Kansas University basketball fans were officially introduced to Perry Ellis on Nov. 9, 2012 when the 6-foot-8 McDonald’s All-American and four-time state Gatorade Player of the Year out of Wichita Heights High School scored 15 points and grabbed eight rebounds in a 74-55 victory over Southeast Missouri State.
A newbie to 16,300 fans in Allen Fieldhouse, Ellis was already familiar to Jayhawk coach Bill Self, who tirelessly recruited the native Kansan for four years.
“I saw him play his first high school game as a freshman and, of course, we knew of him even before then,” said Self, who like most KU hoops fans read about the Sunflower State sensation when he was featured in Sports Illustrated as a 14-year-old eighth grader at the Air Capital’s Brooks Middle School.
Kansas basketball coach Bill Self discusses the Jayhawks' Saturday home finale versus Iowa State, which will be Senior Day for Perry Ellis, Jamari Traylor, Hunter Mickelson and Evan Manning. Self said the emotions of this Senior Day might hit him harder than others, and discusses an array of other topics ...
Kansas senior center Hunter Mickelson meets with media members to discuss his time in the program and what lies ahead.
Kansas senior walk-on Evan Manning fields questions from the media, prior to his final home game at Allen Fieldhouse. The son of all-time KU great Danny Manning, Evan describes the decision process with playing at KU, instead of for his father, as well as one time he let Tyler Self ...
“I’d say we probably spent more years recruiting Perry than we have anybody else,” Self added.
Ellis’ first game as a prep, as it turns out, was mighty memorable. Self, who sat right behind Heights’ bench, watched as Ellis grabbed 12 rebounds and scored nine points in the No. 5-ranked Falcons’ 67-62 victory over No. 1 Wichita East on Dec. 5, 2008 before 7,500 fans in Koch Arena on Wichita State University’s campus.
“We played at WSU. I was pretty nervous. It was different ... a lot of people. I do remember him sitting there — looking over and seeing him,” Ellis said of taking a peek at KU coach Self, who was enjoying his debut.
“I did fairly well. I remember making some crucial free throws late in the game, which is pretty big. It was pretty cool,” added Ellis, whose 3-of-3 free throwing down the stretch helped make possible the victory.
Self, and Ellis’ lead KU recruiter, Danny Manning, attended countless games during Perry’s prep career — one that resulted in four Class 6A titles for Heights.
Included was Ellis’ Senior Day game in March of 2012. Yes, Self made the two-hour drive to Wichita despite the fact Ellis had committed to KU before the start of his final prep campaign. Now, in the blink of an eye, it’s Senior Day again, this time at KU where Ellis turned out to be just as talented as advertised.
Ellis has scored 1,645 points (12th in KU history) and grabbed 792 boards (13th in school annals) entering Saturday’s 3 p.m. home swan song against Iowa State.
“That’s an honor. Before I came I had no idea I’d be in this position. It’s definitely a blessing,” Ellis said of his stat totals. “Each year I’ve had more and more fun and gotten better and better. I’m just looking to finish strong.”
With games remaining, he already has etched his mark in KU’s history books.
“I really think, at least in the modern era I have been around, going back from the early 1980s on, I would say he would have to be in the discussion to be on the all-time all-(state of) Kansas team based on what he’s done and what he did in high school and of course his four years of college have been stellar,” Self said, mentioning former KU player Wayne Simien of Leavenworth. “Depending if (Brandon) Rush grew up on which side of the state line ... all three of them would be in that discussion and there would obviously be many more.
“Perry’s got a chance to be in the Top 10 at our school in scoring and rebounding, and that’s a pretty special deal, and he didn’t start as a freshman. So most of those guys (like UCLA’s Lucious Allen of KC Wyandotte) probably would have started four years. He’s had a great consistent run.
“When I think of Perry, I don’t think of the best, I think of consistency. He’s one of those guys that you can — if he was a golfer, he’d just go out and shoot par every day,” Self continued. “He’s not one of those guys that the highs are so high and the lows are low; he’s just steady. I think that’s something that we’ve really grown to not only respect, but also at times to take for granted because he has been so steady.”
Ellis likes being known as consistent.
“I’ve grown in that department each year I’d say,” Ellis said “Being in the moment thinking each play: ‘I’m going to try to go as hard as I can, attack each play.’’’
Ellis — he leads KU in scoring (16.3 ppg) and is second in rebounding (6.0), has not changed a lot personality wise. He’s still the quiet, unassuming guy that arrived as a freshman, though occasionally a bit more flashy. His patented spin move, “The Blender,” is now virtually unstoppable.
“When he shows a little personality he gets us more fired up,” senior forward Jamari Traylor said. “At Texas I think it was last year he did a crazy move, looked to the bench smiling and winked. It put fire under us some more. That’s the most hyped I’ve seen Perry.”
He’s not ALL that shy, as evidenced by all the speeches he gives to youth groups in the state.
As far as his KU Senior Day speech, Ellis, who is set to receive a degree in sports management in May (with a business minor) said: “I don’t think I’ll write it out. I’ve been trying to formulate a lot of things I want to talk about and kind of go from there. You never know,” he added, asked if he’d become emotional. “I’m just going to see what happens. When I walk out with my family and stuff (before game) I think it will really hit me.”
It will mark a crazy day as well for Self, who has watched Ellis play for eight years now.
“In Perry you’ve got the rock of all rocks,” said Self, who said Ellis will start Saturday with fellow seniors Traylor, Hunter Mickelson and Evan Manning as well as junior Frank Mason III.
KU’s coach and fans are hoping there’s a lot more to come after the 2015-16 postseason. Draftexpress.com has Ellis currently listed as a second-round pick in the 2016 NBA Draft.
“I think they could be pretty good,” he said of his chances of making an NBA roster. “I’m going to try to do the best I can. It’s all in God’s hands after that.”
Maybe, just maybe, Self one day will say he was on hand for Ellis’ high school, college ... and pro debuts.
“He’s almost too good to be true,” Self said. “I can’t say enough good things about him. I’m proud of him. He’s represented himself, his family, his state, all of us in a very very first class way each and every day.”