Lutz Blog

Bob Lutz: Ellis should flourish as a Kansas senior

Kansas' Perry Ellis hugs former high school teammate and current Shocker Evan Wessel during introductions before the Kansas-Wichita State game in the NCAA Tournament last month in Omaha.
Kansas' Perry Ellis hugs former high school teammate and current Shocker Evan Wessel during introductions before the Kansas-Wichita State game in the NCAA Tournament last month in Omaha. The Wichita Eagle

I’m glad Perry Ellis has decided to return to Kansas for his senior season.

I enjoy watching Ellis play. I like the way he’s finally been embraced by (most) KU fans. He has a chance to be an All-American next season. And the Jayhawks, coming off a shaky season – if winning an 11th consecutive Big 12 regular-season championship can be considered shaky – will be an interesting club in 2015-16.

Kansas is still looking to supplement its roster with high school All-Americans. But what the Jayhawks have back looks good and it starts with the 6-foot-8 Ellis, KU’s leading scorer and rebounder in 2014-15. He got on a huge roll in the second half of the season but a late-season knee injury caused him to miss some games and affected his effectiveness when he did return.

A healthy Ellis will be the player the Jayhawks build around.

But the best thing about Ellis, one of the most grounded and intelligent college basketball players I’ve been around, is that he’ll be a senior. Finally. KU’s Senior Night next season will be a big deal again after the Jayhawks have had a run of one-and-done players in the recent past.

They could have others, including incoming freshman Carlton Bragg, who’ll help the Jayhawks on the front line at 6-9, 220 pounds. He’ll join Ellis, Jamari Traylor and Landen Lucas up front with Frank Mason, Wayne Selden, Devonte Graham, Brannen Greene and Svi Mykhailuk returning as wings and guards. Look for a much better season from Mykhailuk, who simply was too young and inexperience to be a big factor this season.

Oklahoma and Iowa State should be the biggest challengers to Kansas’ string of Big 12 championships, especially if the Sooners’ Buddy Hield opts to return for his senior season. Baylor and West Virginia should also be good and Texas, with Shaka Smart now at the helm, will be a team to watch. The Longhorns have as much talent as any team in the conference.

I expect either Ellis or Hield, if he’s back in Norman, to be the preseason Big 12 player of the year. Which is interesting, considering they played high school basketball in Wichita – Ellis at Heights; Hield at Sunrise Christian. They were AAU teammates and foes at different times and remain friends.

Ellis, I believe, will play in the NBA as a power forward or even a small forward. He has improved greatly as a perimeter shooter at Kansas and has exceptional feet and quickness that will allow him to get his shot. He can play inside or out and his defense is much better than average.

Ellis started poorly during his junior season and I suspect some of that had to do with his desire to impress NBA scouts. When he was finally able to relax, he was a different player. He finally went into attack mode on offense and played with the aggression that was lacking earlier in his career.

I think Ellis could average 17 points and eight rebounds next season, which would put him among the all-time Kansas leaders in both categories. He’ll have a lot to prove and a lot to play for, as will all of the Jayhawks. The ups and downs of the 2014-15 season will weigh heavily on a returning group of players who will have something to prove.

Ellis is the centerpiece. He’s the man.

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