Perry Ellis joining elite names in KU basketball lore

Perry Ellis KU

DECEMBER 2015 – Perry Ellis feels like it was about yesterday when he arrived at Kansas in 2012 after winning four-straight state championships at Wichita Heights and becoming a four-time Kansas Gatorade Player of the Year and City League’s all-time leading scorer.

“It went by so fast, so fast,” said Ellis, a 6-8 KU senior forward. “I’m excited about it. I’ve been getting better each season and having more fun.”

For Perry Ellis, his KU experience has been quite special and a life-changing one.

He’s grown as a player. He’s grown as a man. And he’s grown as a leader. Then there’s the three-straight Big 12 championships, one Big 12 Tournament title, a Sweet 16 berth, the bonding with teammates on road trips and winning the gold medal for Team USA at the World University Games last summer in South Korea.

But Ellis wants more.

“I want to play in a Final Four,” Ellis said. “And I’m going to do everything I can to try to get there.”
An All-American candidate, Ellis believes this is KU’s best chance to break through and win a national title after getting knocked out of the NCAA Round of 32 the last two seasons.

“We’ve been playing with each other a lot,” he said. “We have a lot of pieces returning and we’ve been through tough times. We’ve been through adversity with each other, been in a lot of tough games and know what to do.”

After leading Kansas with 13.8 points and 6.9 rebounds per game last season while earning first-team All-Big 12 honors and the only player in the conference to rank in the top seven in scoring (7th), field goal percentage (7th at 45.7) and rebounding (4th), Ellis pondered leaving for the NBA. But he knew he could still elevate his game under coach Bill Self.

“Also my degree, I got a chance to get that now,” Ellis said. “It’s just going to be great.”

Self is certainly glad Perry Ellis returned. He has high expectations for the senior.

“I expect him to be as good as or better than any player in the league,” Self said. “I expect him to play at an all-American-type level. I think he’s capable of doing that. I thought last year before he got hurt (knee injury), there was about a six-game stretch where I think he was playing to an All-American level.

“He seems to be in the best shape of his life. He’s stronger. I don’t mean from a weight standpoint, but you can just tell the way he carries himself. I expect him to have a big year.”

Ellis is more explosive, leaner and has improved his ball-handling and perimeter skills. He believes this could be a breakout season.

“Definitely,” Ellis said. “I’ve been working. My mental (game) is getting stronger and getting more confident in myself as I get older.”

He is now chasing greatness. If Ellis averages just more than 16.0 points in 2015-16 and hits the glass at his pace of last season, he will likely crack the top-10 on the KU career scoring and rebounding charts. Only three others have accomplished that feat – Danny Manning, Raef LaFrentz and Nick Collison, all with their jerseys hanging from the Allen Fieldhouse rafters.

“(Some great) names before me,” Ellis said. “It’s something I don’t want to think about right now. You just want to go and play hard and all the accolades will come later. But it’s definitely an honor to be in position to do that.”

Ellis has already had lot of honors – both on and off the court – during his memorable career. He was the Big 12 Men’s Basketball Scholar Athlete of the Year last season, while also named to the Academic All-Big 12 First Team. He received the Honorary Hero Award in Wichita at the Real Men, Real Heroes annual recognition event last July.

“As a kid, my coach, Steve Young, would tell me to try to become a better person and better player every day. That’s something I ran with,” Ellis told the crowd during his acceptance speech. “I got the chance to be a Teen Hero in high school. I got the chance to talk to kids and show them what it takes, what choices they need to make and really how important academics are. That is something that is huge.

“In college, I also got the opportunity to come home and go with buddies to certain schools and do certain things and that’s been a great opportunity for me. It’s built confidence in myself and even the kids.”
Ellis elaborated over the impact Young has made on his life.

“He helped me out so much growing up,” Ellis said. “It’s not all about basketball. In real life, you got to respect the people around you. He taught me life lessons and basketball lessons.”

Ellis, a high school valedictorian who has a 3.27 GPA at KU with a major in sports management and minor in business, feels grateful to use those invaluable lessons and give back to the community, whether it’s in his Wichita hometown or helping kids and the needy in Lawrence.

“It’s really important, just the little things you can do,” Ellis said. “The things that can really help somebody and move somebody’s life. I love just being a part of doing that.”

This is Ellis the person at his finest, and why his teammates, Self, fans and even opposing coaches love and respect him so much.

“Perry’s been awesome,” Self said. “He’s had a fabulous career and, of course, a better kid than player and has handled everything so well. I don’t think we ever dreamed that we would get a better person or player when we signed him than what we have.”

Pittsburg State coach Kevin Muff is another huge admirer.

“I love him,” Muff said. “Number one he’s a Kansas guy. Being a Kansas native and seeing a guy do that well, just highly skilled, great hands, and a great feel for the game and understanding. I want nothing but the best for that man, but mainly because of the type of person he is.

“He does it with class. He does it the right way. Handles himself extremely well on the floor through adversity and he really doesn’t change his expression, which I like. He’ll be an asset and a weapon for them. I just love the way he plays.”

As Ellis begins his final season, he’s prepared to enjoy each victory, each shot, each rebound, each dunk, and all those thunderous cheers from Allen Fieldhouse fans.

“I’m going to cherish every moment, every game this year, and just have fun,” he said.
Perry Ellis is running and pushing hard. He can’t stop now, not after how far he’s come the past three years at Kansas and all that time in Wichita honing his skills growing up and dreaming of playing in the Final Four and national championship game.

A Final Four would be great, but a national title and having his name mentioned with KU’s 1952 and 2008 NCAA champions would be even more priceless.

“Ah man, it would mean a lot,” Ellis said with a big smile. “Just thinking back on all the work I’ve put in, it would mean the most. That’s definitely what we’re working for, that’s definitely the goal for all of us, but you just got to take it game-by-game and go from there.”

Article by David Garfield.

One Response to Perry Ellis joining elite names in KU basketball lore

  1. Philip Goodwin says:

    A very well- written article on a vey fine player and person. When there’s a match between a gifted writer and a gifted subject great reading follows

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