Friday, March 22, 2013


Opinion: Perry Ellis picks perfect time to turn up aggressiveness


— Sitting at the same Sprint Center locker he used in the Big 12 tournament, Kansas University senior center Jeff Withey thought back to a play during the regular season. He couldn’t remember the game. He just remembered not liking the play. Freshman teammate Perry Ellis missed another short shot, frittering away another two points.

“I’m not a guy who is going to grab you by the neck or anything like that, but I was like, ‘Dunk the ball!’ I just got in his face and told him to be aggressive,” Withey said. “I think everybody on the team has done that with Perry at one time or another.”

Nobody knows an athlete’s talent level more deeply than a teammate who alternately shares the floor and battles against him daily in practice. Long before Ellis shocked the world by scoring 23 points against Iowa State in a Big 12 tournament semifinal, teammates knew he had serious ability. His most impressive athletic trait?

“The way that he runs,” Withey said. “He runs like a guard. He’s brought the ball up the court so many times in practice and even some in games. He’s just an athlete, and it’s annoying when he doesn’t put it into play.”

He’s putting it into play now, and as Withey said, “It couldn’t be at a more perfect time.”

Ellis, a 6-foot-8, 220-pound reserve power forward, led Wichita Heights to four consecutive state titles and set the City League career scoring record since broken by KU recruit Conner Frankamp. Often during the first few months of the season, Ellis looked like just another freshman struggling to find his way. He dunked the ball twice in his first 34 games, four times in the past two, during which he made 15 of 18 field-goal attempts and averaged 17.5 points and six rebounds.

Early in their KU careers, Marcus and Markieff Morris drew the ire of coach Bill Self for not dunking close shots, but in their case it was more a case of not wanting to exert the energy. In Ellis’ case, his mind was so cluttered with information he didn’t see the simple plays.

“The hardest part adjusting from high school to college was just mentally,” Ellis said. “It’s just a lot more. There are just a lot more details, a lot more specific details. It can be overwhelming as a freshman. Just getting over that was the best thing for me. You kind of get used to what you have to do and know what you have to do, and it makes you feel comfortable.”

Sophomore guard Naadir Tharpe is a year removed from his time as an overwhelmed freshman, and he has enjoyed watching Ellis come so far, so quickly.

“He wasn’t dunking as much as he should,” Tharpe said. “He would lay it up at times when we would prefer him to dunk it. I’m seeing him trying to dunk everything now, and that’s how he should be because he’s a great athlete, and he’s a great player.”

Tharpe said he saw a change in Ellis in the practices leading up to the Big 12 tourney. Withey saw him begin to blossom then as well, but even at that Ellis exceeded Withey’s short-term expectations.

“He just started being more aggressive. You could see him going after the ball with two hands. He was getting more rebounds and stuff, but honestly it wasn’t until that breakout game that I saw him put everything into play, be ultra-aggressive, finally dunk the ball, do everything we wanted him to do early on,” Withey said. “It just clicked, I guess.”

So did the team.

Ellis explained the change by saying, “I’ve just been trying to get in the gym and working on really attacking the rim, and it’s really benefited me.”

Withey said he has seen Ellis getting used to finishing plays with dunks for the past couple of weeks, “and that’s why we’re seeing it more in games, just because when you do it all the time it doesn’t become a thought, it becomes a habit. You do have to put in a little extra effort to get up there and make sure you slam it down. The outcome is you get more energy because of it.”

Ellis is an intriguing prospect in that he brings a little bit of everything from the forward position, and he shared which former KU players’ games he has tried to model.

“I like the twins’ game,” he said, meaning Marcus and Markieff Morris. “I watched a lot of them when I was in high school.”

Ellis said he incorporated “short jump shots” into his game after watching them score so many points with them: “They really had a nice touch. That’s something I’ve really been working on since seeing them, and I feel like I have some of that.”

What else?

“When they had a bigger defender on them, they could pull it out and shoot some jump shots on him,” Ellis said. “When they had a smaller defender on them, they could take him to the hole and post up.”

And they came to appreciate the joy in dunking, as has Ellis to the benefit of his team’s hopes of winning a fourth NCAA Tournament.


nostradavid 9 years, 1 month ago

You got that right Keegs.

Ellis can visualize looking down on the players below in his dreams. Get the girl, and throw the ball down like a little biplane. Have fun!

Dream BIG!

Dream BIG! by nostradavid

Steve Zimmerman 9 years, 1 month ago

Don't let Spoelstra get all the 20s. Finally Ellis stops thinking too much - "just do it" attitude will let him become top 5 picks next year.

Curtis Stutz 9 years, 1 month ago

Attack the basket! Keep it up Perry. We might need you to help bring the ball up the court at times in this tourney also, so be ready.

Dirk Medema 9 years, 1 month ago

There was an article early in the season in which I think it was Coach Self that commented on ideally having Young be an energy guy coming off the bench with Perry starting. The way that it is playing out now, Perry's D is still on the weak side, but he should be subbing in against a lesser opponent, and has the ability to go on a scoring outburst. Sort of a stretched version of the short guard/6th man from ISU that doesn't miss.

Perry's ability to handle the ball could become hugely important if we end up playing a pressing team like VCU. It's always nice to have a big guy in the middle that you can just throw the ball up to.

nuleafjhawk 9 years, 1 month ago

“I’m not a guy who is going to grab you by the neck or anything like that, but I was like, ‘Dunk the ball!’ I just got in his face and told him to be aggressive,” Withey said.


If I had a nickel for every time I've screamed "DUNK THE BALL" at Withey, I'd be a bazillionaire.

That got my day off to a good start !!

monkeehawkSL8 9 years, 1 month ago

EXACTLY MY THOUGHT, it happened in the last game of the year, and in most of the games this year, last year....I talk constantly to a member of my family on the phone during games, (they have to talk me off the ledge) I need three real adult's to keep me from burning he couch during Hawk games. Yes, I been in many institutions much of my adult life. Ah, I was visiting friends, sorry, story for another day. Jeff please listen to your own advise. DUNK THE BALL. "Take care of the ball and we can win it all".

jaybate 9 years, 1 month ago

Jeff has come a long, long way, through some very tough times. I will never forget how sick he looked that season they tried so hard to bulk him up and he apparently had an adverse reaction to the supplements. It must have been a horrible kind of reaction to go through, and it must have been very significant, because they have NEVER explained it at all.

Then he went through something appearing something like Mono.

Then he had the FX, or stress reaction, or whatever, then another year of trying to bulk him up.

He had to have felt more like a lab rat than a basketball player.

Then he was given the obvious calling card so many guys not from the 'hoods get sooner or later their first year of starting to test out if they can be cowered. Wow, it was an ugly split lip. Whew!!!

Note: the calling card is not a racial thing IMHO. Its a socio-economic thing. The guys that grow up in the tough, poor neighborhoods, no matter what color they are, have a belief that the kids from the burbs, regardless of color, aren't tough. I have played on the playgrounds with African American kids from the burbs and they have gotten abused as surely as Caucasian American and Asian American kids from the burbs did. The kids from the tough 'hoods--all races and ethnicities--test most of the guys that don't come up from the mean streets that nevertheless have enough talent to get PT.

Back to Jeff.

What I like so much about Jeff is that he reminds me of a guy who used to play with my brother in highschool. The guy never cared a whit about basketball his first two seasons, even though he had enough talent to play a lot. He played ball only to help him meet girls. He was shy and sensitive and said basketball seemed less dangerous than playing football and not quite as hard as track or wrestling. But his near the end of his junior season a switch went off inside of him. He fell in love with the game--with the ferocious beauty of it. His senior season he became a totally driven guy and played the game brilliantly. Jeff Withey seems to have had enough talent to carry him a long way with out being in love with the game. But then one day, he said, hey, ya know, I could be really good at this game. And suddenly a love of the game emerged that is kind of a chicken and egg thing with the idea of being able to be good at something.

Go, Jeff, go!!!!

KU 9 years, 1 month ago

Jeff Withey has a repaired cleft lip. He did not have to have his palate repaired. Some of your speculation is believable, but you may have crossed the line with this post.

Ron Franklin 9 years, 1 month ago

I've been wondering the last couple days if Perry's emergenance will have a big impact on the scouting reports for other teams. They have to have two separate plans to cover our 4 guy because their games are completely different.

Anybody think this small detail provides an advantage?

KGphoto 9 years, 1 month ago

I think of it more as an elephant in the room, than a small detail. If Perry continues to charge, it changes everything.

Joe Ross 9 years, 1 month ago

The advantage lies less in the fact that Perry has to be prepared for and more in the fact that he's playing in a way that makes him a consideration.

Richard Heckler 9 years, 1 month ago

If I were KU fans living in Lawrence making reservations in a KC hotel might be more fun than driving in the snow...

What the heck declare a basketball vacation and live it up....

Michael Luby 9 years, 1 month ago

Now Ben needs to give us 20 a game. If he does that along with Perry in beast mode, any team they play, they will beat.

Kevin Huffman 9 years, 1 month ago

We can survive Ben being off but it requires Tharpe & EJ to step up in their scoring, which they've been able to do in some games since that 3-game slump.

jaybate 9 years, 1 month ago

Two things.

  1. The premise of this article is nuts. The best time for Perry to have reached this level of performance would have been the first game of the season. Perry's slow development has been a huge problem for this team all season. The proper way to characterize the situation is: thank god he finally found his game in time for the stretch run.

  2. My god, The Designer could be a great 3. Its his natural position for sure. Self is just playing him at the 4, because he needs a 4 this year and wants a stretch 4 for next year. Perry will be good in this role, but he could have been a Michael Kidd-Gilchrist type at the 3. A guy that NO ONE could handle. When he was struggling so much, his ineptness at the 4 bled into some thinking he could not possibly play the 3. I even got to wondering at one point if he lacked springs, which I think he still does a bit, without a one step jump. My guess is that an off season of weight training is going to turn those already coordinated quads and calves of his into NASA first stage launch vehicles. The tragedy of Randle not coming is that unless Jamari and Embiid were to develop at light speed, Perry will have to play the 4 next year and then go pro without ever playing the 3, which would be his best fit as a pro. Sad. But Perry is a smart, dedictated guy who will make the best of it, as Marcus Morris did, too.

Phil Leister 9 years, 1 month ago

Wow, Jaybate. This may be the first time that you've taken the words right out of my mouth.

Wouldn't ANY time before the NCAA tournament have been a better time for Perry to figure his game out? And all I could think of while reading this was that he'd make a stud 3. Bill always seems reluctant to let someone bigger than 6'6" play outside the key, but with Perry's shot and ball-handling (that Withey said is pretty good) having a 6'8" guy on the wing would be great.

jaybate 9 years, 1 month ago

Well, I never give up trying to get on the same page with a Jayhawk.

Jack Wilson 9 years, 1 month ago

jb .. paragraph 1 is of course dead on.

I also think the idea that Ellis hasn't been aggressive is crazy. He has been aggressive. It's just that in the Big 12 tournament, his shots went in and he didn't fumble the ball out of bounds.

Alex Thiessen 9 years, 1 month ago

A natural 3 that learns the 4 first becomes a much more aggressive 3. Xavier Henry would have benefited from a year at the 4 for sure. It worked very well for Marcus and Travis.

Tony Bandle 9 years, 1 month ago

Like a True Blue and Crimson Jayhawk, I penciled in Kansas to go all the way and win the NC in my brackets.

Do I want it to happen??......Absolutely.

Do I think it's can happen??...Yes.

Do I believe it will happen??....Frankly, I can't say yes.

North Carolina, Florida, Georgetown, Indiana, Louisville is just too steep a climb. Barring any upsets, has anyone had to face five consecutive schools with a national championship pedigree before???

I think the Elite Eight is possible and will be disappointed if we don't make the Sweet Sixteen and get Bill KU Victory #300. I hope with all my heart I'm wrong...buit I don't think I am.

jaybate 9 years, 1 month ago

We're drinking the same punch here.

I was very confident the team would go all the way before I saw the bracket.

It appears a blatant stacking strategy to maximize a big media market school coming out of the region so that the Finals do not have small market KU and mid major Gonzaga.

Someone here posted it beautifully a day or so ago.

Now we know that the only remaining part of the season that is legitimate is the regular season before Madness; that is when teams lace them up without seeders playing games with opponent stacking and tip-off timing and so on.

The Madness is now more of a festival than a tournament.

Alas, poor Tournament, I knew it well.

monkeehawkSL8 9 years, 1 month ago

Thank GOD that Perry is coming into his game.1) Everything that has taken place this year in the growth of this team couldn't have happened any other way. The article is positive and recognizes the truth of the situation at hand. 2) Some reaction to it is unrealistic, glass not even half full, dribble off your own foot out of bounds, whining, if only everything was different than it is, bunk. On the other hand, " take care of the ball and we can win it all". RCJH KAAAAAUOOOOOO!

Woody Cragg 9 years, 1 month ago

Am I the only guy disappointed that Ellis didn't get on the floor more with Kevin & Jeff this season? There have been opp times for him with Ben's fouls troubles & other mis-steps. His skillset coming in was at the 3, but Norm & Bill kept trying to play him at the 4 from dire need, clearly compounding typical struggles for a new kid in the okie ball system. Guess they know what they're doing so haven't dissented that much. When I did some were quick to pile on. Is he up for a Deshaun Thomas on the D end? Dunno, but his quickness to recognize the double is going to be foremost going forward, cause you can bet he's going to be a huge part of opponents game plans from here on out. No more under the radar for this kid. The day is fast approaching when he is our main threat & he'll be a real pleasure to watch as his game gets better n better. In fact, I'd enjoy the krap outta watching him explode over the weekend! Friggin weather is going to get butt ugly again so unless I end up at BWW for the games via the 4WD, it'll be another log on the fire weekend for me, the little woman, & the dog. Fridge full, generator ready to go, so bring it on. Weatherman said someone will get a foot-that's what she said! LOLOLOL!

Steve Reigle 9 years, 1 month ago

I am really looking forward to watching Perry Ellis play and watching his development. So high an upside. And a very nice young man, too.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.