Julie Ditty never felt as small as when standing beside Pervis Ellison, the 6-foot-9 former University of Louisville basketball great.
Three nights ago, both were part of the 2013 class of inductees into the Kentucky Athletic Hall of Fame.
“He’s like a giant,” said Ditty, who posed with Ellison for a photo.
The KAHF added seven “giants” at the banquet, attended by more than 300 people at Louisville’s Crowne Plaza Hotel.
Legendary jockey Calvin Borel and former All-Pro cornerback Dwayne Woodruff of the Pittsburgh Steelers were two of the other inductees.
“It was definitely a big honor,” said Ditty, one of Kentucky’s all-time tennis greats.
Overall, it’s the fourth Hall of Fame induction for the former Russell High School and Vanderbilt University star who played 10 years professionally.
Earlier this year, Ditty joined the Kentucky High School Athletic Association Hall of Fame. She was already a Kentucky Tennis Association and Vanderbilt Hall of Famer.
“This one was special, being all athletes in the state and not just for tennis,” Ditty said. “It was great to be nominated and chosen.”
Ditty, 34, retired from pro tennis in 2011 after a stellar career with the racket.
She was a three-time state high school singles champion and earned All-Southeastern Conference and All-American honors at Vandy. On the professional level, Ditty won an unprecedented 38 USTA Pro Circuit titles and achieved career-best rankings of 65 in doubles and 89 in singles.
At one point, Ditty ranked fifth among U.S. women pro players. She made Grand Slam appearances in the U.S. Open, Wimbledon, Australian Open and French Open, as well as playing for the U.S. Fed Cup Team that defeated Argentina in 2009.
Ditty flew from Florida to attend her latest hall of fame induction. She’s helping former doubles partner Carly Gullickson for eight weeks at a summer camp in Palm Beach Gardens.
Ditty becomes Ashland’s first female and fourth overall member of the Kentucky Athletic Hall of Fame. Others include Larry Conley, Ellis Johnson and Jim Host.
One of reasons she enjoyed the banquet so much was getting to meet and find out more about the other inductees: Ellison, Borel, Woodruff, Donna Bender Moir (Sacred Heart Academy coach), Bo McMillin (Centre quarterback) and Jerry Carroll (auto racing industry).
“It was nice to learn about the others,” Ditty said. “(Moir) said in her speech that she had followed my career.”
Julie’s parents, Jack and Juanita, obtained a Woodruff-autographed football through the silent auction because daughter Jenny’s husband is a Steelers fan. Later, the Dittys talked to Woodruff and his wife Joy in the hallway. The Woodruffs returned a short time afterward with two autographed pictures of Dwayne, who played at U of L and had 37 interceptions for the Steelers.
“His wife loves to play tennis,” Julie said. “They actually house players at a tournament in Pittsburgh, some of them girls I had played against.”
ROCKY STANLEY can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (606) 326-2671.