Saturday in Lawrence, one of the all-time great Jayhawks will play his final home game at Allen Fieldhouse. He may not be the flashiest, or garner the most attention, but the consistency Ellis plays with is hard to match anywhere, anytime.
“When I think of Perry, I don't think of the best, I think of consistency. If he was a golfer, he'd just go out and shoot par every day, one of those guys,” Kansas Head Coach Bill Self reminisced this week leading up to Senior Day. “He's not one of those guys that the highs are so high and the lows are low; he's just steady. I think that's something that we've really grown to not only to respect, but also at times to take for granted, because he has been so steady.”
Whether or not Ellis’ contributions to Jayhawk basketball are taken for granted is an argument for a different day. Saturday is about celebrating a guy who has given it all to Kansas. Not just the university, but the state. Ellis was a high school phenom at Wichita Heights recruited as heavily, or more, than any other player ever according to Self. For close to a decade, Ellis has represented the Sunflower State in some capacity in a basketball uniform.
“I really think, at least in the modern era, that I have been around, going back probably from the early '80s on, I would say he'd have to be in the discussion to be on the all-time all-Kansas team based on what he's done and what he did in high school and his four years of college have been stellar,” admitted Self.
“You see it on Twitter sometimes,” said teammate Jamari Traylor, “where they photo-shop his head on Wilt Chamberlain, or when they changed his Wikipedia page to where he was born sometime when Phog Allen would have been his coach.”
The Wikipedia alteration was Ellis’ personal favorite, which means the senior forward probably managed a quick smile, maybe even the slightest smirk.
Just as quickly, the 6-foot-8 forward reverts to character, a workmanlike approach that has yielded averages of 16.3 points and six rebounds this season, and 12.1 and 5.8 in 136 career games.
“For a while it was something new that would come along every day and it’s something I just brushed off my shoulder,” Ellis said. “This school is very visible. People see you a lot and think, ‘Man, it just seems like he’s been there forever.’ But it’s all good.”
…Any slight deviation from character can startle teammates.
In last year’s game at Texas, Ellis posted 14 points and five rebounds. About what you would have penciled in for him as a junior. Yet after making a move offensively, he ran back down the floor and stunned teammates with a smile and a wink.
“We just go crazy when he does something like that and shows his personality,” Traylor said, recalling the moment. “That gets us fired up. That put the fire in everyone. That was probably the most hyped I’ve seen Perry.”
“I saw him play his first high school game as a freshman and, of course, we knew of him even before then,” said Self, who like most KU hoops fans read about the Sunflower State sensation when he was featured in Sports Illustrated as a 14-year-old eighth grader at the Air Capital’s Brooks Middle School.
“I’d say we probably spent more years recruiting Perry than we have anybody else,” Self added.
Ellis’ first game as a prep, as it turns out, was mighty memorable. Self, who sat right behind Heights’ bench, watched as Ellis grabbed 12 rebounds and scored nine points in the No. 5-ranked Falcons’ 67-62 victory over No. 1 Wichita East on Dec. 5, 2008 before 7,500 fans in Koch Arena on Wichita State University’s campus.
“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.
…“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.”
After losing just one senior last year, the feel is slightly different this time around. Kansas will lose four seniors, one of which was a member of the All-Big 12 First Team last year and expects to be on the All-Big 12 team this year: Perry Ellis.
In fact, it only seems fitting Ellis will face off against Iowa State in his final game, given the team is led by a player who is essentially Ellis’ doppleganger when it comes to career path.
Like Ellis, Iowa State senior Georges Niang is part of a group of Big 12 players who have contributed year after year so much that a Twitter search often reveals several jokes about how long they’ve been at their respective universities.
While in good fun, this speaks to both the talent and consistency of the players.
For Niang, he’s averaged double-digits in scoring all four years of college. He’s been one of the best shooting big men in the league year after year and improved a part of his game each season.
On Monday, it was senior night for Iowa State. The team eked out a win over the Oklahoma State Cowboys, and when Niang took the floor for his speech he was emotional, pausing several times to wipe his face.
“Man, I don’t even know where to begin,” Niang said, starting his speech. “I was afraid coming to the game today because I don’t want to leave this place.”
On the other side sits a Kansas legend, according to some of the coaches in the league. In fact, after an earlier game, West Virginia coach Bob Huggins said he thinks Ellis deserves to be honored by the University once he’s gone.
“He’s a great player. I don’t know if his number will get retired. I don’t know if there’s any room up there,” Huggins said back on Feb. 9. “He deserves to be up there.”
KU has covered the spread in nine of the last 10 games, which is a remarkable run that shows how well the Jayhawks have been playing.
There are reasons to like Iowa State in this matchup. For one, the Cyclones don’t foul often, which is an advantage when playing at Allen Fieldhouse, where whistles often have an impact. KU coach Bill Self also has admitted often that Iowa State is often a tough team to guard because of its ability to stretch the floor with big men (like Niang) who can shoot.
Although many have considered this Cyclones season a disappointment, the team still enters with the nation’s second-best offense according to KenPom and have the firepower to keep up with KU in a shootout.
It’s a lot to ask against Saturday, though, especially when Iowa State is likely to get beaten up by KU on the glass.
Expect a fast-paced, high-transition, free-flowing, fun-to-watch game. It’s tough for opponents to win in that style at Allen Fieldhouse, though, and I think the Jayhawks’ offense will be good enough against the Cyclones’ poor defense to pull away in the end.
Kansas 90, Iowa State 77
Jesse’s pick to cover spread: Kansas
The Jayhawks have the No. 1 seed in the conference tourney locked up, but need this win if they want to keep a top seed in the Big Dance. For that reason alone, there shouldn't be any lull from Kansas. With a 10-game winning streak and playing at home, who would pick against the Jayhawks?
Iowa State needs this win too as they are jockeying for seeding in the Big 12 Tournament, but Kansas just has too many playmakers and the team as a whole is playing with title-contention continuity. Make it 11-striaght as it'll be another ho-hum 20-point game for Perry Ellis on Senior Day as Rock Chalk waltzes into postseason play on a roll.
Prediction: Kansas 78, Iowa State 71
“He’ll go down to me as one of my all-time guys,” Self said, “just to see where he started and where he is now is totally remarkable.”
Traylor’s journey has been well-documented. He spent part of his time in high school homeless, sometimes sleeping in abandoned Chicago cars with no heat.
“He was dealt a hand that most of us will never see, fortunately,” Self said. “There are multiple hands that would impact any young man, whether it be family crisis, whether it be economic situations, whether it be being homeless for a period of time, having to fight and scrap for shelter and food, which at age 15 or 16, that’s not something anybody would wish on any kid.”
…Guard Evan Manning says Traylor has the type of personality that allows him to be approachable. He also is someone whose voice is respected.
“He’s a really smart basketball player,” Manning said. “Whenever there’s someone asking a question, the first one they go to is him.”
Traylor, who averages 13.7 minutes per game, also has taken it upon himself to become a more vocal leader. That was especially the case after KU’s 86-67 road loss to Oklahoma State in mid-January.
“In the locker room after that game, I was just chewing guys out,” Traylor said. “If we wanted to be a serious team, we can’t have games like that. I didn’t have a great game, and nobody really did. We all just had to own up to it and come back at practice and get better.”
…Traylor also appreciates the coach that took a chance on him. Back in 2013, during a KU summer camp, Self raved about Traylor so much that the big man started to cry in front of a few hundred kids in the stands.
The bond between coach and player has only grown in the last three years, with Traylor saying that connection “means a lot to me. He loves me off the court, my personality.”
“He tries to understand me sometimes, and I feel like that’s really cool,” Traylor added. “I’ve got nothing but love for coach Self.”
Jamari Traylor’s name — and clips of the Kansas University forward’s high-flying dunk Monday at Texas — have been all over social media this week.
“My Twitter has been non-stop. You can’t get on Twitter without seeing it,” Traylor, a 6-foot-8 senior from Chicago, said of the rim-rattler that followed an alley-oop feed from Devonté Graham in the Jayhawks’ 86-56 victory.
“My favorite reaction? Carlton (Bragg Jr.) had a good one. My least favorite reaction was coach. I was walking to the sideline. He was, ‘Get to the free-throw line, Mari (following a foul on the play). C’mon, it’s over with.’
“I was like, ‘Can’t we have some fun with it?’’’ Traylor added, smiling, at a Thursday news conference called to discuss today’s Senior Day contest (for Traylor, Perry Ellis, Evan Manning, Hunter Mickelson) against Iowa State (3 p.m., Allen).
Suffice it to say, KU coach Bill Self loved the dunk, as well as Traylor’s driving one-handed slam against Kansas State on Feb. 20 in Manhattan.
“When you cut your elbow on the rim and need five stitches, that would lead you to believe it was an athletic play,” Self said of the Texas jam. “I thought it was unbelievable. The camera angle up top made it look like he was looking down at the rim. It was a pretty special play.”
…Today also marks the final home game in the broadcasting career of Bob Davis, who has announced plans to retire after this season. Davis has been voice of KU basketball and football for 32 seasons.
“He is excellent, but he’s a much better person than he is on the mic, I would guarantee that. To be honored at every place he goes to (this final season), it’s been pretty special to see,” Self said.
“There’s five seniors,” Self said. “Of course, one of them is a senior citizen — no, I’m joking. But there’s five seniors that will be honored Saturday, and all deservedly so.”
Davis, in attendance for Self’s news conference, shrugged when the coach asked him how many Kansas Sportscaster of the Year honors he’d received. On the surface, it seemed to be another modest moment for a man who isn’t known for tooting his own horn.
Not quite, Davis said.
“Sometimes you can be humble,” Davis said, “and sometimes you just forget.”
Davis may continue to work with KU on projects post-retirement, but he said the subject hasn’t come up yet with the university. Mostly, he just plans on spending more time with his wife Linda and his three grandchildren, all of whom are aged five to five months and live within an hour of Lawrence.
He also hopes to be reasonably active, despite the difficulties today’s plethora of TV channels may present a retired radio broadcaster.
“My son’s always said, ‘You can’t just sit around and watch the MLB Network all day,’” Davis said. “So I’m kind of focusing on that.”
Watching him play for a 6A high school, it was clear that Manning had a very high basketball IQ, an unselfish approach, gave maximum effort, and possessed enough skill and athleticism to compete credibly against scholarship players in practice.
Manning scored 11 points in the first quarter the last time I heard his name announced as a starter. He’s not likely to make that sort of noise Saturday in a Senior Day starting assignment against Iowa State, but my guess is Allen Fieldhouse will grow plenty noisy when introduced to the crowd.
Kansas fans are savvy enough to understand the value to the program of a brainy walk-on such as Manning. They know it’s his job to study film and follow instructions of the assistant coach whose turn it is to scout the next opponent. That assistant tells each member of the scout team which player to study so that player can pretend to be the opponent in practice. Manning not only did that with attention to detail regarding the opponents’ tendencies, he made sure the rest of the scout-team players did the same.
…Manning was asked about first meeting his current head coach, Bill Self.
“He was in the hiring process to hire his staff and his wife (Cindy) and (son) Tyler came over to my house,” Manning said. “I remember that was the first time I met Tyler. We all hung out, had dinner and everything and it was the first time me and Tyler played one-on-one. Let him beat me so my dad (current Wake Forest head basketball coach Danny Manning) could get a job.”
Has he ever lost to Tyler, a fellow walk-on and former high school teammate, since then?
“No,” Manning said. “Had some battles though.”
ICYMI: LJW on Hunter Mickelson 3/3/16
Someday, the streak will end, but no team wants that to happen on its watch. It’s a lot of pressure, but also a big motivator.
The four seniors who will play their last game in Allen Fieldhouse on Saturday — Perry Ellis, Jamari Traylor, Hunter Mickelson and Evan Manning — will leave KU with the streak intact. They also will leave with college degrees and a bright future ahead of them in basketball or some other endeavor.
As the regular season ends at Allen Fieldhouse Saturday, we hope fans will show their appreciation not only to the seniors but to the entire team and their coaches for prolonging the Big 12 championship run. We also hope the Jayhawks’ season is far from over and they will have much success in the Big 12 and NCAA championship tournaments.
Congratulations to the Jayhawks. We’ll be rooting for you.
1. Bill Self, Kansas
The man is one regular-season championship away from tying UCLA's record of 13 consecutive major conference banners, and that mark was recorded primarily (though not entirely) by John R. Wooden. May I stop there? Fine, one more thing in keeping with the 2015-16 thrust of this piece: Self showed a laudable experimental spirit with his center position for much of the season. It paid off. Landen Lucas playing alongside Perry Ellis has proven to be a highly effective combination. Self was my preseason choice as national coach of the year, and I'm sticking with him.
ESPN Gas-away ($)
Bob Huggins, Bill Self or Tubby Smith?
Those are your Big 12 coach of the year candidates. From my perspective, that’s also the correct order-of-finish (as of today), though you can justify flipping the sequence almost any way you like.
Seeing how it’s a vote of coaches about coaches, Huggins may be dinged for having won the award last year. Self essentially gave his vote to Smith two weeks ago (when Texas Tech surged out of nowhere) and Smith responded by giving his to Self (when Kansas was locking up its 12th consecutive league title).
The case for Huggins remains equally compelling.
West Virginia can finish no worse than third in the Big 12 and would lock up second place by winning at Baylor on Saturday.
Overlooked in the preseason AP poll, the Mountaineers now sit 10th. Their RPI is 11th.
While avoiding catastrophic injuries, they have played without freshman point guard Beetle Bolden and largely without backup center Brandon Watkins, and they survived the four-game suspension of Press Virginia power-pack Jonathan Holton.
In the preseason poll, Kansas was picked first and met expectations by dominating the second half to the Big 12’s round-robin. West Virginia was projected sixth and will finish no worse than three spots higher.
Texas Tech, picked dead last, is locked into seventh place. I doubt there are any COY winners across Division I whose teams finished so far back, but the Red Raiders’ resurgence isn’t told as much in the standings as it is in the RPI, where Smith’s team sits No. 26. (Even a top-100 finish seemed illogical back in October.) They appear set for their first NCAA bid since 2007.
How to separate the three coaches for the purposes of this award? Smith is 0-4 against the other two this season, and most recently absorbed a 22-point thumping in Morgantown. Because results matter, Tubby slots at No. 3 on my ballot.
Kansas and West Virginia split their games this season. Even the aggregate scoring was nearly identical—a 139-138 edge to the Mountaineers—though Huggins netted an extra $25,000 for his win and deserves points for having the better agent.
Because of KU’s second-only-to-UCLA run of league dominance, Self is simply held to a higher standard. Should we deduct for Kansas losing by 19 points at Oklahoma State, or reward the redirect that has the Jayhawks potentially winning the league by a three-game margin?
If the results of Saturday’s regular-season finales find Kansas at 15-3 in the league and the runner-up at 12-6, it’s gotta be Self. If West Virginia beats Baylor to fashion a 6-3 road record in America’s top RPI league, I say give it to Huggs.
In a close race, what happens at the finish line should matter.
Kansas State (.415) and Oklahoma State (.407) barely managed to top 40-percent shooting against KU. In seven other victories, the Jayhawks held their adversaries to 37.7-percent shooting or lower. On the month, KU’s competition combined to make only .352 from the floor — and .312 on three-pointers.
Those are the types of numbers Self loves to see. So even with a small sample size, he concedes this group, at least in the past few weeks, is playing comparable defense to his best KU teams.
“I think we guard actions fairly well,” Self said of one of the Jayhawks’ strengths. “I still think we struggle guarding the ball, which is the hardest thing to guard, and we’ve had other teams that do that much better. But we’ve gotten better.”
More importantly, Self decisively says this Kansas team is better defensively than either of the past two seasons…
Fifth-year senior Jamari Traylor, a vocal leader who sets the tone for his teammates’ efforts both on and off the court, says Kansas finally is showing some fight on defense.
While sitting out his first year at KU, he watched the Jayhawks reach the 2012 national championship game by defending maniacally.
“They were a great defensive team, and I feel like this last month or so we’ve been pretty much getting after it defensively,” Traylor said, correctly guessing foes had only hit about 35 percent of their shots during KU’s turnaround. “That’s one of the reasons we’ve been so effective. We’ve just been locking up and everybody’s been focused on scouting report and everybody’s just locked in.”
Kansas University snapped a 20-game women’s basketball losing streak on Friday — with a vengeance.
Tenth-seeded KU shot a season-best 54.7 percent from the field and put away No. 7 seed TCU, 81-64, in the first round of the Big 12 tournament at Chesapeake Energy Arena.
It was Kansas’ first win since Dec. 13, 2015.
“Pay Heed. The game you love began here. Respect those who came before you. Make their legacy your own. Because destiny favors the dedicated. And rings don’t replace work. In this game you don’t get what you want. You get what you earn. We are Kansas. Together we rise. Rock Chalk Jayhawk!”
Big 12/College News
Here's a look at the Big 12 schedule for the weekend, the scenarios for every Big 12 team and the tournament schedule:
Texas at Oklahoma State, 8 p.m. (ESPN2) (TEXAS WON)
Oklahoma at TCU, Noon (ESPNews)
West Virginia at Baylor, 1 p.m. (ESPN)
Kansas State at Texas Tech, 2 p.m. (ESPNews)
Iowa State at Kansas, 3 p.m. (ESPN)
Kansas (14-3): First.
West Virginia (12-5): Second with win or Oklahoma loss. Third with loss and Oklahoma win.
Oklahoma (11-6): Second with win and Baylor win. Third with win and West Virginia win. Third with loss and Baylor win. Third with loss, West Virginia win and Iowa State loss. Fourth with loss, West Virginia win and Iowa State win.
Iowa State (10-7): Third with win, Oklahoma loss and West Virginia win. Fourth with win, Oklahoma win and West Virginia win. Fourth with win, Texas loss, Oklahoma win and Baylor win. Fifth with loss, Texas loss, Oklahoma win and Baylor win. Fifth with Texas loss, Oklahoma loss and Baylor win. Sixth with win, Texas win and Baylor win. Sixth with loss, Texas loss and West Virginia win. Sixth with loss and Texas win.
Baylor (10-7): Fourth with win, Texas win, Oklahoma win and Iowa State win. Fourth with win, Texas loss, Oklahoma loss and Iowa State win. Fourth with win, Texas loss and Iowa State loss. Fourth with loss, Texas loss and Iowa State loss. Fifth with Texas win and Iowa State loss. Fifth with win, Texas win, Oklahoma loss and Iowa State win. Fifth with win, Texas loss, Oklahoma win and Iowa State win. Sixth with loss and Iowa State win
Texas (10-7): Fourth with win and Iowa State loss. Fourth with win, Oklahoma loss, Baylor win and Iowa State win. Fifth with win, Oklahoma win and Iowa State win. Fifth with win, Oklahoma loss, West Virginia win and Iowa State loss. Fifth with loss and West Virginia win. Sixth with loss and Baylor win.
Texas Tech (8-9): Seventh.
Kansas State (5-12): Eighth.
Oklahoma State (3-14): Ninth.
TCU (2-15): Tenth
BIG 12 TOURNAMENT SCHEDULE
at Sprint Center, Kansas City, Mo.
Wednesday, March 9
Kansas State vs. Oklahoma State, 6 p.m. (ESPNU)
Texas Tech vs. TCU, 8 p.m. (ESPNU)
Thursday, March 10
No. 4 seed vs. No. 5 seed, 11:30 a.m. (ESPN2)
Kansas vs. Kansas State/Oklahoma State winner, 1:30 p.m. (ESPN2)
No. 2 seed vs. Texas Tech/TCU winner, 6 p.m. (ESPNU)
No. 3 seed vs. No. 6 seed, 8 p.m. (ESPNU)
Friday, March 11
4/5 winner vs. Kansas/Kansas State/Oklahoma State winner, 6 p.m. (ESPN2)
2/Texas Tech/TCU winner vs. 3/6 winner, 8 p.m. (ESPN2)
Saturday, March 12
Championship, 5 p.m. (ESPN)
Find out the tournament history for specific seeds, teams, coaches or conferences.
NCAA Tournament Brackets and History interactive tool
CBS Interactive Tool: Pick two teams to compare record, RPI and SOS details head to head. By default, the top two teams in RPI are shown.
Big 12 Composite Schedule & Results
- 7-foot-0 | Center
- Orangeville, Canada | Athlete Institute (Canada)
- Five-star | Rated 97
- Arizona State
- Notre Dame
- Indiana: Unofficial visit March 2015
- St. John’s: Unofficial visit January 2016
- Kansas: Official visit March 4, 2016; Two unofficial visits
Maker has been a highly touted prospect for a few years now, but his recruitment has moved along very slowly. There were some twists and turns along the way, the primary one being Maker’s decision to remain in the 2016 class instead of reclassifying to 2015 and enrolling in college last fall. Of course, there’s always been the elephant in the room: will Maker decide to bypass college and just play professionally overseas? Barring an issue with the NCAA, it doesn’t seem likely Maker will play in Australia or Canada or China next season. If he does go to college, Maker has plenty of options. He’s yet to take an official visit anywhere, although he’s been on multiple campuses over the last several years, and coaches have consistently been up to Canada since the fall for in-home visits or to keep tabs on Maker. He took the SAT last month, and his guardian, Ed Smith, told ESPN.com earlier this week he would look to take official visits in the coming weeks. The first is Kansas, but he also wants to see Notre Dame and Arizona State -- two schools he hasn’t been to at all yet. St. John’s and Indiana have received unofficial visits in the past. Expect this recruitment to ramp up after the high school season -- but it could go longer than for any of the other elite 2016 prospects, as Smith said they might wait to see which players are going pro, and which are returning.
Contender: Kansas Jayhawks
…Bill Self and the Jayhawks have been on and off in Maker’s recruitment for a couple of years, but they’re clearly in the mix now, with Maker taking his first official visit this weekend to Lawrence. Smith said assistant Kurtis Townsend and the Jayhawks are in touch more than any school besides Arizona State, and now Kansas will have a chance to make a strong opening pitch. He’s already been on the campus twice, and will be in Lawrence again later this month for a high school tournament. Kansas plays the high-low system that Maker likes, because he can play on the block and score with his back to the basket or face up from 18 feet and knock down jumpers. He also would prefer to play at a fast pace -- which fits Kansas’ style. Of course, the Jayhawks are crowded in the frontcourt right now. Perry Ellis, Hunter Mickelson and Jamari Traylor are all gone, but Landen Lucas will be back. Dwight Coleby becomes eligible, and ESPN 100 prospects Udoka Azubuike and Mitch Lightfoot enter the fold. Freshmen Cheick Diallo and Carlton Bragg could also return, but it’s more likely that at least one leaves for the NBA. Smith said competing for minutes is a plus for Maker, but Maker also obviously wants to play -- so they will watch which players decide to leave and which decide to stay.
ESPN ($) other contenders at the link
Recruiting Calendar (updated for 2016)
Late Night in the Phog
Bill Self Camp KU Alumni games
60 Years of AFH Celebration
Legends of the Phog game
2011-12 Final Border War
KC Prep Invitational
and more, now on YouTube