Monta Ellis: The Big Three

Lanier (Miss.) junior guard Monta Ellis put up 41 against top-ranked Oak Hill and was so highly regarded after the performance that Josh Smith handed him the MVP trophy. Smith isn't the only one holding Ellis in such high esteem.

Monta Ellis has no desire to stay too close to home.

The Lanier (Miss.) 6-3 ½, 185-pound junior guard, who recently torched Oak Hill Academy (Va.) for 41 points in a loss to the nation's No. 1 team, has three clear leaders – North Carolina, Alabama and Texas.

However, one of them really stands out.

Just ask Ellis who he chooses when he plays March Madness 2004 to find out where he'd like to play his college ball.

``I have always wanted to go there (to North Carolina)," Ellis said. "I watched them all the time when I was younger. Vincer Carter, Shammond Williams, Antawn Jamison and Ed Cota."

``When I play the video game, I picture myself wearing light blue," Ellis added.

Tar Heels coach Roy Williams was at the KMOX Shootout last week to watch Ellis score 20 points in a sub-par effort in a loss to Belleville West (Ill.). That performance came on the heels of his spectacular outing (also a loss) to No. 1 Oak Hill Academy (Va.) at the Marshall County Hoopfest (Ky.) in which MVP Josh Smith handed the trophy to Ellis, who had knocked down 6-of-13 from long-range, as a sign of respect.

``It would be really, really tough to turn them (North Carolina) down," Ellis said. "With all the television exposure. I just always dreamed of playing there and that would be really difficult to turn down. I don't really want to stay close to home because it's messed up a lot of kids around here. I know I need to get away."

``As for Texas, I have family there and when I was younger, I stayed in Houston," Ellis added. "My dad still lives in Houston. Alabama has a good program, also, and they have sent a lot of guys to the NBA. My friend, Mo Williams, played there and it's really the one school I'm looking at that's fairly close to home."

Ellis is a dead-eye shooter from the perimeter who can also score with his quickness in driving to the basket. Some have questioned his ability to run a team, but Billups scoffs at the critics.

``You won't find anyone else in the country his age who will play a better point guard or two-guard," Billups said. "He played his first two years for us at point guard. I've coached a lot of great players and I've never seen anyone like Monta. I think he's the best player ever to come out of Mississippi."

Ellis, who said he plans to make a college decision during the early signing period next year, is putting up big-time numbers once again. He averaged 20.1 points, 3.4 boards and 3.1 assists as a freshman and 27.2 points, 5.1 rebounds and 5 assists last season. So far, Ellis is putting up 34.2 points, 6.8 boards and 4.2 assists per contest.

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