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Bob Lutz: Long journey takes Perry Ellis to a very familiar place

  • Published Wednesday, Sep. 21, 2011, at 10:51 p.m.
  • Updated Thursday, Sep. 22, 2011, at 10:14 a.m.

The biggest announcement of the day definitely wasn't the loudest announcement of the day.

As the anticipation built for Perry Ellis' college decision Wednesday at Heights, he thanked those who had helped him become a star basketball player for three years. It only seems like 23.

As hushed anticipation fell across the Heights gym — where Ellis, his parents and Falcons coach Joe Auer were seated at a table — Ellis finally was ready.

He announced he was going to Kansas. At least, everyone was pretty sure he said "Kansas." There were television microphones in front of Ellis, but none to pump up the volume of Ellis' much-anticipated words. Eventually, Auer stepped in front of the table just to make it clear.

"To make sure you heard that... ," Auer started, clarifying KU was the choice.

"Perry is a man of action, not a lot of words,'' Auer said later. "I know how soft spoken he is, but this has been a really great experience for him.''

An experience that started when Ellis was at Brooks Middle School, which is where he first made the acquaintance of Danny Manning, who would become the KU assistant coach most instrumental in getting Ellis to Lawrence.

Of course, Kansas coach Bill Self played a large role, too. It was Self who scrambled to Wichita in 2008 to watch Ellis play his first high school game, at Koch Arena, after the Jayhawks had played an afternoon game in Lawrence.

Ellis continually used the word "comfortable" to describe how he felt about KU.

And while he said the other schools in his final four — Kansas State, Kentucky and Wichita State — were not token considerations, he was swayed early and often by the Jayhawks and their tremendous recruiting clout.

Give the other three schools credit. Even after it became apparent that Ellis had his sights set on Lawrence, coaches Frank Martin, John Calipari and Gregg Marshall were at least able to get Ellis to glance their way. All were able to give their pitches.

In the end, telling them no was difficult, Ellis said. But I don't get the sense there will ever be any second guessing. Ellis called his D-Day one of the best days of his life.

"It was tough, all these schools are real close to me,'' Ellis said. "But I felt so comfortable at KU. I just felt so comfortable. That's the main thing.''

He talked about the KU tradition and the impressive montage that plays on the giant videoboard before every home game. He mentioned James Naismith, which probably made his high school history teacher proud. He's been to KU often enough now that it feels like home.

Ellis becomes the second City Leaguer to commit to Kansas in the past couple of months. In mid-July, North junior guard Conner Frankamp quietly told KU he would be a Jayhawk.

"KU is where I wanted to go my whole life,'' Frankamp said. "I think Perry probably had a tougher decision.''

The two don't know one another well.

"We talk when we see each other,'' Ellis said. "But I really haven't gotten in a good relationship with him.''

Frankamp heard about Ellis' announcement shortly after it happened, but had no plans to talk to Ellis about his choice.

"We don't know each other all that well,'' Frankamp said. "I haven't had a chance to talk to him very much about this even before. He's pretty quiet, you know. He doesn't say much.

"I have a lot of respect for him as a player. He can score the ball and do pretty much everything. I think he's really good.''

Ellis and Frankamp play on different summer AAU teams — Frankamp is with Kansas City Pump and Run and Ellis with the Kansas Players, coached by Steve Young in Wichita.

"Having two City Leaguers heading for KU is exciting,'' Heights' Auer said. "They're not really friends, not because they don't like one another but just because their circles have never crossed. But I'm sure when we check in on this story four years from now, they'll probably be the closest of friends. I'm looking forward to watching that relationship blossom.''

Wichita State fans, no doubt, are disappointed that the big fish got away. Kansas State fans, too, had gotten their hopes up.

But the sense that Ellis was all about KU turned out to be right. He undoubtedly gave serious consideration to the other schools on his recruiting list, but the Jayhawks had him at "hello."

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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