Being a highly sought-after high school recruit has some advantages. It’s nice to be wanted.
If you’re one of the few who attracts attention from every coach under the sun, it’s nice knowing you won’t have to pay a dime for college tuition. It’s good to know you will have an opportunity to play before thousands of rabid fans every game and be seen frequently on TV. It’s kind of cool to be the big man on a big campus.
But like most things in life, there’s always a “but.” Not all recruits are ready for the scrutiny that comes with being under a microscope. The limelight isn’t always everything it’s cracked up to be.
It’s never easy to predict how a particular athlete will fare in the recruiting process. A lot of responsibility falls on how the parents provide guidance and protect their son or daughter from some of the recruiting hype and burden.
A lot of athletes in Kansas will be recruited by schools this year, but none will probably receive as much attention as Perry Ellis, a senior at Wichita Heights High School.
From the time he was an eighth-grade student-athlete in Wichita, basketball coaches in Kansas and around the nation have closely watched his on-court exploits.
On one occasion a couple of years ago, while officiating a City League basketball game involving Wichita Heights, one of my partners spotted a Big 12 coach in the crowd. Another time last season, I saw KU assistant coach Danny Manning standing in the doorway watching the action. I’m quite sure that these high-profile coaches weren’t there to watch me blow the whistle.
When Ellis announced he had narrowed his list of schools under consideration to four—Kansas, Kansas State, Kentucky and Wichita State—it was big news. In the end, Ellis chose KU.
Thanks to the media and social media like Twitter and Facebook, every move of a potential recruit like Ellis is watched and shared with interested alumni and sports fans.
For what it’s worth, I don’t know Ellis all that well except from a handful of games I’ve seen him play when I was officiating. It’s easy to be impressed by his athletic prowess, but I’ve been even more impressed with the way he handles himself.
He probably had more maturity as a freshman in high school than I did as a freshman in college.
It’s clear that he learned the fundamentals of the game very well because he rarely commits silly fouls. In the three years I’ve seen him play, he doesn’t worry about the officiating and he doesn’t showboat. He lets his play on the court speak for him.
Having said all that, I have no idea how he’ll do as a big-time college basketball player. He may be a star; he may not. A lot depends on the system, the talent around him and what is expected of him.
If his basketball exploits have gone to his head, he’s doing a good job of disguising it.
His work in the classroom seems to match his accomplishments on the basketball court. Ellis is a 4.0 student who delayed a trip to an all-star game in Venice Beach, Calif., in August so he wouldn’t miss trigonometry, physics and English classes.
“I didn’t want to miss the first couple days, because I have tough classes this year,” Ellis said. “I felt better doing that.”
It’s always interesting to see how the story ultimately unfolds. From my vantage point though, Ellis and his parents went about things the right way.