Perry Ellis signed autographs for two hours on Friday night and felt the love, no doubt.
The former Kansas forward and Wichita native only had look in front of him and his three teammates at the line of fans that snaked down a large staircase in the atrium at East High’s gymnasium, through the lobby, outside and down a sidewalk to see the reception he was getting.
But even if that wasn’t enough to show the soft-spoken Ellis, a two-time All-Big 12 pick, what he meant to his hometown, he needed only wait until the halftime auction of Friday’s Kansas Barnstorming Tour stop to be sure.
That’s when Ellis’ game-worn, cream-colored throwback uniform sparked a bidding war in the crowd, the price skyrocketing until it was finally sold for $2,300. Minutes later one of Ellis’ blue jerseys went for $900.
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As the bidding came to a close, Ellis seemed somewhat in shock at the number.
“I was just surprised (by the amount) ... it goes to show how much support we’ve gotten from all of these people,” Ellis said. “It’s just a cool thing to see. What a great feeling, coming back home to see all the Kansas fans, to see all the supporters. It was a great night.”
A great night that saw Ellis sitting on the sideline for the entire game on the advice of his agent, Mark Bartelstein of Priority Sports.
Ellis’ three teammates — Hunter Mickelson, Evan Manning and Jamari Traylor — were more than up to the task. Joined by former Newman guard and East star Jalen Love and former Hutchinson Community College and Marshall forward Robert Goff, they dunked their way to a 91-78 win over a group of local high school all-stars, including Southeast guard and Weber State signee Jerrick Harding.
The event, which also had a silent auction, serves as a fundraiser for the East High baseball team.
“It was a fun atmosphere, I competed against the guys I was playing with my whole career, so it was fun to play with them,” said Harding, the Kansas Gatorade Player of the Year. “And I’ve grown up watching KU, so it was fun to play against them.”
Ellis sat out sat out as a precaution. He’ll participate in the NBA Draft Combine in Chicago starting Wednesday, along with teammates Wayne Selden and Cheick Diallo and Wichita State guard Ron Baker. Ellis is projected as a second-round pick.
The draft is June 23 at the Barclays Center in New York.
“I was working out in Houston for a couple of weeks with John Lucas, then I was in Chicago before coming home,” Ellis said. “I’ll head back to Chicago after this to keep getting ready for the combine and the draft.”
The game had its share of highlight moments. In the first half, Traylor brought the crowd to its feet with a huge, one-handed dunk on Heights forward Aaron Williams that put Williams to the floor ... although Williams returned the favor with a two-handed dunk off an alley-oop in the second half.
Harding even got a laugh out of the crowd in the first half when he drove to the hoop, saw Traylor closing in ... smiled, shook his head and backed it out before hitting a three-pointer.
“Well, what I really wanted him to do was come out and play me 1-on-1,” Harding said, smiling.
The high school all-stars were coached by Heights’ Joe Auer, Ellis’ high school coach, and East’s Joe Jackson.
And even with all the love shown to Ellis and his teammates, it was another Wichita legend that stole the show — former North star, Kansas All-American and Harlem Globetrotter Lynette Woodard, who served as the barnstormers’ honorary coach.
Even with all the star power around her, it was Woodard alone who received a standing ovation from the packed gym upon introduction.
“I played in this thing a few years ago, so when I got the invitation to come back, I figured I didn’t do that bad,” Woodard said, laughing. “I love Perry, I love what he did for our university and I’m glad he came back to (Wichita) one more time before he heads off to the NBA.”
And if her team needed her to do more than coach?
“Well look at my shoes,” Woodard said, pointing to a pair of gold, sparkly canvas shoes. “I’ve got my gold shoes on. Of course I can get out there and play.”