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updated: 1/20/2012 9:07 PM

Larkin grad Hatchett living her dream as a Luvabull

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  • Larkin graduate and former Royals' softball standout Ellis Hatchett performs a routine as a Luvabull at the United Center.

      Larkin graduate and former Royals' softball standout Ellis Hatchett performs a routine as a Luvabull at the United Center.
    Photo Courtesy Ellis Hatchett

  • Ellis Hatchett

      Ellis Hatchett

 
 

So many athletes, so little time to keep up on them all when they graduate.

That's our plight most of the time. As hard as we try to keep tabs on all of our area athletes through college and beyond it's just not possible.

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Thankfully, we have loyal readers like Todd Opsahl who drop a phone call now and then with some news.

And while this one's a little off the beaten path of local sports, it's quite the "former local athlete doing good" story.

It's about Elgin resident and 2008 Larkin graduate Ellis Hatchett, who was a standout softball player for the Royals during her high school years. Hatchett went on to play one year of softball at Wisconsin-Whitewater but then decided to concentrate on finishing her college education early. She did just that, graduating in 3 years with a Bachelor of Science degree in Interpersonal Communications, a path she hopes someday leads to a position with a professional sports franchise.

But in the meantime, Hatchett is living one of her dreams as one of the newest members of the Luvabulls dance team, the performers you don't get much of a look at during Bulls games on TV but who are front and center during every break in the action of a Bulls game at the UC.

"It's something I've been wanting to do since I was 16," Hatchett said earlier this week.

Hatchett had been dancing since she was 6. As she got older, she wanted to continue to dance, and what better than a chance to do it in a major sports arena? But there was a flaw to the first plan.

"I checked into it and found out you had to be 21," she said. "I was really disappointed when I found that out. I went on my own path with college and as soon as I turned 21 I went for it. I started preparing a year ahead of time."

The process to be selected as one of the 24 Luvabulls -- only four are from the suburbs and they come from as far away as New York and Maryland -- was grueling, to say the least. After surviving the initial application process, Hatchett went to tryouts, where she joined roughly 300 other young women with the same aspirations -- be selected as one of the 24.

"I had been preparing for so long and been talking to people who had done it," she recalled. "I knew it was a big deal and when I'm the type of person that when I'm nervous about something I get very focused. This was what I had been waiting for. It was game time."

And Hatchett, now 22, hit a grand slam.

But it wasn't easy. She had to make it through three rounds of tryouts, all in a 12-hour day, then a 45-girl boot camp at the end of August.

"It was grueling," said Hatchett. "At boot camp they really start to notice you for your mannerisms and how you work. It's more intense and more personal. It's all choreographed and Comcast televises it so they also watch how you react to the cameras. Every minute, you're being judged."

Then comes selection day. The 45 girls at boot camp are lined up and if you're number is called, you're in; if it isn't, well, they expect you to head home pretty much right away. Kind of like a cross of waiting to see who the last kid picked for a playground game is and being eliminated on the Bachelor. Equally intense in its own right.

"I just looked down and prepared myself and said hey, you've given it your all so whatever happens happens," Hatchett said. "And don't cry on TV. But I had been planning this for so long and set it as a very serious goal. It was the most amazing feeling when they called my number."

Her number was called early, and Ellis Hatchett was a Luvabull.

But then came the NBA lockout. The 32nd year of the Luvabulls, as well as the NBA season hung in the balance.

"We practiced twice a week during the first part of the lockout but we stopped practicing all together for the last two-and-a-half weeks of the lockout," Hatchett said.

Lockout finally over, Hatchett has now had a chance to perform during Bulls games three times. Of the 24 Luvabulls, only 10 perform at each game, based on a rotating schedule, and the 10 scheduled to perform at a particular game have to pass an audition on the day of the game.

"It's been absolutely surreal," Hatchett said. "It's such an amazing experience. You learn things you never thought you could learn in dance -- how to hold yourself, how to present yourself. The biggest thing is the dedication it takes to excel at a professional level. You're expected to be perfect. Performing is what I love to do. When I'm on that court, I feel at home."

Hatchett admits the best part of the gig is the actual games.

"The best part is definitely the games," she said. "The preparation before games is very stressful but once you get to the game it's so much fun."

And a dream come true for an Elgin girl who sought it and achieved it.

jradtke@dailyherald.com

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