As always, I’m looking forward to watching Perry Ellis play for Kansas tonight at Allen Fieldhouse against Oklahoma.
The 6-foot-8 Ellis is a homegrown Wichitan who helped Heights win four state championships. He was a four-time All-State player for the Falcons and one of the most accomplished and decorated prep players in Wichita history. It’s always a treat to get to see him play at the college level.
But there will be another former Wichita high school standout on the floor tonight. He’s Oklahoma junior guard Buddy Hield, the reigning Big 12 player of the week after going 10 for 10 and scoring 27 points in an 82-65 win over Oklahoma State on Saturday in Norman.
Hield grew up in Freeport, Bahamas, and came to Wichita as a foreign-exchange student to play at Sunrise Christian Academy, which has produced numerous Division I college basketball players over the past several years, including current Wichita State freshmen Zach Brown and Rauno Nurger. Hield lived with a local family while getting his education and improving as a basketball player.
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As a senior at Sunrise, Hield was considered one of the Top 100 high school players in the country. So was Ellis. Hield considered Kansas before deciding to join Lon Kruger at Oklahoma.
Hield and Ellis are former AAU teammates and know one another well. Hield is one of 25 players nationally still in the running for the John Wooden Award and is one of the top candidates for Big 12 player of the year.
Hield averages 17.6 points and 5.6 rebounds per game for the 19th-ranked Sooners, 12-5 overall and 3-2 in the Big 12. Over the past five games, though, Hield’s numbers are on the rise: 22.8 points, seven rebounds per game.
“Buddy is a really unique guy,” OU coach Lon Kruger said. “He has a very good skill set, but what separates him is his work ethic and how much he loves being in the gym.
“He works very hard to get better and his energy and enthusiasm every day make him a delight to be around. All coaches want that enthusiasm in their players and Buddy brings it every day. The other players on our team benefit from that.”
Hield, like Ellis, has been a mainstay for his team since he arrived on campus. Hield averaged 25 minutes per game as a freshman for OU, when he averaged 7.8 points, 4.2 rebounds and was chosen as the Sooners’ most inspirational player by his teammates. Hield improved to 16.5 points per game last season, when he was a second-team All-Big 12 selection.
“He is one of the best players in America, and he showed it,” OSU coach Travis Ford told reporters after Hield’s 10-for-10 performance against the Cowboys. ”I would like to say we didn’t do a good job on him, but he earned his points.”
What will Hield do against Kansas tonight? He’s the hottest player in the Big 12, so you can bet KU coach Bill Self has a plan.
It’s good to see another Wichita high school product have success in big-time college basketball.