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Friday, March 4, 2016

First class senior

Kansas forward Perry Ellis greets fans as he exits the court after an 86-56 win over the Longhorns Monday, Feb. 29, 2016 at the Frank Erwin Center in Austin, Texas.

Kansas forward Perry Ellis greets fans as he exits the court after an 86-56 win over the Longhorns Monday, Feb. 29, 2016 at the Frank Erwin Center in Austin, Texas.

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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.

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“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.”



Comments

Mike Riches 3 years, 3 months ago

Perry is the absolute epitome of Jayhawk basketball. Not loud or flashy, but humble and consistently good...really good. At times fans have been frustrated with him, only because they wanted him to be something he's not. What he is, is a first team conference forward, a very proficient scorer, an excellent teammate and a great guy. We've been privileged to watch him play the last four years as a Jayhawk, and I hope he adds 10 more wins to his college resume!

Steve Zimmerman 3 years, 3 months ago

Mike, I'm not frustrated as I used to be. Having read other fans' posts and watching him progressing as a prolific scorer, I'm really really thankful that Perry chose to be a Jayhawk. It's been a great joy, as Mike said.

Chad Harris 3 years, 3 months ago

Mike I agree with you. Ellis is a class act guy. I remember his freshman year when he went off in the Big 12 tournament. Ellis has been fun to watch through the years because each year he has gotten better and better. I sure do hope we get more recruits like him that stay all four years. I'm sure Mason, Graham, will stay until they're seniors, but could you imagine if Svi did the same? Holy hell. RCJKU!

Tom Jones 3 years, 3 months ago

I'll be happy if Svi comes back for next year.

Jay Scott 3 years, 3 months ago

Ellis and Simien are a lot alike. I hope Perry has a little more success on the hardwood and continues his path to becoming the person Wayne is off of it.

RJ King 3 years, 3 months ago

Yes, and I hope the "success on the hardwood" includes a much longer tournament run. The end to Simien's college career was so very disappointing. (Wasn't he battling a bad shoulder, as well?)

Hopefully Perry has added a useful weapon by spending so much time on his 3-pt shot - something that MIGHT have benefitted Wayne. But oh, what a beautiful, sweet jumper Simien had in college. Nearly automatic.

I believe when Perry is finished with NBA or overseas, he too will land in a place like Wayne where he can use his faith to motivate, teach, or inspire others.

Janet Olin 3 years, 3 months ago

A great ambassador for the University of Kansas on and off the floor, Perry is a player we can and will watch and cheer for whatever path(s) he takes. Best to you, Perry, and thank you for four terrific years.

Suzi Marshall 3 years, 3 months ago

If Ellis finishes in the Top 10 scoring, near the Top 10 in rebounding and gets a 3rd team or honorable mention All-American, should KU put his number in the rafters? Close call...

If KU wins the National Championship to go along with Number XII and the WUG Gold, Self needs to put it up there.

Aaron Paisley 3 years, 3 months ago

Perry currently doesn't meet any of the requirements for jersey retirement and the standards shouldn't be watered down just to include him. #7 all time scorer Keith Langford didn't meet requirements and isn't up there. Big 12 and KU all time assists leader (#8 on the NCAA's all time assists list) Aaron Miles didn't meet any of the criteria either and isn't up there.

Perry has 3 chances to make it at this point. Consensus 1st team All American (not likely to be consensus with Perry), Academic All American of the Year (possible), or Final Four MOP (possible) are the only ways Perry gets up there in the south rafters.

Yonatan Negash 3 years, 3 months ago

Nothing but love for P. Ellis

Thank you for four fun years.

Chris Warman 3 years, 3 months ago

Thank you Perry and thank you to all of the other Seniors as well!!!!

Colby Hebert 3 years, 3 months ago

Perry is the kind of guy you want on your team. Always looking to get better. He has improved every year. This year he looks like a SF in the NBA to me. He looks like he has better handles, he has better range, he looks quicker.

I hope our seniors get to go out in style with a final four trip!

Humpy Helsel 3 years, 3 months ago

Perry has developed his game and skill sets in lots of ways each year. I have always said, Perry is a thinker. He used to seem to shy from contact, and didn't seem to feel like he could score when guarded by bigger and taller people. With his increased range, he steps out on bigger players and drives around them if they come out, or shoots the three if they don't. In his freshman and sophomore years he was a poor defender and has improved in this area, and rebounding, dramatically. His passing is much improved, and he looks like solid muscle at his core. If not the NBA, Perry will play somewhere and probably makes lots of money before he turns that outstanding mind loose on the world.

BTW, Coach, I noticed you did not mention Darnell Valentine on your All-Kansas list. Had to be an oversight.

Humpy Helsel 3 years, 3 months ago

Oh! I almost forgot. My niece JR loves her some Perry!

Harlan Hobbs 3 years, 3 months ago

Ditto, Ditto, Ditto, ...etc., etc., etc. Nothing more to add.

Kent Richardson 3 years, 3 months ago

HE will be revered for a long time no matter what. Special Jayhawk for sure.

Tony Bandle 3 years, 3 months ago

Interesting how his career stats virtually match the score line of his first game. I wish all of our presidential candidates showed the same consistency and class that Perry has shown throughout his career.

[ PS I am a true independent..I don't like any of them. :) ]

Len Shaffer 3 years, 3 months ago

I'm still heartbroken that he got hurt last year when he was playing such phenomenal ball. Who knows how far that team could have gone if he had been healthy.

There's only one way to make up for it -- go out with a championship. And it would certainly be fitting for someone who's meant so much to KU and the state.

Harlan Hobbs 3 years, 3 months ago

Like your analysis of the political landscape, Tony. Given your marvelous creativity and command of the English language, could you come up with some lyrics for the following song, sung to the tune of "Where have all the flowers gone?"

"Where have all the leaders gone, ....

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