“I remember in middle school, I really started going to games. When I was a freshman in high school, I already knew Kansas is where I wanted to go.”
Perry Ellis is a Kansas Jayhawk through and through. In the age of college one-and-dones, Ellis was a fixture on the Lawrence campus for four years. He also knows a little something about March basketball after competing in four straight tournaments.
Ellis was born in Wichita, two hours from KU’s campus. As a skinny 6-1 sixth grader, Ellis frequently attended games with his youth league basketball coaches. He was already receiving attention from scouts and recruiters at that time. With all of the great players that came through Kansas, there was one duo that Ellis especially tried to emulate.
“I liked watching the twins,” Ellis recalled. “Markieff and Marcus [Morris]. I felt like I was a similar position as them, so I watched them a lot.”
Ellis followed in the Morris twins’ footsteps and committed to the Rock Chalk. He had a storied career at KU that climaxed in the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament last season. The Jayhawks fell to the eventual champion Villanova in that game.
“Man, we were so close to being in that Final Four. We came up short. But those were great memories. I’ll never forget March Madness.”
Ellis has high hopes for this year’s team. Kansas is currently the No. 3-ranked team in the nation, led by savvy senior Frank Mason III and tenacious freshman Josh Jackson.
“I met Josh [Jackson] this summer when I was at KU,” Ellis said. “I like his game. He has a mean streak about him. I like his aggressiveness.”
Ellis also said that Mason has been a valuable leader for the Jayhawks and “has been playing his heart out.”
As can reasonably be expected, Ellis is picking Kansas to top off his bracket: “If the guards are playing at a high level and shooting well, which they are, then the sky is the limit.”
After graduating last year, Ellis has been playing in the NBA D-League for the Greensboro Swarm, averaging about nine points and four rebounds in 21 minutes per game.
He says the transition from college to the Development League has been an entirely new experience and there have been “ups and downs.” Ellis recently had a chance to reflect on his new experiences when he played his former Jayhawks running mate and good friend Wayne Selden. “We talked about how it’s a grind and how you just have to keep competing,” Ellis said.
Selden was recently called up by the New Orleans Pelicans on a 10-day contract. Ellis said he is happy for his friend and hopes that he will earn his own Call-Up.
Staying ready waiting for the opportunity to present itself! It's all about Faith! pic.twitter.com/RBM4qvMyTE
— Perry Ellis (@PElliz) December 23, 2016
For now, Ellis is simply excited to partake in the thrill of the NCAA Tournament — albeit as a spectator. He also has some advice for this year’s Rock Chalk squad as they head into the Madness.
“Every year Coach [Bill] Self says, ‘Make the most of this opportunity. Soak up every moment of it. The team you have now will change after this season. It will never be the same. So just go out there and play for each other and I think good things will happen.’”