Catching up with Perry Ellis in Las Vegas
Former Kansas basketball standout Perry Ellis is quite familiar with Koch Arena, site of the upcoming The Basketball Tournament regional to be contested in the 6-foot-8, 225-pound forward’s hometown of Wichita.
“Down the street … that’s how close I live to WSU’s campus,” Wichita Heights graduate Ellis said.
Indeed, 10,506-seat Koch Arena, which is located on the southeast corner of 21st Street and Hillside Avenue, is the tradition-rich home of the Wichita State Shockers.
“I could literally just walk there for a little warmup maybe,” the 25-year-old Ellis added with a smile. “Everyone … a lot of people I know are going to the game. Man, it’s going to be awesome. No better place than Wichita where I’m from,” the 2015-16 unanimous first-team all-Big 12 selection added, his voice trailing off.
Ellis — he played pro ball in Germany and Istanbul last season and is headed to Japan for the 2019-20 campaign — is a certain starter for “Self Made,” a Jayhawk alumni team that will meet Sideline Cancer in a 6 p.m. TBT opener on Thursday at Koch.
A victory in that game would vault KU into a second-round contest against either a team of Wichita State or Iowa alums at 3 p.m. Saturday at Koch. Another victory would mean a Sweet 16 contest at 3 p.m. Sunday, perhaps against a Kansas State alumni team (if KU and KSU win two games) again in Wichita.
All the games are slated to be shown on ESPN.
Winner of the single-elimination regional will advance to the quarterfinals the following week in Chicago where eight teams from various regionals will battle for the winner-take-all, $2 million top prize.
“Getting to play there … I’m going in just feeling comfortable and just having fun with it,” Ellis said of playing in his hometown.
He said he is enthused about a Self Made roster that’s made up of guards Elijah Johnson, Tyshawn Taylor, Jeremy Case, Mario Little, Naadir Tharpe and Travis Releford as well as forwards Ellis, Darrell Arthur, Landen Lucas and Kevin Young.
“I think we’re pretty good. This is a solid team. Everybody knows how to play,” Ellis said.
Ellis is one of the first players general manager/combo guard Johnson contacted when it came to putting together a Self Made roster.
“Perry is the X-factor, the difference maker,” Johnson said of Ellis, who has been effective from beyond the three-point stripe, as well as in the paint, at Self Made practices the past five days in KU’s practice gym adjacent to Allen Fieldhouse.
“He can do so much for us. I’ve been keeping up with him on social media. I’ve seen how he’s transitioned into the overseas game. I always knew he could dribble the ball. He looks way more comfortable. The more comfortable he looks doing it the more pressure it is on him because now he’s going to have to do a little bit more. Don’t just get the rebound and be looking for me, bring it up the court,” Johnson added.
Johnson, 29, says it’s been a pleasure practicing with a well-rounded player such as Ellis.
“Perry’s going to do everything for us,” Johnson said. “When I say everything, I don’t mean be Superman. He’ll have to know everything 1 through 5. He does already. His energy will be hard to match, especially if he tastes it like I feel he’s going to taste it. I feel sorry for people trying to stay in front of him. He just has too much, energy, man,” Johnson added.
Ellis stresses he’s willing to play both inside and out for the KU alumni team.
“For sure. We’ve got nine or 10 guys who will be moving around a lot of different positions,” Ellis said. “I’ll be doing a little of both.
“I think we have a versatile team defensive wise. I feel a lot of guys can switch, do different things in that aspect. Offensively we’re versatile as well. We have people who can do a lot of different things,” Ellis noted.
This KU alumni team has shown the ability to drill the outside shot during recent practices. And yes, shooting will be important, said the squad’s coach, former KU guard Brady Morningstar, who will be assisted on the bench by KU director of basketball operations Brennan Bechard and former KU women’s player Natalie Knight.
“We’ve got to guard in transition. We have to score in transition,” Morningstar, who has accepted a job as assistant men’s basketball coach at Kansas City Kansas Community College after two seasons as an assistant at Texas Wesleyan, said. “If you can get stops and make shots I think you’ve got a chance. If not, it’s going to be a quick exit.”
Morningstar noted: “The name of the game is to get stops. That’s easier said than done. Our big guys — Shady (Arthur), Landen, Perry, Kevin can guard ball screens, are smart defenders. That helps out.”
Morningstar stressed that KU’s players must be well conditioned if they are to play and win three games in four days in Wichita.
“They act tired but they are in shape,” Morningstar said with a smile. “They are just soft right now. They say, ‘How long are we going today (at practice)?’ Not long. Everybody is good. We are all having a great time. I think we have a chance to win some games,” he added.
NOTES: Case, KU basketball video coordinator, has impressed with his three-point shooting at Self Made workouts. “For sure,” Morningstar said, asked if Case could be playing professional basketball in Europe if he so desired. “He’s shooting the heck out of it.” … Arthur, 31, who played in the NBA nine years before being released by Phoenix in October of 2018, has been one of Self Made’s leaders. “He’s a vet(eran). He acts like a vet. He gets it,” Morningstar said. … former KU guard Brad Witherspoon, assistant coach at Barton Community College, has helped coach practices the past five days. Former KU guard Sherron Collins also has worked out some with the Self Made team. … KU’s opponent on Thursday, Sideline Cancer, has a roster made up of Remy Abell, Xavier; Kevin Bracy-Davis, Davis and Elkins College; Raymond Cowels, Santa Clara; Maurice Creek, George Washington; Duane Johnson, East Stroudsburg University; Marcus Keene, Central Michigan; Aron Nwankwo, Pittsburgh; Kevin Olekaibe, UNLV; Charles Parker, Millersville and Zwencyl Upson, Southern Louisiana.