Lutz Blog

Bob Lutz: No watch lists for Perry Ellis, but he’s making opponents watch out

KU's Perry Ellis rose above the crowd and poured in a game-high 28 points in the Jayhawks 69-64 win Saturday over Texas at Allen Fieldhouse. He split Texas defenders Demarcus Holland (2) and Myles Turner on this drive down the lane during the first half.
KU's Perry Ellis rose above the crowd and poured in a game-high 28 points in the Jayhawks 69-64 win Saturday over Texas at Allen Fieldhouse. He split Texas defenders Demarcus Holland (2) and Myles Turner on this drive down the lane during the first half. The Kansas City Star

Perry Ellis is a monster. A beast. An uncontrollable brute who cannot be stopped.

Kansas’ 6-foot-8 junior, a four-time All-State high school player at Heights, is on the best roll of his college career. He’s making naysayers zip their mouths. He’s carrying the Jayhawks to what they hope will be an 11th consecutive Big 12 championship; Kansas could clinch at least a tie Tuesday night with a win over West Virginia in Allen Fieldhouse.

You won’t find Ellis’ name on any watch lists at this late stage of the season. He was taken off after a slow start in which his field-goal percentage plummeted as he worked to adjust to a bunch of new KU players.

But anyone who complains about Ellis being too soft or passive hasn’t been watching.

Ellis breathes fire.

In his past three games, Ellis has averaged 25 points and 9.7 rebounds against TCU, Kansas State and Texas. In KU’s past nine games, Ellis is averaging 18.3 points and 8.5 rebounds. In 16 Big 12 games, he’s averaging 15.8 points and 7.6 rebounds. Those numbers rank third in the conference. Ellis’ 50.5 field-goal percentage in Big 12 play ranks second behind Oklahoma’s Ryan Spangler.

We’ve heard all season long about the Big 12’s power. Well, doesn’t Ellis have to be one of the two or three strongest contenders for Big 12 player of the year?

Yet he’s not among the 20 players nationally still being considered for the Wooden Award. Ellis, the best player on the best team in one of the best conferences in America, is being shunned.

He’s playing his best basketball at the most important time of the season as KU is in a dogfight now trying to hold off Oklahoma in the Big 12 race. The Jayhawks finish the regular season Saturday in Norman against the Sooners.

Ellis ranks behind only OU’s Buddy Hield (18.1 ppg) and Oklahoma State’s LeBryan Nash (16.3) in scoring in Big 12 games. Only Baylor’s Rico Gathers (11.9 rpg) and West Virginia’s Devin Williams (8.9) are rebounding more.

The transformation in Ellis has been noticeable. Criticized for not showing much emotion during his Kansas career, Ellis’ demeanor remains stoic. But he’s playing with more aggression, more purpose, more focus. He’s become KU’s go-to guy who can use his incredible athleticism around the basket and knock down a three-pointer now and then. He’s made 10 of 20 three-pointers in Big 12 games.

Despite KU’s 12-4 Big 12 record and 23-6 overall mark, the season has been a struggle for the Jayhawks. It’s been difficult for their coach, Bill Self, to know who can be counted on.

Ellis, though, has become that guy. He’s throwing down spectacular alley-oop dunks, spinning and whirling has way past defenders and playing outstanding defense. And if he continues playing like this, it will be interesting to see whether he starts to get more consideration as a potential NBA draft pick with a season of eligibility remaining.

It’s been generally assumed that Ellis will return for his senior season at Kansas, and that’s likely still the most likely scenario. He is a true student-athlete, with an emphasis on “student.”

But what exactly is missing from Ellis’ basketball repertoire? Why wouldn’t the NBA folks be all over this guy?

Ellis has become one of the most fascinating players in college basketball over the past month or so. It couldn’t happen to a better guy.

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