on and on and on and on

We are the champions - my friend
And we'll keep on fighting till the end
We are the champions
We are the champions
No time for losers
'Cause we are the champions of the world

We are the champions - my friend
And we'll keep on fighting till the end
We are the champions
We are the champions
No time for losers
'Cause we are the champions

Twirling Basketball clip art courtesy of - 03/26/04

"We Are the Champions" midi courtesy of
at the suggestion of Dave Spriggs ('64) of VA - 04/13/04

"We Are the Champions" lyrics courtesy of - 04/14/04

Basketball divider line clip art courtesy of - 08/12/04

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