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Final Four: A Perry Ellis Update

Perry Ellis BDN/Andrew Slater Photo

This past weekend, 6'8" rising senior Perry Ellis of Wichita helped his USA Red team to a third place finish at Adidas Nations in Compton, California. In his final game, the three-time Kansas Gatorade Player of the Year scored twelve points and grabbed six rebounds. Since he was last profiled, Ellis, a 4.0 student, has cut his lengthy list of suitors down to a final four: Kansas St., Kansas, Kentucky and Duke University. He is working on setting up future visits.

Over the past month, Ellis has teamed with improving guard Buddy Hield for the Kansas Pray and Play program in events from the NY2LA Summer Jam outside Milwaukee to Las Vegas' Super 64 to cap off his final AAU campaign. In two weeks, the driven forward, who battled tendinitis in June, will once again be participating in the Elite 24 event in Venice Beach, CA.

The always cordial Perry Ellis sat down with BDN for a quick update following a close defeat to discuss what he'd like to find in the college of his choice and what he hopes to view on his upcoming visits.

How much momentum carries over from event to event or tournament to tournament? Either as an individual or a team?
With our first game, we always seem a little sluggish.

I noticed that. Then, you guys seem to pick it up in the second game, for whatever reason. The team seems to get into a groove and build from there.
Yeah, and then we get into a flow and we get momentum and we're running up-and-down and things seem to click a lot better. When we're not, we're missing easy shots and easy lay-ups.

Even just one or two tip-ins would've changed the course of this game.
Yeah, it's the little stuff. I mean we lost by what? Three?

Two. It was killing me. (laughs)
Two? Jeez. Man, I can't believe we lost by two and we missed all of those little things. We should've won by twenty or something. There's no excuse, but we've just got to keep our focus.

Yeah, I was just thinking about momentum and what your thoughts were on it. Is there any new news in terms of recruiting or visits?
Um, I'm not really sure when exactly I'm going to visit the schools. I don't have nothing really planned right now.

Where do you feel most comfortable catching the ball?
Right around the free throw line..

Facing up around the wings?

Yeah, I'm sorry, like the free throw line extended.
Yeah, exactly, right around there, you know, just facing up.

How about defending fours versus threes? Which do you feel more comfortable defending against? It seems like you've defended everyone from fives to threes.
I mean I like getting out on the wings, but it just depends on what we needed.

Yeah, that's why I was more curious about what position you felt most comfortable guarding versus what the team needed in a given game or match-up.
Well, I like getting out on the wings because I think you get out on more breaks, you know. I mean most of the time if you're down low and you throw an outlet pass, it's already too..

You're too late to score on the break. (laughs) You want to have some fun out there.
Yeah, exactly. (laughs)

And what position are most schools recruiting you for now? There seemed to be some back and forth the last time over some schools recruiting you as a face-up four versus a three.
I'd say most schools are saying three and, if I've got a mismatch, than a four. That's what they've said.

What are you looking for ideally in the college that you ultimately do decide on? What are some things that you hope that they have? Looking big picture now.
The first thing is being comfortable. Being comfortable around the school and just knowing people. Being comfortable there is the first thing.

That's step one. You've got to feel comfortable.
Then, playing on TV. I want to be able to play on TV.

Putting out players..they're developing players.

So, exposure and developing players..
Yeah, definitely.

What about urban versus rural? Will distance play a big factor? You've got them both very close by and a few states away.
Yeah, no, distance won't really matter to me. Just whether I'm more comfortable there than on the other campuses.

How about knowing players either on the current team or in your recruiting class?
Yeah, that would definitely help. It would help as far as knowing other people and being comfortable. Just knowing guys that you might get to play with. That's definitely something to think about.

Yeah, I was just thinking that might ease some concerns. What are you hoping to see on your visits?
As far as..

Where would you like to go? Do you want to see the facilities, the campus, and the players' dorms, etcetera?
Yeah, exactly, I'd like to see all the little stuff like what do they do before the games.

Pre-game rituals and preparation.
Yeah, see all that they have to do, where they live, see their classes and so forth.

Have you thought at all about what you'd like to major in or what interests you? I know you're Mr. 4.0 student.
Yeah, (laughs) I'm not really sure. I've been concentrating so much on basketball lately.

Sure, will immediate playing time be a major factor in your decision?
Yeah, I mean, on the one hand, I definitely would like an opportunity to play early on…just like I'm sure everybody does, but, on the other hand, I don't want people to just tell me that I'm gonna play..I want to work for it. I want people to tell me that. I don't want to just be given anything.

See, but I remember the last time that you said that you didn't like guys that were too demanding on you all of the time. How does that..would you like them to push a little bit, but not too much?
Oh, I meant as far as practice.

But you just meant off the court.
Yeah, yeah, breathing room.

Because the last time you were talking about how you liked how some of the programs recruiting you gave their players freedom, but now I understand that you want the freedom off the court, while being pushed on it.
Yeah, yeah, exactly.

Okay. That's it for me. I really appreciate it. Good luck tonight.
Alright, sure. Thank you.

Perry Ellis a Duke Fan since Elementary School

In Kansas, there isn't much that 6'8" rising senior Perry Ellis of Wichita hasn't accomplished. Ellis won three consecutive state titles and Gatorade Player of the Year awards, earned a 4.0 grade point average, and began a side job at a nursery in June to earn some extra money.

Taking a school that had not won a state title in thirty-two years, the forward has won seventy-two of the seventy-five games that he's suited up for the Falcons, including forty-four consecutive high school games, of Heights High School, which produced former NBA player Antoine Carr and current Met pitcher Mike Pelfrey. In 2010, Ellis, whose face-up game is relatively advanced for a rising senior, shot 74.9% from the field, including 33.3% from beyond the three-point arc, and 71.6% from the charity stripe.

The second of four children of Fonda, a two-time Iowa HS state champ in track, and Will Ellis, a former basketball player at Briar Cliff University, Perry Ellis brings a fluidity, efficiency, and natural scoring ability to the court that has some of the nation's top programs chasing after him. Recently, he missed the NBA Top 100 camp in Charlottesville, VA in order to rest up for the July live periods.

Due to the severe time constraints that the NCAA has enacted, a coaching staff needs to allocate their valuable resources, their coaches' time, in the most efficient way possible, in order to both evaluate players and demonstrate their commitment to their top individual prospects during the July period. In his first game of the July live period, Perry Ellis tipped off at North Central High School in Indianapolis for Kansas Pray and Play AAU program in the Adidas Invitational. Seated front row were a trio of Duke University coaches: Mike Krzyzewski, Jeff Capel, and Steve Wojciechowski.

Duke's recent interest in Perry Ellis immediately ties into the arrival of Coach Capel, who has closely recruited Perry, the most decorated Kansan high school basketball player in history, since his freshman year in Wichita. Ellis, a self-described Dukie in elementary school, immediately added the Blue Devils to his final list of colleges.

After that initial game at the Adidas Invitational, the industrious Perry Ellis spoke with Blue Devil Nation and (2639) word interview ahead for members [private] Jerry Tipton of the Lexington Herald-Leader about a variety of topics, including Coach Jeff Capel, the myth of his prior souring on Duke, and his new summer job.

How is your tendonitis?  - [/private]

It's doing a lot better. I took like a week off. It's just a lot of icing and resting that's the only thing you can do. So, I mean you've got to play through it too. Like they said, seventy percent of the NBA players have it so…

Do they view it as a major long-term issue?

I haven't really went to the doctor and really, you know, gotten an answer on that one yet…so I just don't know. Yeah.

Where do you have the tendonitis?

In both of my knees.

How much of a hindrance is it to you? I mean how much pain are you playing with or through right now.

Hmmm, I wouldn't call it pain in that game. It felt real good. I just need to stretch after the game and keep that rotation going. I think that will help me.

What do you view as your strengths right now and areas for improvement?

Um, when I get the ball, I just need to attack even more because I can score. I feel I can always score out there, but I just need to attack more. I think there are times out there where I'm a little too passive…so I need to attack. That's what I need to improve upon. I need to make attacking even more of a priority. Just attack.

And in terms of your strengths, scoring?

I think being able to go coast-to-coast.

Yeah, well, you demonstrated that today.

Yeah. I think I'm able to rebound it and just push it against my defender…like I'm really able to take them off the dribble pretty well.

What's current height and weight?

6'8" and 220.

Do you want to get bigger? What are your goals, physically, for next season?

Um, well, I want to be around 230 maybe for next year. That'll hopefully be real solid, lean weight. In terms of height, I might grow some more and I might not. We'll see what happens.

How much of an adjustment is there between the high school competition that you face in Wichita and in a normal AAU game in July?

Well, I would say that they play a lot harder. I would say. There are also a lot more bigger and stronger players here too I would say. You've got to adjust. The main thing I'd say is simply getting used to the bigger and stronger players. More talented too.

(J. Tipton) Why do you think that you were passive at times?

Um, I think I'm one of the best scorers on our team and I feel that, if I go out there and shoot more, then maybe we'd have abetter chance to win the game. Like in that game,you know, some of those shots I should've shot, but I just passed it around. I mean it's a disappointing loss.

You had cut down your list of schools to six of them. What are some positive things about each of those programs?

Okay, I mean KU is close. I like all of the coaches there. Good players and good people. With K. State, it's close and they got a real family vibe. It feels like a real family. I mean there's a lot of good people there too. With Wichita State, it's really, really close. It's like a five minute drive. Then, let's see, with Kentucky, they're putting out pros and developing players and I like Calipari. I like how his approach to the game and to his players is.

(J. Tipton) What do you mean?

I mean he's not real on you. Like…he lets you roam free and he's not always on you. That's how I see him. With Memphis, it's like that too. He's not micro-managing you. My sister went there and I've been there a couple of times. And Duke…

(J. Tipton) Your sister goes there?

Yeah, she graduated this year.

(J.Tipton) Was she an athlete?

(BDN) Yeah, she played basketball there.

Yeah, she played basketball. She was more of a defensive player. She finished third all-time in blocks.

No biggie.

(laughs) And, with Duke, when Capel went there, they started contacting me. It's just an honor to be seen or to be wanted by them, you know.

I saw three of their coaches here watching you today.

Yeah, yeah, absolutely, I've been talking to them a lot lately. I want to go out there and check it out.

(J. Tipton) Why is it an honor to be recruited by Duke? You didn't mention "honor" when you were talking about the other schools. Why is it an "honor" for Duke?

Well, with all Coach K has done with Team USA, the championships, the players he's worked with, the hard academics…it's humbling.

Not that there's anything wrong with it, but why did you decide to take a summer job at a nursery? I've got to say that it's pretty unusual for an elite basketball player to work a side job during the summer these days.

(laughs) Yeah, man, but you know you get a good workout from the tree moving and loading and unloading. It's my first real job.

Was that your idea or your mother's?

It was my idea. I just wanted to get some extra money.

The legal way


(J. Tipton) How did that come about? How did you get the job? I'd like to get my son to get out there.

Well, I wanted a job and I liked working outside.

What about those early morning workouts at the Y? What do you work on there? Is it mostly working on your body or skill development?

Well, there's a lot of ball-handling and a lot of ball-handling and working on shooting off of the dribble.

Do you view yourself as a combo forward or a face-up four?

A combo guy really.

What style of play do you prefer?

I like to run up and down as much as possible. I think it fits my game a little more.

Who do you try to model your game after?

I wouldn't say that I really try to model my game, but my two favorite players are LeBron and Kevin Durant. I watch them a lot and try to pick up on stuff that they do.

(J. Tipton) How long have you been working at the nursery?

Since the beginning of June.

(J. Tipton) And what sort of things are you doing for them?

Loading cars…Like, if they buy their stuff, you know, plants, trees, whatever, I just load it in.

(J. Tipton) Do you dig holes to plant the trees and stuff?

Yeah, I did that once.

Don't throw out your back loading up someone's birch tree. Speaking of that, how has your back-to-the-basket game improved over your high school years? Is it something that you've tried to develop lately?

Yeah, well, you know, in high school, I play a lot of the post and so that helps out too. I mean it's improved, but it's also something that I keep trying to work on…you know, piece by piece.

Have you taken any visits recently and do you have any planned?

I haven't taken any recently and I'm not sure if I'm going to visit any this summer or just go onto my officials…whenever it's time t do that. I'm not sure yet.

In terms of timeline, do you have one in mind for when you'd like to decide by?

I don't really have one. I'm just gonna wait and see which one feels right.

(J. Tipton) Did anyone come in late to your recruitment? Did Duke come in later than the other schools?

Yeah, Duke was probably the latest one to come in.

(J. Tipton) When did they come in?

Pretty much right when Capel went there.

(J. Tipton) So, that was this spring, right?


What would you like to do after your basketball playing career is over? Have you thought about that at all?

I want to do something to help kids like become a coach or something. That's what I'm thinking of right now because I really like to help kids. I like working with them.

I know you're supposed to be a 4.0 student, but you attributed more to hard work than necessarily being exceptionally smart. Can you touch on that and your work ethic required to achieve a 4.0?

Yeah, it's tough for me. It's not easy to achieve. It just doesn't come easy to me, you know, I have to work for it. I always need to push myself to achieve high grades.

I don't think some kids recognize that it can be a grind and time-consuming.

Yeah, yeah, exactly, they think I'm super smart. I mean I'm smart, but I've also got to be really careful about how I use my time and what I do with it. I've got to really work for it and you're right some people take it for granted.

(J. Tipton) How long does it take for you to do your homework or get tutoring?

An hour because I get a lot done in school too. I work during all the time I get because of the hour long or hour and a half long classes.

(J. Tipton)What do you hope to do with your academics? Have you thought about that?


What can you tell the audience about your mother and her influence? I've seen her at a lot of events over the years.

Sure, she helps me a lot with, like, taking the pressure off of me. She takes a lot of the pressure off as far as the recruiting part.

She deals with the coaches, right?

Yeah, she deals with all of that. That helps a lot.

Touch on the USA Basketball experience.

Yeah, after my freshman year, I mean it was a good experience, but I didn't ultimately go with the team and stuff, you know, I went to the Nike camps and stuff, but it was a good experience for me. You know just to try something new.

(J. Tipton) Do you enjoy being regarded as a highly regarded basketball prospect?

Yeah, I do. I look at it as there are not a lot of people that get a chance to have this. I feel like I need to just take this opportunity and just go with it.

Is it more enjoyable or stressful right now?

It's enjoyable, but there are times where it can really bug you. I mean like when there's so much, but, for the most part, it's been okay.

Since you've already mentioned him a couple of times, what's your relationship like with Coach Jeff Capel?

Oh, we've got a real good relationship. When he was at OU, I used to go up there all the time. I used to talk with him. I mean he's a really nice and good person. I mean that'll help. That'll help me talk with Duke, you know, so…

(J. Tipton) Kentucky's gotten a name as one-and-done university I've noticed. What kind of an impression does that make on you?

I just want to go to college, play my hardest, do my best, and whatever happens, happens. If I have to stay, I'll stay. I just want to do whatever I have to do.

There's this sort of perception or myth that you grew up a Duke fan, but then became angry with them because they didn't immediately offer you. Can you address that rumor or whatever you want to call it?

I mean I was real young. When I was in elementary school and all, I was a real Dukie.

Did you become angry when they didn't offer you as early as some other programs, which offered you as a freshman?

(laughs) No, because before I started talking to them. I wasn't even being recruited so, you know

(J. Tipton) What made you stop liking them?

You know I don't even really remember.

Well, you must've like them enough that they're right on your final six.

Yeah, I mean I definitely still like them.

(J. Tipton) What made you like them to start with? What made you a real "Dukie?"

Honestly, I don't remember the original reason.

What was your reaction when they ultimately offered you?

I was excited. I was definitely excited because I didn't think they'd ever recruit me. Because, you know, Capel and K, man, they're real good friends and real close and, you know, I don't think they wanted to hurt anyone. I mean that's one of the reasons why I really am looking seriously at them. I like that loyalty.

He didn't want to take a player from his old or former student.

Yeah, yeah.

Are you excited about now playing with your brothers next year?

Yeah, yeah, definitely. Hopefully, we'll all three get to play varsity next year. It'll be fun. That doesn't happen a lot.

Do you guys play a lot together at the Y or wherever?

Yeah, at the Y and at the school…wherever we can.

What would you like the audience to know about you away from the court?

Say that I play Xbox hard.

Last question, what are your goals for next season?

I'm going to try to go undefeated again, get another state championship, and whatever accolades will come, will come hopefully.

Like becoming a McDonald's All-American?

Yeah, exactly, I've got to keep playing hard this summer and that'll help with that too.

Thank you very much, Perry.

Sure, sure.