University of Kansas

Kansas’ Perry Ellis says returning for senior year was ‘a great decision’

Kansas forward Perry Ellis looks to the basket against Oklahoma forward Ryan Spangler earlier this season.
Kansas forward Perry Ellis looks to the basket against Oklahoma forward Ryan Spangler earlier this season. The Wichita Eagle

Jamari Traylor is asked for his favorite Perry Ellis story, and the Kansas forward smiles before flashing back in time.

It was a game last year — the Jayhawks’ 75-62 road victory over Texas — when the stoic Ellis did something, well, un-Perry-like.

“We’re always getting on him,” Traylor said. “Perry will do a great move, and he’ll just run back on defense like nothing.”

This time was different, though. After Ellis executed what Traylor called a “crazy” play for a basket, the Wichita native was ready to celebrate.

Unprompted, Ellis looked to the bench, smiled, and then winked at his teammates.

“It kind of put a fire in us some more,” Traylor said, before laughing. “That’s probably like the most hyped I’ve ever seen Perry.”

The anecdote illuminates two traits that Ellis likely will be remembered for: being quiet and also being a talented scorer.

His final game at Allen Fieldhouse will come Saturday, as No. 1 KU plays host to 21st-ranked Iowa State at 3 p.m. on ESPN.

“It’s just been a blessing,” Ellis said.

The four-year player will likely go down as one of the all-time KU greats. He ranks 12th on KU’s career scoring list with 1,645 points and also is 13th in career rebounds. If KU has a deep postseason run, Ellis could push for the top 10 in both categories.

“That’s a pretty special deal,” KU coach Bill Self said, “and he didn’t start as a freshman.”

Because he’s not one to draw attention to himself, Ellis might still be a player who has been underappreciated. There’s also this: Some of the best parts of his game — he has the lowest turnover rate on the team and is KU’s second-best free-throw shooter — are areas that are important to offense but often overlooked when fans discuss a player’s performance.

Self also respects Ellis because of his consistency.

“If he was a golfer, he’d just go out and shoot par every day, one of those guys,” Self said. “He’s not one of those guys that the highs are so high and the lows are low.”

Ellis’ KU career began after recruiting work from both Self and former assistant Danny Manning. Self remembers attending Ellis’ first high school game as a freshman, and the coach says he spent a longer period of time recruiting him than any other player.

It might not have been needed.

“Growing up, I didn’t see myself going anywhere else,” Ellis said. “I kind of knew for a long time.”

Becoming a four-year player was Ellis’ choice. He briefly considered entering the NBA Draft last year before announcing at the team’s postseason banquet that he’d be returning for his senior season.

After earning all-Big 12 first-team honors last year, Ellis has improved nearly every shooting stat. He’s boosted his two-point shooting from 47 to 53 percent, his three-point accuracy from 39 to 47 percent and his free-throw efficiency from 73 percent to 77 percent. All this while reducing his turnover numbers and increasing his free-throw attempts.

“It was a great decision (to return),” Ellis said. “I felt like I’ve gotten so much better, so much more confident as a player.”

With a roster that has had its share of inconsistency, Self has appreciated knowing what he’s going to get from Ellis on a nightly basis, calling him the “rock of all rocks.”

“I think that’s something that we’ve really grown to not only to respect, but also at times to take for granted,” Self said, “because he has been so steady.”

Jesse Newell: @jessenewell

No. 21 Iowa State at No. 1 Kansas

  • When: 3 p.m. Saturday
  • Where: Allen Fieldhouse, Lawrence
  • Records: ISU 21-9, 10-7 Big 12; KU 26-4, 14-3
  • Radio: KFH, 1240-AM, 98.7-FM
  • TV: ESPN
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