On the far side of the world, in Gwangju, South Korea, Perry Ellis won a gold medal.
Back home in Wichita, it was another honor – a lot less shiny but just as important to him – that came to the All-Big 12 forward from Kansas as he was recognized on Tuesday night at the Real Men, Real Heroes benefit at the Boys & Girls Club for his volunteer work.
“This means a lot to me,” Ellis said. “I started in high school doing the Teen Hero thing, and I’ve just continued that experience in college. When I go to schools and speak to kids, it helps me, too. It’s given me a lot of confidence as a person, as well as helping the kids.”
Ellis received a standing ovation from the packed room and gave a short speech.
Before the benefit, he reflected on his time in Gwangju playing for the U.S at the World University Games, where he averaged 13.3 points and 6.5 rebounds as the team, made up mostly of Kansas players, brought home gold for the first time since 2005.
The U.S. went 8-0 in the tournament and defeated Germany 84-77 on July 13 in the gold-medal game. Kansas guard Wayne Selden averaged 19.5 points and 6.5 rebounds.
“To come together collectively, to come together as a team in a different environment is really going to help us going forward,” Ellis said. “It was a different, physical game and we were playing against a lot of grown men.
“It was definitely beneficial for all of us. I thought Wayne was the best player in the whole tournament … he dominated.”
Ellis got to experience a vast array of cultures staying in the athletes village with 11,000 athletes from 177 countries.
“I really liked being around all of the different cultures, being around people from all over the world,” Ellis said. “The biggest difference for me was the food … they had this cafeteria that was open 24 hours and it was just a lot of different stuff to try and get used to.
“And to have fun, to get to compete with my teammates, that was a blessing.”
Ellis said he’ll finish up summer classes on Thursday, travel to see family and then come back home until school starts. He’s on track to graduate with a degree in sports management after one more semester of school and an internship.
Ellis, who wore a cobalt blue suit, light blue shirt and a salmon-colored tie on Tuesday, laughed when he was told he looked like he was dressed for the NBA Draft – something the Heights product passed up to return for his senior season with the Jayhawks.
As a junior, he led the Jayhawks with 13.8 points and 6.9 rebounds on the way to an 11th straight Big 12 title, but a second straight exit in the NCAA Tournament’s Round of 32, this time with a 78-65 loss to Wichita State in Omaha.
“Honestly, it was kind of a short discussion (about the draft),” Ellis said. “There’s still stuff I need to work on, and the beneftis of coming back really outweight the benefits of leaving.
“I get to come back, get my degree and everything else falls into place, God willing.”