LAWRENCE — Sometime before the start of classes in August, Perry Ellis will sit down and write out some new goals on a sheet of paper. He could, of course, write the goals down right now. But that’s not his way. He needs time.
Ellis, a 6-foot-8 forward, has been on campus at the University of Kansas for all of 11 days. And for Ellis, a four-time Kansas 6A basketball champion at Heights High, a list of goals should not be some fluid, half-baked recipe for success. No, these new ideals will be sacred.
“I do that before every school year,” Ellis says. “So that’s something I’m gonna do. I gotta think about it, and just see what I really want to do.”
On Wednesday afternoon, Ellis stood in a lobby of the Jayhawks’ practice facility, minutes removed from his first public scrimmage as a KU player, a 40-minute show for a couple hundred young basketball campers. Just a few weeks after concluding one of the most decorated high school careers in Kansas history, Ellis wore a red KU practice jersey and reflected on his transition from home to college life in Lawrence.
“I just feel real comfortable,” Ellis says. “I’ve been here so many times before, it’s just another home for me — a second home.”
His roommate, freshman walk-on Evan Manning, was a teammate last summer, and the two have already christened their room with three televisions — yep, first thing they accounted for, Ellis says.
Before Wednesday’s scrimmage, KU coach Bill Self told the campers that there was only one player that he could remember recruiting for as long as he pursued Ellis. (That player, Self said, was former Oklahoma State center Bryant Reeves, whose son happened to be a camper this week.)
The hope is that Ellis’ maturity — combined with the skills that made him a McDonald’s All-American — will help him make an impact during his freshman season. The loss of All-American Thomas Robinson has left a hole at power forward alongside center Jeff Withey, and Ellis figures to be among a collection of frontcourt players that will battle for those minutes.
Ellis certainly has the pedigree. Based purely on talent and reputation — Ellis was the 24th best player in the 2012 class, according to Rivals — there have certainly been higher-profile recruits to walk on campus during the Bill Self era. But based on pure achievement, it’s not a stretch to say that Ellis may be the most accomplished recruit Self has ever brought to Lawrence.
In addition to his four state titles, Ellis became the all-time leading scorer in City League history, a four-time Kansas Gatorade player of the year and senior boys basketball player of the year by the National High School Coaches Association. Oh yeah, he also was valedictorian.
“The main things I focused on was just winning games… ,” Ellis says, “I knew all the other accolades would come.”
On Wednesday, in the opening minutes of the scrimmage, Ellis led a fast break and delivered a pass to former KU standout Julian Wright for an easy jam. Moments later, he caught the ball on the wing and drove past Withey on the baseline, nearly converting a reverse layup.
“It’s something different for me,” Ellis says, “going into the lane … against a 7-foot shot-blocker. But it’ll be good for me. It will help me get better.”
Ellis’ game appeared smooth and versatile while going up against his current teammates and some former pros. But this, of course, was also basically a June pickup game. Even so, it was another marker in his transition to college.
“It just makes me feel better,” Ellis says, “if I just play.”