DAYTON – If you have been in an Ohio high school gym for a prep girls basketball game over the last four decades, you have no doubt seen Jim Dabbelt writing about a sport that he has been heavily involved in since 1985.
The Tipp City, Ohio native has been involved in promoting a flourishing sport at all levels and will be celebrating his 40th year next season covering a sport that he has become synonymous within the media circles as being the most recognizable face of the sport throughout the Buckeye state.
“It is hard to believe it has been so long since I began this journey,” Dabbelt said. “So much has changed but one consistent thing, the talent in Ohio has always been at a very high level. It has been great to get to help the area athletes, and while I may be slowing down a bit, my love for the game is still strong.”
Dabbelt began his career while still a senior at Tippecanoe High School north of Dayton, under Hall of Fame head coach Tom Rettig. He did statistics for a Red Devils girls basketball team who advanced to the state championship game before falling in overtime to Millersburg West Holmes.
Dabbelt vividly remembers the moment when he knew this was going to be his path in life, and it came on the long trip home from Akron.
“I can remember how exciting it was making our way through the tournament with two buzzer-beating shots to win districts and regionals, and getting to sit on the bench in the state finals was memorable for me,” he said. “It was on the bus ride home when Tom suggested taking my love of writing and helping a sport that had nobody covering it outside of the local newspapers.”
Dabbelt also coached AAU basketball for a few years and began to establish himself among college coaches all across the country. After he walked away from the coaching aspect of the game, he knew he would be able to help more people in a different capacity.
“When I first started in the 80s, I would put together reports to physically mail out to the coaches which helped me become credible with them, then once everything went electronic, I created The Dabbelt Report online and it was much easier,” Dabbelt stated.
He has seen all of the great players come through, from the likes of 3-time Olympian Katie Smith, the Ohio all-time leading scorer Marlene Stollings, and several Dayton area players who have made it big in the game such as Tamika Williams, Alison Bales, Brandie Hoskins, Lynnette Roeth and countless others.
“We have been blessed with some outstanding players who have come through Ohio,” Dabbelt said. “It has been amazing to develop a great friendship with them long after their playing days have ended. Several of them are coming back to my 40th-year event next year.
In November, Dabbelt is teaming up with Vandalia Butler High School to host the Four Decades Tip-Off Classic which will include 12 games to open the 2024-25 season in the home of a very familiar gym that has hosted so many big tournament games. It will be a memory-filled weekend to celebrate 40 years in the sport with some great matchups.
“Everyone came through the Student Activity Center in the 1990s and 2000s on their way to the state championship,” he said. “They were my first choice to host this event.”
The two-day event will be held November 23-24, 2024 which is the opening weekend of next season, and will include a silent sports auction for charity along with several former players and coaches returning to be recognized for their help with the growth of the game in the Dayton area and around Ohio.
With 40 years in the game, Dabbelt is the longest-tenured media member in Ohio history who has focused on covering and promoting a specific women’s sport, and is currently the fourth longest-active girls basketball media personality in the country, behind only Bob Corwin from Florida, Mike Flynn of Blue Star and Mel Greenburg, formerly of the Philadelphia Inquirer who is still independently covering the sport.
“I think it just means I am getting old,” Dabbelt joked. “But it has been such a great time just trying to help grow the game and help to put Ohio girls basketball on the map. There have been so many great people who have helped this game who have been around for a long time and several of them were also college coaches who have come over to the media world.”
Now in addition to his coverage for The Dabbelt Report, he is also the senior writer for Prep Girls Hoops and the regional scout for their circuit, traveling to different sites across the Midwest during the spring travel ball season.
“I joked about getting older but it is taxing on me at times during those two months, balancing my regular day job with the travel during the circuit season. But what keeps me going is meeting so many great people along the way and knowing I can help them.”
The coverage of the game has changed according to Dabbelt, which now encompasses many more people who have begun working in the sport.
“I have been doing this since before it was cool to promote women’s basketball,” Dabbelt noted. “Nobody cared about it back in the 80s and 90s, but with the addition of social media and the internet, there are so many people who you see in the gym now adding coverage meaning these young ladies are getting their names and faces out there in so many ways.”
“I just want to see this game continue to grow,” he added. “I am not going to be doing this forever, so the more good people we have in the sport to carry on the great coverage, the better for the future players.”
Dabbelt is no stranger to Darke County, as he resided in Pitsburg from 1992-1997.