Chipola (Fla.) Junior College Coach Greg Heiar knows what IU will be getting with the arrival of Jamarcus Ellis next fall.
"He's the most complete player I've ever had," Heiar said.
Now, gratuitous praise is nothing new from coaches about their standout players, but that proclamation, quite frankly, is nothing to simply pass over.
In the last two years alone, Heiar tutored a trio of players that are making huge impacts in the Big 12 this season. Former Chipola big man Mario Boggan is averaging 20.2 points and 8.0 rebounds in his second season at Oklahoma State and is a potential All-American. In addition, 2006 Chipola J.C. grads Stefhon Hannah and Mike Taylor are making their presences known at Missouri and Iowa State, respectively. Hannah is averaging a team-high 15.7 points, 4.6 assists and 2.5 steals for Coach Mike Anderson's Tiger squad, and Taylor leads Coach Greg McDermott's Iowa State team in both scoring (16.2) and assists (4.4).
But Heiar thinks the best of the bunch could be the one headed to Bloomington.
Ellis is a 6-5, 200-pounder from Chicago who has guided Chipola to a 27-1 record this season. He's averaging 17.2 points, 9.7 rebounds, 7.1 assists, 2.2 steals and 1.5 blocks per game, and he's tallied five triple doubles. Heiar believes his standout has positioned himself for serious consideration as the National Junior College Player of the Year.
"He's been Mr. Everything to this team," Heiar said.
And Heiar means that, literally. The former Chicago Westinghouse H.S. standout can play any one of four positions on the floor, ranging from point guard to power forward. His specialty has been doing whatever his team needs to be successful, whether that's scoring, rebounding, defending, or getting his teammates involved.
"He's the kind of player who does whatever it takes to win," Heiar said. "He's had a couple of games where in the last four minutes he's just completely taken the game over – and I mean completely taken it over, in every facet – and put us on his back to win the game."
It's a role Ellis has excelled at during his two years at Chipola, and it's one Heiar expects him to have next year once he puts on an IU uniform and suits up for Kelvin Sampson.
"I don't see his role changing at all at Indiana," Heiar said. "Talking to those coaches, they know Jamarcus really well and they know what they're getting. Some people up there might not understand what type of player they're getting, but they're getting a kid that will do whatever it takes to win."
While toughness, leadership and versatility might be Ellis' greatest strengths, he's made strides in a couple areas of his game from a year ago as well. He's always been adept at putting the ball on the floor and attacking the basket – evidenced by his team-high 132 free-throw attempts this season – but he's also spent plenty of time extending his range.
"His jump shot is much better," Heiar said. "He's worked hard on that. He's not just a get to the basket type of guy now. He can make the open 3, he's got a little pull up game."
Heiar attributes Ellis' improvement in that area and his overall success to the time and effort he puts in on the practice floor. That's been especially true this season, when he's assumed the team's leadership responsibilities with the departure of Hannah and Taylor.
"The truth of the story is it's all because of how hard he practices, how tough he is on a day to day basis in practice," Heiar said. "It's his team this year, and he's shown the type of leadership that everyone said he had when he came out of Westinghouse High School."
That figures to be a good fit at Indiana under Sampson, a coach long known for rigorous practices and demanding a great deal from his players. That's a big reason why Ellis opted to spurn plenty of other scholarship offers to return to the Midwest and play in Bloomington.
It also didn't hurt that Sampson had recruited Ellis when he was a high school standout in Chicago and then kept tabs on him again while he was leading the Oklahoma program.
"I think the thing that stood out to Jamarcus about Coach Sampson is one, they've had a relationship for a long time, and two, Coach Sampson has had so much success with junior college kids, kids that are very similar to Jamarcus," Heiar said. "Jamarcus knows toughness is what Coach Sampson is all about, and Jamarcus loves that because that's what he is – he's a tough kid, he loves to work hard and he loves to win."
Ellis To Provide A Little Bit of Everything
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