KU's Ellis' star power now shining brighter

3/18/2013

KU's Ellis' star power now shining brighter

KU's Ellis' star power now shining brighter

By ARNE GREEN

Special to The Telegram

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Perry Ellis had felt it coming for a couple of weeks.

His Kansas coaches and teammates sensed it, too.

And now, thanks to a breakout performance in the Big 12 Tournament, Ellis is a forgotten freshman no more.

"A little before the tournament, I kind of felt a lot better about myself and just becoming a lot more comfortable," said Ellis, the heralded recruit out of Wichita, who had negotiated his way through an up-and-down rookie season showing promise but little consistency for the Jayhawks. "So it was just a matter of time before I played free and just played basketball."

Did he ever.

After a solid eight-point, seven-rebound performance in a quarterfinal rout of Texas Tech on Thursday, he exploded for a career-high 23 points with six more rebounds as the Jayhawks dispatched Iowa State in the semis.

Then in Saturday's championship game, he scored 10 of his 12 points in the second half, helping the Jayhawks pull away to a 70-54 victory over Kansas State. If not signaling the arrival of a future star, the three-day body of work was good enough to land Ellis on the all-tournament team.

"It changes our team," KU coach Bill Self said of Ellis' emergence off the bench. "Kevin (Young) is not a natural scorer, but you look at the production, like today.

"Hey, 21 points, 15 rebounds from our 4 spot in 41 minutes, that's pretty good."

Young was slowed by a leg injury in the semifinals, opening the door for Ellis. He returned to score nine points and nine rebounds in the championship, but still left time for his understudy to shine.

"It means a lot to us," Young said. "We all knew Perry could play like this.

"We all knew he had it inside of him, he just didn't know when to break out yet or how to. The transition is tough from high school to college and I tried to help him as much as I could and he's learning a lot and he's showing it out there on the court."

The transition had not always been smooth for Ellis, who perhaps as much as any recent KU recruit felt the weight of expectations. He certainly wasn't the Jayhawks' first McDonald's All-American, but as a high school legend from Wichita, he carried the hopes of his home state.

"I think he's just getting more comfortable with everybody," senior center Jeff Withey said of Ellis. "He's a really shy guy and I think he's starting to get comfortable and it's starting to show in his play."

Ellis agreed.

"That was something big for me, just relaxing," he said. "Because when your think too much, nothing really good comes from thinking too much — hesitating and stuff like that."

As for the expectations coming into the season, Ellis shrugged them off.

"It was something I really tried not to worry about," he said. "I just knew I had to learn a lot and get better, just keep practicing."

Playing on a team with four seniors and a redshirt freshman phenom in Ben McLemore allowed Ellis to progress at his own pace. Before the Iowa State game, his season scoring high was 15 in the opener against Southeast Missouri State. But he averaged a solid 5.6 points and 3.8 rebounds in 13.8 minutes a game.

Now he could be just what the Jayhawks need as they prepare for the NCAA Tournament.

"I think he scored 55 points the last four games if I'm not mistaken," Self said. "So he's really come into his own.

"He's going to be really good. But he just looks like a different guy from a confidence standpoint now."

comments powered by Disqus
I commented on a story, but my comments aren't showing up. Why?
We provide a community forum for readers to exchange ideas and opinions on the news of the day.
Passionate views, pointed criticism and critical thinking are welcome. We expect civil dialogue.
Name-calling, crude language and personal abuse are not welcome.
Moderators will monitor comments with an eye toward maintaining a high level of civility in this forum.

If you don't see your comment, perhaps you ...
... called someone an idiot, a racist, a moron, etc. Name-calling or profanity (to include veiled profanity) will not be tolerated.
... rambled, failed to stay on topic or exhibited troll-like behavior intended to hijack the discussion at hand.
... included an e-mail address or phone number, pretended to be someone you aren't or offered a comment that makes no sense.
... accused someone of a crime or assigned guilt or punishment to someone suspected of a crime.
... made a comment in really poor taste.

MULTIMEDIA