Kansas coach Bill Self did his part to maintain the suspense.
After announcing Perry Ellis as the team’s most valuable player Monday at the Jayhawks’ annual awards banquet, Self pretended not to know his leading scorer’s plans for the future. Senior season, with a chance to climb the career statistical charts, or NBA Draft?
“Depending on what he does, he has a chance to become a top 10 scorer in the history of the school,” Self said. “Depending on what he does.”
The stage set, Ellis arrived at the podium to accept the Danny Manning Mr. Jayhawk Award and deliver a message.
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“There’s still a lot left on the table,” Ellis said. “It will be best for me to come back.”
The packed house at the banquet hall at the Lawrence Holiday Inn rose in applause and cheers.
Ellis, a Wichita native, said he made his decision to return to Kansas late last week and wanted to make the announcement at the banquet. He received feedback from the NBA that indicated he would be at second-round selection if he decided to skip his final year.
“I went through the process, I heard some first round, a lot of second round,” Ellis said. “You can’t rush it. I’ll know when the time comes, and it hasn’t come yet.
“But I’m really excited for our team next year. We have a lot of good pieces coming back.”
None more productive than Ellis, who led the Jayhawks in scoring and rebounding with 13.8 points and 6.9 boards.
Ellis shot 45.7 percent from the floor and hit 39.1 percent of his three-pointers.
Ellis was named first team All-Big 12 and, as Self said, for three weeks late in the season “played like first team All-American.”
But Ellis sprained his knee late in the first half in the home finale against West Virginia, missed some time after that and wasn’t the same.
“We kept it from the media how bad it was,” Self said. “He worked his butt off, and he’ll be the first to tell you he wasn’t quite healthy, He wasn’t the real Perry Ellis. He didn’t have the same bounce.”
Kansas finished it second during the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament, a third-round loss to Wichita State.
Two Kansas underclassmen, freshmen Kelly Oubre and Cliff Alexander, had already announced they were entering the NBA Draft.
Losing three would have changed some plans for Self.
“There’s no way we can sign a better player than Perry as a senior,” Self said. “We felt all along he would probably come back, but he did it right. He got information, and talked with his family.
“This isn’t a surprise to me, but there was probably more of a chance that he would go than a lot of people thought.”
Improving his game wasn’t Ellis’ only consideration.
“Getting my degree is important to me,” he said.