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Bob Lutz: Antoine Carr can understand decision Perry Ellis faces

  • Published Saturday, Sep. 17, 2011, at 12:09 a.m.
  • Updated Saturday, Sep. 17, 2011, at 9:58 a.m.

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First of all, Perry Ellis can't make a bad decision when it comes to choosing the school he'll attend to play basketball.

Kansas, Kansas State, Kentucky and Wichita State are the four he's entertaining, and his life will be rich no matter which he ultimately picks.

And a decision is close. Kentucky coach John Calipari was in Ellis' home Friday, the last of four in-home visits. Ellis might decide to take a campus visit or two, or he might decide it's time to make his choice and get this recruiting process over with.

Ellis' name has been out there for so long, it feels like he should be wrapping up a 15-year NBA career. But he's still only a senior at Heights, where he'll try and lead the Falcons to a fourth consecutive Class 6A championship this season.

He's 6-foot-8 with the ability to play almost anywhere on the floor. College coaches have been trying to catch Ellis' eye since he was in middle school. And now it's down to four schools.

He's the most-heavily recruited Heights player since Antoine Carr, who finished his high school career in 1979 and also had Kansas and Kentucky on his list of potential colleges.

But Carr, who now splits his time between San Antonio and Houston and is in the home remodeling business, ultimately decided to stay home and play at Wichita State.

It worked out for both school and individual. Carr became a legendary Shocker and set the single-game scoring record in his final game at WSU with 47 points against Southern Illinois on March 3, 1983, a prelude to a 16-year NBA career. The Shockers reached the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament during Carr's sophomore season in 1980-81, before the team was placed on NCAA probation and ruled ineligible for postseason play for his junior and senior seasons.

Ellis is only an inch shorter than the 6-9 Carr, but their games are different. Ellis is less subtle and able to handle the basketball better than Carr, whose power game belied a soft perimeter shooting touch. Ellis is a fierce rebounder; Carr was at his best in transition and wasn't necessarily an inside banger.

But their similarities are numerous. Will those similarities grow? Will Ellis, like Carr 32 years before him, decide to become a Shocker?

"Wichita State was attractive to me because of all the older guys I knew who went there and played,'' Carr said. "Like Dave Stallworth and a bunch of other guys. And I wanted to help bring something back to my hometown. That was the biggest thing, I wanted to do something to make a difference there.''

Carr didn't do it alone. He was part of some loaded Shocker teams that included Cliff Levingston, Ozell Jones, Tony Martin, Jay Jackson, Randy Smithson, Xavier McDaniel and former Heights teammate Aubrey Sherrod.

But Gene Smithson's ability to pluck Carr from the City League was one of the most important factors in the success he had as coach. The Shockers were 91-28 during Carr's Wichita State career.

In his pitch to Ellis during a home visit this week, WSU coach Gregg Marshall and assistants Chris Jans and Dana Ford showed a highlight video from Carr's Senior Night, record-setting performance against SIU. Obviously, the point of doing so was to get Ellis to consider how beloved a hometown player can become at Wichita State.

"I'm all for it,'' Carr said when told of the Shockers' recruiting presentation. "It's a way to show Perry what can be done.''

Carr said he's met Ellis, but that it's been a few years. At the time, he said, Ellis' potential college decision wasn't brought up. Carr said no one from Wichita State has asked him to reach out to Ellis.

"Staying home for me was the best thing,'' said Carr, who admitted to being dismayed after the Shockers' were placed on probation. "It was a decision I made and the one I stuck with. When I give my word, then that's kind of it. I don't ever look back and say I could have done this, I could have gone to North Carolina or Duke or Kentucky or any of that. The best thing for me was that my family was there. And I grew to love the fans. All of my friends from high school were there. And I ate lots of home-cooked meals.''

It's impossible to know what Ellis is thinking. It must be head-spinning to welcome Marshall, Bill Self and Danny Manning, Frank Martin and John Calipari into you home and have them tell you how much they want you to be a part of their basketball programs.

With KU and Kentucky in the mix, you'd have to consider Wichita State a longshot. Carr's decision to stay home hasn't been repeated by that many Division I prospects over the past 30 years, most of whom have chosen to leave Wichita for college.

However, the Shockers do have one of Ellis' former high school teammates, Evan Wessel, in the fold. WSU is thought to be interested in current Ellis teammate Gavin Thurman, who transferred to Heights from Southeast.

Perhaps it's not so outlandish to think that Ellis could spurn a couple of college basketball's super powers and decide home is where his heart is.

"At the time Coach Smithson was at Wichita State, one of the things we talked about was trying to keep all the hometown guys at home,'' Carr said. "Give them a shot to come in and enhance what we were doing.''

Some stayed. Most went away. But that Shocker roster has always had a little more appeal when it's had some hometown flavor.

Check sports columnist Bob Lutz's blog at blogs.kansas.com/lutz. Reach him at 316-268-6597 or blutz@wichitaeagle.com.

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