Shyra Ely-Gash has two passions in life: basketball and fashion.
On the court, Ely-Gash became a two-time state champion at Ben Davis High School in Indianapolis, was Indiana’s Miss Basketball in 2001 and played in four Final Fours for the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. But she also grew up circling clothing she liked in magazines, and when she earned an athletics scholarship, she used it toward a bachelor’s degree in fashion merchandising.
Today, Ely-Gash still combines her passions, consulting with college and professional basketball coaches to coordinate their looks on the sidelines through her style-consulting business, Styles by Ms. Ely, and her image-styling company, Styles by ME.
Her women’s basketball coaching clients include Louisiana State University coach Nikki Caldwell, Coastal Carolina University coach Jaida Williams, Purdue University assistant coach Lindsay Wisdom-Hylton and Kelley Gibson, an assistant coach at Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, New Brunswick. In the WNBA, Ely-Gash styles Indiana Fever coach Stephanie White and Phoenix Mercury coach Sandy Brondello.
She also works with a number of male clients – an area of her business she would like to expand. Each person has his or her own personality and style, and Ely-Gash factors those into the equation for each client. She also likes to incorporate school and team colors into each coach’s look.
“I don’t want people thinking that I’m going to put them in 5-inch heels like Nikki wears,” Ely-Gash says. “I am not going to make you look like the next person. It is about enhancing your personal style.”
Caldwell, who played at Tennessee and became an assistant coach there during Ely-Gash’s playing days, was the first client. When she was named women’s basketball coach at UCLA in 2008, Ely-Gash asked if she could pick out her outfits.
“I told her since she was going out to LA, ‘You have to let me dress you for a couple of games,’” says Ely-Gash, who averaged 12 points and 6.8 rebounds during her career at Tennessee. “She told me if I get an established LLC, she would let me consult with her. From there, it flew.”
Last season, Ely-Gash dressed Caldwell in more of a Katharine Hepburn style. “We did a lot of masculine and feminine juxtaposition,” Ely-Gash says. “We had a lot of neck ties and wide slacks. I am very detailed, and everything is strategic.”
This spring, Ely-Gash is the brand ambassador for the 2016 Women’s Final Four and is styling a fashion show during the festivities.
“If you wanted to drive home the message of the student-athlete experience, there is no better example than me,” Ely-Gash says. “My major led me into style consulting. I had the chance to play in four Final Fours, with one being here in Indianapolis in 2005. I get emotional just thinking about it. It was a great experience for me, and it feels like it happened yesterday.”