MORGANTOWN, W.Va. —  A film maker and Morgantown native, Sharon Lee, is hopeful the recent passing of Jerry West will renew interest in a film project about the woman referred to as the” the woman behind WVU’s golden age of basketball,” Ann Dinardi.

On WAJR’s “Talk of the Town,” Lee said a commitment to tell Dinardi’s story came from hours of hearing the stories from several former Mountaineers like West, Hot Rod Hundley, Willie Akers, and others that called themselves “Ann’s Boys.”

“They promised I would tell her story,” Lee said. “So, the fact that both Hot Rod and Jerry West are gone and I could not tell her story in their lifetime weighs heavily on me.”

Dinardi boarded students in the 1950’s, and by the50’s she was exclusively housing players from the WVU basketball team. The movie would tell the story of the significant impact of one woman on a group of special athletes that blossomed under the assertive but caring environment she provided. More than 50 years later, when Jerry West accepted the Presidential Medal of Freedom, he said, “II would have never made it through West Virginia University without Ann Dinardi, a surrogate mother of sorts, who gave me a room in her house and constantly fed me to pack weight on my 160-pound frame. She cussed me when I needed it, and, boy, that was a lot—like the time I fled back home before my freshman year, personally convinced that I did not belong in college—and hugged me when I needed it, which was probably at the same time. Ann was strong, sassy, and Italian.”

“One person with a kind heart and a belief in these young men literally changed the course of their lives,” Lee said.

At one point, Lee said a European company was ready to fully fund the project, but the offer fell through ultimately. Those plans included as much of the city of Morgantown as possible, then moving to surrounding areas to capture a 1950’s feel.

“We will use Morgantown for sure for the opening sequence,” Lee said. “But we will need to go outside of Morgantown proper in order to do many of the scenes because Morgantown of the 1950’s does not exist.”

Lee compares the project to Hoosiers meets the Blind Side and quotes a portion of what Jerry West said at Dinardi’s 90th birthday party, which was attended by at least 19 former players.

“I don’t know how many lives she salvaged in this room, but I dare say all of them,” Lee said, reciting West’s speech at Dinardi’s 90th birthday party. “Because a lot of these young men came from circumstances that were dire, but they possessed this rare talent.”

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