September 21, 2011

Perry Ellis, Wichita Heights basketball standout, chooses University of Kansas

Heights athletic director Rick Wheeler told faculty they could attend the Perry Ellis news conference — as long as they didn't cheer.

Wednesday wasn't the time for a pep rally, because that's not Ellis' style — and also out of respect for the three basketball schools who won't get the pleasure of his signature on a national letter of intent.

Ellis, a 6-foot-8 power forward, chose the University of Kansas in a manner that fits with his game. He made the announcement quietly, efficiently and without theatrics in the Heights gymnasium in front of 30 or more media members, including a TV station from Kansas City.

He thanked his parents, his sister Savannah, his fellow students, his coaches and the coaches from Kansas State, Kentucky and Wichita State.

"At this time, I would like to decide that the school I will go to is the University of Kansas," Ellis said. "I just felt so comfortable there. That was the school."

Ellis is one of the most highly recruited players in state history after leading Heights to three Class 6A titles. He is No. 24 in the rankings for the class of 2012 and No. 37 in ESPNU's national list. He averaged 22.1 points and 7.9 rebounds as a junior.

The choice came as no surprise, despite Ellis being quiet in the days leading up to the decision. Kansas coach Bill Self doesn't lose many recruiting battles, especially in his home state.

Ellis worked out the choice largely on his own, Heights coach Joe Auer said, quietly paging through pros and cons in his mind. Ellis knew, even before Wednesday, that KU's combination of location, winning tradition, coaching and prestige called.

"It's been on my mind for a while now," Ellis said. "It wasn't a pop-up thing. I wanted to do it today because I was ready."

Auer said KU offered a scholarship before anybody else. Self came to Ellis' first high school game. Assistant coach Danny Manning met Ellis in middle school and became a key figure, bonding with a similar personality. Manning won basketball points for his work with Marcus and Markieff Morris — former Jayhawks, first-round NBA Draft picks — who play the same position as Ellis.

"He adores Coach Manning," Auer said. "He watched how he handled the Morris twins. He was studious in watching how they developed."

Ellis said, "He's only going to make me better."

Ellis called the other three coaches shortly before the 2:45 p.m. news conference. He had narrowed his list to four schools, eliminating schools such as Duke and Memphis in August. He took numerous visits to all four finalists, watching their games and evaluating his place.

"All these schools were real close to me," Ellis said. "They've been there three or four years now. It was a tough decision."

Wichita State, the underdog and hometown favorite, surprised national observers by sticking on Ellis' list until the end. Auer credited WSU coach Gregg Marshall's understated recruiting approach. WSU coaches didn't go overboard, yet Ellis knew they wanted him.

"Wichita State took a little different approach, which was fantastic. 'We're here, but we're not going to bombard you,' " Auer said. "It was one of the reasons they were in the final four."

This month, coaches from all four schools visited his home to make a final pitch.

"He had four tremendous options," Auer said. "In the end, he went with his heart and he went with who he was most comfortable with."

Ellis also called Self.

"He was real excited," Ellis said. "He enjoyed the good news."

His oral commitment is non-binding. Ellis plans to sign a national letter of intent during the week-long signing period that begins Nov. 9. Self can't comment until the letter is received.

His commitment to KU makes the Jayhawks the big winner in the City League's recent talent surge. North guard Conner Frankamp, a junior, orally committed to Kansas in July. He averaged 27.2 points and 4.2 rebounds as a sophomore.

Now Ellis can concentrate on his senior season at Heights and helping the Falcons to another City League and Class 6A title. He'll be the first City League signee for KU since B.J. Williams in 1993.

"I'm happy to have it over," he said. "I'm excited about my choice. It was a fun experience. I'll miss it. It only happens one time."

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