Friday, March 15, 2013


Opinion: Perry Ellis developing into nice March surprise for KU

Kansas forward Perry Ellis elevates to prevent a shot by Iowa State guard Korie Lucious during the second half of the semifinal round of the Big 12 tournament on Friday, March 15, 2013 at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, Missouri.

Kansas forward Perry Ellis elevates to prevent a shot by Iowa State guard Korie Lucious during the second half of the semifinal round of the Big 12 tournament on Friday, March 15, 2013 at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, Missouri.


Podcast episode

Press Conferences & Post-Game Interviews

KU coach Bill Self talks after win over Iowa State

Kansas coach Bill Self talks after his team's 88-73 win over Iowa State on March 15, 2013.

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Podcast episode

Press Conferences & Post-Game Interviews

Elijah Johnson, Perry Ellis

Kansas players Elijah Johnson and Perry Ellis talk to reporters following the Jayhawks' 88-73 victory over Iowa State on March 15, 2013.

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Box score


— Tenth-year Kansas basketball coach Bill Self didn’t aim all of his first-half fury at referees John Higgins and Terry Oglesby on the way to a 88-73 victory against Iowa State in a Big 12 tournament semifinal Friday night in the Sprint Center.

He saved some for KU freshman Perry Ellis during a timeout he called because his team had fallen behind, 12-4. Self started in on Ellis well before he made it all the way to the bench. Then he tore into Travis Releford before switching back to Ellis.

All the while, Ellis’ expression never changed. It never does, it seems. Powerful dunks. Missed layups. The praise of thousands. The harsh criticism of a coach, the scorn of an enemy crowd. Same neutral look. If Ellis were in the middle of thousands of people with a tornado in the distance, heading their way, he would be easy to pick out of the crowd. He would be the one who sports the face of a young man playing a video game, impervious to his surroundings. When his basketball playing days are over he might want to take up poker. His face tells nothing, but his ears must have been working just fine because they obviously heard what the coach said and his eyes saw the anger behind the words. Ellis’ stoic exterior notwithstanding, an “I’ll show him” fire had been lit.

Later in the half, the emerging freshman who led Wichita Heights to four state titles, showed the sort of stuff that made him the all-time leading scorer in Wichita's City League history for a brief stay until KU recruit Conner Frankamp pushed him into second place.

Kansas needed somebody to get hot because Ben McLemore was on the bench with two fouls, the second a technical. Ellis scored six points in a span of 1:47, and that was just the beginning. By the time his career-high 23-point, six-rebound day on 10-of-12 shooting was over, he had scored via the short jumper, the hook shot, the drive, the dunk and the free throw.

A Sprint Center-record crowd of 19,160 watched Ellis turn from a freshman into a sophomore in one night, his confidence growing exponentially as the game progressed.

Ellis coming on so strong in mid-March is the equivalent of a Major League Baseball contender adding a hired gun to the starting rotation for the September stretch run. It doesn’t guarantee a thing but it sure gives the dream a more realistic feel to it.

“That’s what we’ve been looking for from him all season,” senior guard Travis Releford said. “He’s stepping up for us at the right time. If he can do that for us through the rest of the season, that’s going to help us a whole lot.”

If Ellis continues to produce, he’ll put smiles on so many faces, just not his own.

“That’s just him. He doesn’t show any expression at all,” Releford said. “He’s been that way the whole season. Even after the game when we tried to rally around him, he still had the same expression, like he didn’t go out there and have a 20-plus game. If he continues to play hard and play the way he’s been playing, we’re going to be tough to beat.”

Releford didn’t gain as much acclaim in high school, but he garnered a pretty decent buzz himself playing for Bishop Miege.

“I told him it’s a tough transition coming from high school,” Releford said. “With him being a McDonald’s All-American you have all the hype, and to come in and not get what he expected right away, I told him at Kansas you have to learn, you have to learn all the ins and outs of what coach Self wants from you and once you do that, the sky’s the limit for you.”

In the first 26 games, Ellis averaged 13.1 minutes, 4.3 points and 3.4 rebounds and made 39 percent of his shots from the field, 66 percent from the line. In the last seven, he has averaged 16.3 minutes, 10.1 points and five rebounds and has been a 65-percent shooter from the field and a 95-percent shooter (21 of 22) from the line. Obviously, he’s more than a straight-A student in the classroom, which is what he was in high school.

“Our whole deal with him is to be aggressive, be aggressive,” Self said. “He’s one of the those kids that as soon as you say run, he’ll run faster. As soon as you say jump, he’ll jump higher. … Tonight they played behind him on the post and he was able to get catches. And that’s what he can do. I mean, he played great. But the plays he made are plays that I think he can consistently make if he just stays aggressive and stays confident.”

If he doesn’t, Self will let him know it and Ellis will run faster, jump higher, changing everything but his expression. This March surprise just might help Kansas to land a No. 1 seed heading into the NCAA Tournament.


hawk_of_ages 8 years, 1 month ago

Well, I don't know about a #1 seed. Turgeon's boys helped us out with that tonight, but it still might not be enough to dislodge Duke from its perch. I'll settle for us being the most dangerous 2 seed. That role tends to work out pretty well for us.

I was very glad to see Perry hit some jumpers. He'd become a bit predictable on offense, just barreling into the paint seemingly every time he touched the ball. Now teams have to start respecting his jump shot, which opens things up for Withey and for Perry himself to drive it. (It's been nice to see Withey hit some mid-range jumpers lately too; we're developing some serious offensive punch from the 4 and 5 spots.)

hawk_of_ages 8 years, 1 month ago

Yeah, we'll see. If we do get a 1 seed, we'd probably get the toughest 2 seed, or if we get a 2, we probably get the weakest 1. So it won't make too much difference either way. I'm just glad that we presumably now won't fall below a 2, win or lose vs. the Cats.

Michael Sillman 8 years, 1 month ago

I agree that Withey's mid-range shooting is a definite plus that should open up the high low. We can place other bigs like Traylor, Young, and Ellis under the hoop.

The emergence of Ellis really could help push us deep into the tourney but I am still concerned about the number of three pointers that Johnson is taking. Johnson can help the team more by playing tough defense and getting the ball into the lane. I'd like to see him severely limit his outside shots.

hawk_of_ages 8 years, 1 month ago

I can certainly understand the argument that EJ should shoot less, given his percentages, but I don't know if I agree. I've felt all year that his shot selection has been fine -- his 3's are always in the flow of the offense and are usually wide open. It's not like he's just bringing the ball up the floor and chucking it. We know he can hit them. He just needs to hit more of them.

AirCapJay 8 years, 1 month ago

I agree. If EJ's 3's drop, he's a hero. If not, it looks like he is shooting too often. He needs to keep shooting to get his touch back. I have no problem with him shooting 3's as long as he is open and takes a good look.

deepind 8 years, 1 month ago

If we beat KState in the finals, our chances of #1 seed will be pretty good.

sm5561 8 years, 1 month ago

I don't care if we're the 1 or 2 seed, as long as we're in the south (Dallas) bracket. It's not worth being the 1 seed if we end up playing Duke or Georgetown in Washington DC, or Indiana in Indianapolis!

Bville Hawk 8 years, 1 month ago

Good thoughts, sm5561. People get WAY too hung up on being a 1 seed.

Jack Wilson 8 years, 1 month ago

I have to point this out as I posted some stats on this earlier this week .. 18 of the last 25 champs have been number 1 seeds. 42 of the last 100 final four teams have been number 1 seeds.

Only 2 number 2 seeds have won the title in the last 25 years.

You might want to reconsider.

Steve Brown 8 years, 1 month ago

sometims it is better to not wear the whites all the way, be the #2 and play that set up on the charts in case you make it to elite eight the choke pressure is on the other guy. Don't #2 play the 7-10 winner better than the 8-11 on occassion.

stm62 8 years, 1 month ago

We have now seen how well both Johnson and Ellis are capable of playing. If they can learn to harness those nerves, its SCARY how good this team can become.

hawk316 8 years, 1 month ago

"Ellis coming on so strong in mid-March is the equivalent of a Major League Baseball contender adding a hired gun to the starting rotation for the September stretch run. It doesn’t guarantee a thing but it sure gives the dream a more realistic feel to it."

Very good analogy, Tom.

Ellis won't score 23 a game from here on out, but he's now very much part of the story. And just in time.

JayHawkFanToo 8 years, 1 month ago


MinnesotaJay 8 years, 1 month ago

Excellent piece on Perry. Well done, Mr. Keegan!

Steve Zimmerman 8 years, 1 month ago

Ellis will declare for NBA draft nxt season if he keeps aggressive & playing free like that. I'm really happy to see him finally dunking all over the place. No more softie Perry.

Michael Luby 8 years, 1 month ago

I can also see him just wanting to stay in college a bit longer.

bradynsdad 8 years, 1 month ago

I don't know perry or bus family but I work with guys that do and I will tell you this, Perry does not care at all about being a one and done or even a 2 and done. He is very school driven. He is even more competitive with his school work than his basketball. Also Perry's parents aren't the type to push him into the NBA for their own good. Perry will be here a minimum of three years.

nostradavid 8 years, 1 month ago

Perry is improving every game. I think he's going to start tonight.

Turgeon's Terps vs. Roy's dadgum Tarheels will be a good warmup.

Just keep playin' no matter what ...

Dizzy Adrift

Dizzy Adrift by nostradavid

jaybate 8 years, 1 month ago

This game showed the difference between Self's long experience and relentless getting better ethic and Hoiberg's greenness with a lot of NBA wrinkles Self hadn't seen.

Hoiberg is a natural coach, but he's only been at this 2 seasons. And he has looked very good against Self, because he could drop stuff on Self Self hadn't seen before.

Last season, Self really didn't get what Hoiberg was doing.

This year, first ISU game, he knew more, but not enough. He had to have a luckY shot for a W.

The second ISU game Self seemed to get more of what Fred was up to. But it still took lucky calls to get the W.

But this game Self had Hoi and ISU doped out.

Self keeps getting better.

Hoiberg keeps relying on his original edge.

Self has been at this 20 years or so. And he works harder at getting better than any coach I have ever seen.

He is a Basketball genius and those are rare. But what distinguishes him most is he is a savant at getting better.

Jack Wilson 8 years, 1 month ago

I will be real interested in seeing how Self adjusts next season if we don't get Randle .. meaning the roster will necessitate being more of a perimeter team. Might be his biggest challenge yet.

KGphoto 8 years, 1 month ago

On that note, I don’t think Traylor is getting enough credit for his improvement as of late. He’s much more confident around the rim and he’s been sinking his FT. He hit 7/7 FT in the last two games. 4/4 last night. I see him working on his post moves. They even designed a couple plays around him last night. Both failed, but I think Self is really working with him and he could be a factor next year.

windjammer 8 years, 1 month ago

"Self really didn't get what Houiberg was doing" Are you kidding me or are you a better basketball mind than Self? Coach Self has never been fooled by Hoiberg.

ancient_hawk 8 years, 1 month ago

Fooled is probably the wrong word. But it's not completely off-base. There is a very small cadre of coaches that can get inside Bill's head a little. Izzo and Consonants come to mind. Hoiberg is another example.

Michael Luby 8 years, 1 month ago

Thanks for another good post TK. Keep it rollin.

ohjayhawk 8 years, 1 month ago

Here's hoping Perry is 2008 Cole, revisited!

Hoosierhawkfan 8 years, 1 month ago

He's lost his fear of failing, and his game will just get better and better. Congratulations on an outstanding game Perry.

NorthStarHawk 8 years, 1 month ago

Keegan....thanks for the article. Loved your "tornado" set-up.

Just as the great, late Al McGuire use to say, "the best thing about freshmen, is they become sophomores". As of last night, Ellis is simply a freshman by name only.

woodscolt 8 years, 1 month ago

"Perry Ellis developing into nice March surprise for KU"

I think the real surprise is that he was expected to do this from day one and didn't. That set up the "March surprise" keeguns has dreamed up. If you get a night that Ellis is hot and McLemore is hot, KU takes that game. Ellis gives Withey a lot more operating room.

If we win today, we should be a #1 seed. We were a #1 seed till Baylor knocked us out and Baylor is a better team than Duke just lost to in Maryland(2nd time this year). I think you will see the ACC favoritism come through and they will excuse Duke while penalizing KU for a loss. We have to take care of KSU or it will be moot. Cats played a hell of a game last night and look ready for us. Louisville has a tough game and if they lose and we win then we should overcome the Duke favoritism an be a 1.

Kyle Berthusen 8 years, 1 month ago

I agree with the Duke favoritism taking hold, but It's gonna be hard to tell the team that won both its conference and conference tournament that they didn't get in ahead of the team that didn't win either of those.

joeloveshawks 8 years, 1 month ago

I have to disagree with the posts above the the #1 and #2 seeds are essentially the same. If you look at the history of #1 seeds they go to the Final 4 by far the most. You get the opportunity to play an 8 instead of a 7 and then a 4 instead of a 3. I know this is pointing out the obvious but getting a #1 would help any team and their is no doubt about it. Last time we cut down the nets we were a #1 seed. Personally I can't imagine that if we win tomorrow that Duke would get it over us. We would be the regular season and tournament champions of our league and they would have neither of those. Let's take care of business tonight. RCJH!

Scott Smetana 8 years, 1 month ago

I don't think it matters this year. There's so little difference between 2-8 seeds this year. It's all about the specific match ups. Right now both UNC and Creighton are 8 seeds. Who do u want? I like Dallas with no Duke. Better yet, anywhere with Gonzaga.

ParisHawk 8 years, 1 month ago

TCU = 2.

The 1 seeds are all taken. It's over.

So beat ksu and move on.

Al Martin 8 years, 1 month ago

This makes sense to me. Of all the top four seed candidates, we have far and away the worst loss. There has to be some punishment for that.

Ethan Berger 8 years, 1 month ago

I don't think one loss should be punishing esp against Duke. The big 12 is far better then the ACC, and Duke didn't win any title this season. However with a win tonight Kansas will win both reg season and conf tourney in a better conference.

Jack Wilson 8 years, 1 month ago

JayhawkinAustin .. that is the quote of the year: "... we have far and away the worst loss. There has to be some punishment for that." Awesome.

Ethan Berger 8 years, 1 month ago

Perry kinda reminds me of an otto porter type player. Comes into college at the 4 but maybe next year plays at the three. He certainly is a decent enough ball handler and has good shooting form.

Jack Wilson 8 years, 1 month ago

More a flex 4 like Marcus became .. can step out and hit the shot. We'll see if Ellis can extend his range to the three point line.

With our roster set up next season, we are loaded on the perimeter .. not so much in the post.

Kye Clark 8 years, 1 month ago

Agreed. It's hard to envision line-up scenarios for any extended amount of time that has Perry not at the 4.

I'm curious if you're warming up to Traylor becoming a regular rotation player next year? I've been in the same camp as you, thinking that even if we don't land Randle that JamTray still probably would be stuck in the same role he is this year - 4th big. Sparse minutes unless foul trouble and/or injuries dictate. But lately I have been encouraged by his level of play. I think if we land Randle, he's fighting it out with Lucas and Embiid for the 3rd big/1st big off the bench role, and that he has the advantage due to time in the system and game experience this year. If we don't land Randle, same scenario only the battle is for the starting spot opposite Perry.

Even with Randle we may not be "loaded" in the post, but there will be a logjam - 5 guys Self will have at his disposal. (and I'm with you, no I don't count Justin Wesley).

Jack Wilson 8 years, 1 month ago

Yes, Wesley would not count for next season rotation-wise. But I guarantee he'll get at least one start (senior night). I think we now have a general consensus on this site on Wesley .. it took a while, but some of these Wesley folks have quieted down a bit. Many of them are lamenting the loss of Milton Doyle.

On Traylor, no, my opinion really hasn't changed. It's not that I don't think he can continue to develop, it's just that I personally think that his ceiling is about a notch lower than Darnell Jackson. Same guy, really, just a bit less skilled. I think he's overmatched right now against top competition and that will likely continue next season. But by his junior and senior season, he could/should be a reliable post guy off the bench if we don't have better players. Nothing wrong with that. Anything better is gravy. Really, though, a guy that plays because you have not gotten the guys you want in recruiting. The back-up plan. But if we don't get Randle, he could be a starter to open the season .. yikes.

The interesting thing will be Lucas. It may shape up that way .. Lucas vs. Traylor for playing time. I like Traylor and his story .. great kid. Lucas seems incredibly positive in his redshirt year, from reading his twitter posts. But selfishly, I'm rooting for Lucas because if Lucas can't beat out Traylor, that might not bode well for Lucas down the road given Traylor's skill level.

For 2013-14, the readiness of Embiid is the exciting thing. We'll speculate on that for months.

hawk_of_ages 8 years, 1 month ago

That's way too harsh on Traylor. He's shown some real promise this season, certainly no less than Darnell Jackson did as an underclassman. I love Darnell and would love it if Jamari could equal his career, but to me his ceiling is higher -- better hops and athleticism.

carolinajay 8 years, 1 month ago

When we beat K-State do they then have to go to Bramlage, with needle and thread, to put the nets back?

JayHawkFanToo 8 years, 1 month ago

Just use duct tape, it would fit perfectly at Bramlage.

brutus 8 years, 1 month ago

You could see it coming with Perry and it happened at a great time which is what happens with great players. It was trememdous seeing him hitting shots and dunking with authority. I like the chip on the shoulder that a #2 seed would give us but you still gotta lace em up and play. As far as Duke being a #1, they didn't win their league or their tournament-nuff said.

Freedman Moor 8 years, 1 month ago

What hepls us most is that there are so teams that can make a case for number one seeds. Sounds strange? No one is perfect this year. From the #1 overall to the fourth #1, every team in contention has lost recently, so KU can't be faulted for losing to a talented (yet underavhieving) Baylor team.

Wisconsin (who swept IU) did us a huge favor by beating Michigan; the ACC tournment is down to two bubble teams, a team that can't handle sucess, and Balyor East (NC State); the Pac-12 is just terrible (UCLA may be the most overrated team in the country and they aren't even that highly regarded); and the Big East is an anomoly--impressive players but marginal-looking teams. Gonzaga may be KU's greatest asset. If Gonzaga can be rationalized out of a #1 because of who they haven't played, KU can easily rationalized into a #1 seed because of who they have played (and beaten).

webtoe 8 years, 1 month ago

I used to be overly concerned about the #1 seed thing. These days I realize that we will play who the selection committee wants us to play. That being said... I'm glad our future opponents will now have to also worry about Perry Ellis factoring into their game plan against KU. Perry clearly creates more mismatch headaches for opposing coaches which also opens up more scoring opportunities for us inside the paint. If we aren't hitting shots from the outside, we can score the "old fashion 3" which also rings up foul trouble for our opponents (a bonus as well). GO HAWKS, and may you run to the deepest end of the tourney bracket and win it all!

mikehawk 8 years, 1 month ago

We saw last night the "real" Perry Ellis from the scoring standpoint, full of confidence. This kid is not an ordinary kid. Very smart. Very cerebral. And very gifted athletically. Most gifted athletes are physical gift first and develop the mental side later. I think Perry is the other way around in that he learns the game and the expectations of coach and team first, and then allows his physical gifts and talents to grow around his mental understanding of the game coach teaches. For those paying attention, and as Keegs points out with the data, his game has been coming on of late. He also seems very "ego quiet" defering to coach and elders. Last night you could almost feel Perry psychologically taking his rightful place as confident in the fact he understand he is a fabulous talent and has a gift for scoring with no need to hold anything back. We just got a glimpse of the beginning. Bring it Perry!

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