The recruitment of Perry Ellis has been planned since eighth grade. It continues to proceed in an organized fashion as it reaches another milestone this month. Starting Friday, four schools are treated to home visits with Ellis, one of the nation's top high school basketball players. Ellis, a 6-foot-8 senior forward at Heights, is No. 24 in the Rivals.com rankings for the class of 2012 and No. 37 in ESPNU's national list.
"I'm getting anxious to figure out what I want to do," Ellis said.
That time is coming. First, there is work to do to prepare for visitors from Kansas, Kansas State, Kentucky and Wichita State.
"We need to clean the house," Fonda Ellis, his mother, said.
Never miss a local story.
Beyond that, the to-do list is short because the Ellis family, Heights coach Joe Auer and summer coach Steve Young worked together to deal with the avalanche of attention and distractions that come the way of a young phenom.
"We spent the ninth grade, 10th grade and 11th grade winters traveling to different places and watching teams in actions, meeting coaches and going into locker rooms," Auer said. "They already have a relationship with all of these coaches. It's really helped everybody be pretty calm at this stage."
The Ellis family did its homework, and there won't be much new to learn this month as the coaches and their assistants arrive to turn on the charm.
Perry and his family impressed with all four schools (listed alphabetically because Ellis says all four are roughly equal). They've visited the campuses and watched games. They know the coaches — KU's Bill Self, K-State's Frank Martin, Kentucky's John Calipari and Wichita State's Gregg Marshall. They sat close enough to the bench to observe how coaches act and react during games. Will Ellis, Perry's father, evaluated how his son might fit into a team's style of play.
"We know all these programs really well," Fonda Ellis said. "They've been recruiting him for three years, at least. Now it's their turn to really show what they can offer Perry that might be unique, or help him achieve his goals."
Kansas gets the first visit on Friday, followed by Kansas State on Monday and WSU next Tuesday. Kentucky will follow, on a day to be determined.
From these four visits, Perry Ellis will decide how many official visits he will take to the campuses.
What does he want to hear? What does he want to see on the DVDs that will highlight the schools, their basketball and their academics?
It comes down to a gut feeling. With those choices, it's hard to go wrong.
"I just want to feel comfortable," Ellis said. "They're pretty much going to say the same thing, just say it in different ways."
Nevertheless, the coaches are doing their homework.
"We get the feeling there will be no stone unturned," Auer said. "They are all making it sound like they are going to bare their souls —'this who we are and this is our last opportunity to sell ourselves.' "
The Ellises expect them to bring DVDs, brochures and their best pitch on why Perry looks good in blue or black or purple. The coaches asked about Perry's academic interests, and that's an important point. He is undecided on a major, while considering sports management and business. He may want to coach. Ellis is a 4.0 student who delayed a trip to an all-star game in Venice Beach, Calif., last month so he wouldn't miss trigonometry, physics and English classes.
"I didn't want to miss the first couple days, because I have tough classes this year," Ellis said. "I felt better doing that."
The Ellises want to know more about dorms. Perry wants to know about returning to school should he leave early for a pro career. Questions will pop up during the visit, to be sure. For the most part, however, they know Kansas, Kansas State, Kentucky or Wichita State.
"I already asked a lot of questions," Will Ellis said. "There were a few things I wanted to know, and I pretty much know the answers."
Gathering information is a family thing. The parents act as a sounding board and give advice. They also protected Perry from some of the recruiting hype and burden. Coaches had to go through the parents or coaches first. To talk to Perry, coaches had to call the home or Fonda Ellis' cell. In June, as the list of schools narrowed, Perry gave his cell phone number to coaches he wanted to talk with. They also limited interviews with the media.
"We say 'Perry we like all the schools,' " Fonda Ellis said. "We might talk about some things, but in no way trying to lead him to pick a certain school."
The decision rests with Perry.
"They help me a lot," Perry said. "But the decision is all up to me. They just want me to be happy."