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Sounds like some time as a Small Forward is in Perry Ellis' future

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Kansas forward Perry Ellis (34) drives against Iowa State forward Dustin Hogue (22) during the second half on Monday, Feb. 2, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas forward Perry Ellis (34) drives against Iowa State forward Dustin Hogue (22) during the second half on Monday, Feb. 2, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

Through his first three seasons as a Jayhawk, we've seen KU forward Perry Ellis do just about everything.

He's been good in the post and hit from the outside. He's shown the ability to put the ball on the deck and create for himself and score by hitting the offensive glass. His mid-range jumper (particularly from the baseline) is as smooth as butter and he's a career 74 percent free throw shooter.

When he started his four-year journey back in 2012 we knew that Ellis had all of the raw tools to develop into that kind of player. But they did not all show up at once. Little bit little — game to game, week to week and even year to year — Ellis unveiled new parts of his game that almost always took him to another level.

Remember the 2013 Big 12 tournament, where he helped carry the Jayhawks to the title and landed a spot on the all-tourney team? That was the first time Ellis showed consistent willingness and ability to be a force around the rim. And he never took a step back from there, even if asserting himself and his personality remained a work in progress.

Remember the end of the 2013-14 season and start of the 2014-15 season, when Ellis showed that he was both able and willing to shoot more three-pointers? He took 46 and made 18 (39 percent) over the course of his junior season and never looked anything but comfortable doing it. Those numbers doubled his career totals from his first two seasons.

Remember Ellis' insanely productive stretch during the 2014-15 season before he got hurt, when he improved his point total in six straight games and topped 18 points in five of them? That included a 28-point, 13-rebound explosion in a home win over Texas and seemed to indicate that Ellis finally understood that he could dominate games. He got hurt in the very next contest and he was not quite the same the rest of the season.

Kansas forward Perry Ellis (34) heads to the bucket against Texas center Cameron Ridley (55) during the first half on Saturday, Feb. 28, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas forward Perry Ellis (34) heads to the bucket against Texas center Cameron Ridley (55) during the first half on Saturday, Feb. 28, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

That stretch, perhaps as much as anything, may have been what led Ellis to decide to return for his senior season at Kansas.

It's not necessarily that he had anywhere to go nor was he deemed a lock to succeed in the NBA. Far from it. Instead, it seems logical that the most productive stretch of his career reminded Ellis just how much more he could improve and served as all the feedback he needed to believe that, with a return to KU, he could hone certain skills and better showcase his abilities in hopes of landing a spot in the NBA in 2016.

Time will tell how likely a prospect that last part is. But both Ellis and KU coach Bill Self believe it can happen and that will be a crucial driving force this offseason.

Kansas forward Perry Ellis (34) looks for a steal as he defends Baylor guard Lester Medford (11) during the second half, Saturday, Feb. 14, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas forward Perry Ellis (34) looks for a steal as he defends Baylor guard Lester Medford (11) during the second half, Saturday, Feb. 14, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

Talking after Monday's team banquet, Ellis pointed to things like better ball handling, improving on the perimeter and becoming even quicker, particularly defensively. Those specifics point to a guy who realizes that his 6-foot-8, 225-pound frame is not power forward material in the NBA and his only path to achieving that dream is likely as a small forward.

While it's logical to think that Ellis, with his skills, work ethic and determination, can get there, it's also important to point out who some of the top small forwards in the NBA game are today — LeBron James, Kawhi Leonard, Jeff Green, Josh Smith, Draymond Green and Luol Deng.

Ellis has a long way to go before he's on the same level as any of those guys, but you don't have to squint too hard to see it happening, at least in terms of him being able to compete at their position. Draymond Green was a power player for the Michigan State Spartans during his college career and he's now another one of those perimeter weapons for the Golden State Warriors. Leonard was among the conference leaders in rebounding during his days at San Diego State but now looks like one of the most dynamic offensive players in the game.

Ellis will never be as good as Leonard or Green. But the one delivered by Green, who stands 6-7, 229 pounds, is the perfect type of transformation for Ellis to aspire to have. Think Poor Man's Draymond Green on the end of some NBA bench. Sound a little underwhelming? I bet Ellis would take it in a second.

If Self and the Jayhawks can land a couple of big men in this recruiting class — say Cheick Diallo, Mike Thorne Jr., and/or Stephen Zimmerman — that will give Ellis more freedom to hone those small forward skills, much in the same way Marcus Morris was able to do it during his time as a Jayhawk.

If not, well, what's Ellis have to lose by returning to school and passing on a draft that might not have had a spot for him anyway?

Michigan State forward Draymond Green shoots over Kansas forward Markieff Morris during the second half Friday, March 27, 2009 at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.

Michigan State forward Draymond Green shoots over Kansas forward Markieff Morris during the second half Friday, March 27, 2009 at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. by Nick Krug

Minnesota Timberwolves’ Andrew Wiggins, left, races down court as Golden State Warriors’ Draymond Green gives chase in the first quarter of an NBA basketball game, Wednesday, Feb. 11, 2015, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Jim Mone)

Minnesota Timberwolves’ Andrew Wiggins, left, races down court as Golden State Warriors’ Draymond Green gives chase in the first quarter of an NBA basketball game, Wednesday, Feb. 11, 2015, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Jim Mone)

Comments

Jay Scott 7 years, 2 months ago

Perry will have to learn to shoot a real jumper and not that high school girls set shot.....

Matt Tait 7 years, 2 months ago

Yeah. It's not the best form in the world, but that's one of the easiest things to change, especially when/if it becomes your full-time job to work on it.

Brian Wilson 7 years, 2 months ago

I'm not so sure Ellis doesn't already have a good jump shot but he just hasn't been given time to use it. So, we shall see.

Really nice article Matt! I hope it happens, I have been writing in LJW blogs that this should have happened a year and have been laughed ago at or ignored. I also think in Selden's best interest is for him to get time at PG. We are recruiting another PG but I feel it's unnecessary until next year and feel Selden has earned some time at PG because if he wants to make it in the Pro's he will need to play PG and he needs to improve handling and bringing up the ball..

Early on last season, I wanted to see the following lineup for just 5 minutes but it never happened.
Selden,
Oubre,
Ellis,
Alexander,
Lucas,

And finally, I am wondering if this announcement is occurring in expectation that Jaylen and Brandon are going to sign somewhere else and for certain PF's and Centers to know there is plenty of room at the big positions.

Nick Willets 7 years, 2 months ago

Draymond Green is a totally different type of player than Ellis. If you think he will never be a Kawhi Leonard, it's just as unlikely he'll be like Green. All NBA defender and super competitive, not in Perry's DNA

Matt Tait 7 years, 2 months ago

Very good points, but if you think about HOW Green played at Michigan State and how he plays now, you can see that this type of transformation could happen… That's talking strictly skills, though. If you're talking about his DNA and Green being a bad ass, that's going to be a lot tougher transformation for Perry to make.

Suzi Marshall 7 years, 2 months ago

I hope Ellis has a GREAT summer and mentally prepares himself to lead the team to a big big season. Ellis can do anything he sets his mind to do, including going for 800 points and 300 rebounds next year! If Ellis can put up those kind of numbers, he'll be an All-American, go mid-first round, and more than likely Kansas would advance to atleast the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament. The Hawks would also be a major force to win number 12 as well as the National Championship.

If Self lands atlease one quality big (Diallo, Thorne, Zimmerman or that Greek guy), we will be a legit National Title threat!

Rodney Crain 7 years, 2 months ago

Just so I am clear on this, we land one more big and Ellis plays a whole season at his potential (instead of 10 games) at a brand new position like he did at his old three year position and we are a legit National Title threat?

We replace Cliff and KO with two blue chippers, got it that is a trade off. Perry excels, farther away from the basket at a new position, ok maybe he can. Where does all the improvement come from with basically the same 9 loss line-up? Aging a year? Not sure I can buy that. That is a lot wishful thinking. Who is the TR that is going to emerge from the other players? We closed out 8-6 with those guys...

I think we need at least 2 new pieces to add to Bragg and Perry. I agree with your concern we might not get any of those top players, but I just do not see us going deep without an infusion of talent.

Suzi Marshall 7 years, 2 months ago

The others are already in-house; Lucas, Wayne Selden and Svi Mykailiuk. I expect all those guys to step up to big years. One quality big...all I pray for is one quality big!

Rodney Crain 7 years, 2 months ago

I do not see Lucas or Wayne making much improvement. Svi could but I do not think it is enough without at least 2 more tallented players being added to our team.

We might win a 12th conf. title, but as we have seen for us that does not transition to improvement in our performance in the NCAA's.

Adam Tyler 7 years, 2 months ago

If we had our full compliment of players heading into the tournament (including Ellis playing much more injured than was let known), do you believe we would have been bounced in the second round two consecutive years?

John Randall 7 years, 2 months ago

I also don't think we need to apologize for the PGs at KU already.

Adam Tyler 7 years, 2 months ago

I expect Wayne to make HUGE strides in his all around game.

He didn't get a real offseason last year due to knee surgery.

Rodney Crain 7 years, 2 months ago

Hopeful, very hopeful. There is just as much evidence that he will not and can not make a huge stride. On an earlier post, I think it was Aaron pointed out that it looks like Wayne will not be able to regain his high school form, let alone improve.

I think we need a SG in this class. To push or replace Wayne.

Adam Tyler 7 years, 2 months ago

Given the coaches knack to go with experience when able, what makes you think anyone is taking Seldens minutes or starting role (think senior year Elijah, or junior year Tharpe).

The kid has started every game he has played in at KU, if I am not mistaken.

His bounce is not completely gone. I saw him sky high to miss numerous dunks this year!

If Selden can get his 2pt field goal percentage back to freshman year totals, or even higher (he dipped almost 9% from freshman to sophomore), the kid will put up the points we all expected.

His 3pt shot improved from one year to the next. Who is to say that his 2pt % cant jump too?

Mark Lindrud 7 years, 2 months ago

It sounds like Self would be satisfied getting one more big in this class and calling it good, unless it is a middle of the road wing that would be here for a few years. This way Ellis can play more at the 3 with guys like Bragg/Traylor and Lucas/Diallo in the middle.

We would need Selden to get a more consistent shot, Greene to work on his ball handling skills while Svi needs more time in the gym and practice with the team because he often times looked lost on the court. We could be a Final Four contender next year if the guys really work on their games this offseason, but another big is essential.

Robert Brock 7 years, 2 months ago

Can Ellis put the ball on the floor like a three?

Can Ellis defend a three?

2015-2016 will be an interesting season.

Matt Tait 7 years, 2 months ago

I'd say he's close on your first question and still quite a ways away on your second. But it's cool to think about him working on those skills for an entire offseason and seeing how much closer he is on both by next winter.

Rodney Crain 7 years, 2 months ago

Robert I agree with Matt. I might add that defending his position has always been the question mark with Perry.

Page Butler 7 years, 2 months ago

When I read the comments from Perry that said that the NBA guys told him he needed to work on his ball handling and his outside game I started thinking that the conversations Perry had with Bill Self must have included some negotiating about his role on next years team. I can't imagine Perry being willing to come back if he is going to have to be the inside presence he had to be last year. If we get a legitimate big player to take up that inside spot Perry can move out to the wing and be a huge mismatch against smaller guards. So with his ability to play in the paint he could see his numbers improve dramatically if he was guarded by other smaller players. If we don't land another tall recruit in this class then we need to hope that Landen Lucas learns a lot and improves this summer because we are going to need him. Also based on the flashes seen last year Jamari may be set to have a breakout year.

Joe Ross 7 years, 2 months ago

I wonder if we're missing something right under our noses.

"That's what I'm waiting for," Diallo said. "I want to know who's going and who's staying."

Consider the timing of the headline of this article. Perry Ellis declares he's staying. Diallo wants to know who's staying and who's going. To land Diallo, you need to free up space at his natural position, the 4. After all, he's said he wants a lot of minutes at his position. So you slide Perry to the 3 to free up room for Diallo.

I dont think Kentucky gets Diallo. For one thing, Kentucky figures to be crowded again with lots of guys ready to sign. This would limit Diallo's minutes and he will not likely be featured. Secondly, Kentucky just lost the lead recruiter for Diallo in Slice Rohrssen to--of all schools--St. Johns. St. Johns just happens to be one of the leading schools for Diallo's services. St. Johns is coached by NBA icon Chris Mullen, a Dream Teamer if you are too young to remember. St. Johns happens to be located in Diallo's home state of New York.

I think it's a two-horse race between Kansas and St. John's. Kansas' big advantage is that they are more ready to make a deep push into the tournament than is St. Johns, and that can help a perception of a player looking to go pro. To Diallo, it's probably a coin toss. The smart choice would be Kansas. An emotional choice might see him announce St. Johns.

In any event, I suppose Bill Self knows he has to present every advantage in landing Diallo that he can, including maximizing his playing time. Move over (to the 3) Perry Ellis!

Michael Bennett 7 years, 2 months ago

I think Kentucky's proven that they're always a threat for blue chip recruits, no matter who they have signed. And considering they're only returning 3 of 10 platooners, with one post player signed after losing 4 (counting Lyles) to the draft, UK's definitely still an option for Diallo.

Joe Ross 7 years, 2 months ago

Sure, Kentucky is an option. But which option is most likely is something which is fun to try to figure out. Youre right. None of us has a crystal ball. But discussing Diallo's recruitment as if all 5 schools are exactly equal in terms of their chances in landing the kid is a bit uninteresting. And besides that, it probably doesn't reflect reality.

Adam Evans 7 years, 2 months ago

Awesome analysis Matt. I've always thought, and mentioned it on an article a few weeks ago, that Perry could be an awesome 3 spot for us. He's just not the rim protector we have needed inside, but fights and hustles down low enough to be competitive and at times dominate. If we land Zimmerman to go with Bragg, having those two in the post with Perry on the wing would be leathel. No one could say we lacked size with that front court. And it would force defenses to stay honest against us when this last year they could cheat a little. The only problem I see is his defense against smaller forwards and/or shooting guards away from the rim. He could easily be a first round lock next year if he can get better at that.

Greg Lux 7 years, 2 months ago

This will be Ellis's 4th year and the year that he finally makes 98% of his bunnies. I have never ever understood why a player of his talent misses so many bunnies. Also this is the year Perry strengthens his grip on the ball. He is without a doubt one of the worst at holding onto the ball when moving, dribbling and rebounding. Does he have small hands? I doubt it. So the problem is just strength and a conscious effort to grip the ball harder. I know Perry is a laidback guy most of the time, but if he aspires to advance to the next level he needs to concentrate on making short shots around the rim and holding onto the ball. We wish you the best Perry and only want you to excel at the level you aspire to attain.

Joe Ross 7 years, 2 months ago

The Epitaph on the headstone of this year's Jayhawk team makes reference to the missed shots.

"If you want a laugh, you can read the funnies. But seriously, KU died cause we missed those bunnies."

Adam Tyler 7 years, 2 months ago

Sam Dekker.

A guy playing stretch 4, who in the big leagues is actually a 3. But Dekker has legit 3 man skills. Think of all those three pointers that he created for himself throughout the tourney.

That is what I want to see out of Ellis.

Rodney Crain 7 years, 2 months ago

Interesting player comparison. There was some questions about Dekker disappearing at times for WI last season. Even Aaron Rodgers had a talk with him, which got him going in the NCAA's.

Adam Tyler 7 years, 2 months ago

I was more alluding to Dekkers ball skills and perimeter game being far more advanced.

Which is the reason Dekker left, and Ellis stayed.

John Randall 7 years, 2 months ago

With the POY on the inside, Dekker had his choice of any place on the court with minimal defensive responsibility. Having JoJo and/or Alexander healthy and eligible to the end of a season would have given Perry the freedom to land as a (2nd/3rd team) All American.

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