New Albany, Ind. – JaMarcus Ellis' first glimpse of IU basketball came via a peek through the door.
The 6-5, 210-pound junior college transfer had heard the stories about the state's love of basketball, but the Chicago product got a first-hand look at it at the New Albany H.S. gymnasium Thursday night in the first of five barnstorming games for the Hoosiers' 2007 recruiting class.
What Ellis saw was 3,500 fans that showed up an hour before the game, stood on their feet throughout, and welcomed a recruiting class that is among the best in the nation.
"When I was peaked in through the door, it was like, ‘wow, all these fans support us,'" Ellis said. "That makes me feel a lot more welcome at IU."
While Ellis got a glimpse of the IU fan base, those in attendance got a glimpse of a player who will play a huge role in the Hoosiers' success this fall. While he's not as heralded as McDonald's All-American Eric Gordon, Ellis put on a show in helping the IU recruits to a 140-106 win over the New Albany All-Stars in New Albany.
Ellis finished with a modest 12 points on 6-of-12 shooting, but added 16 rebounds, 14 assists, three steals, and a potpourri of head-turning passes that dazzled those in attendance.
"Assists to me is just like scoring," Ellis said. "I like hearing the crowd ooh and ahh. (My teammates) like doing stuff off the passes I get them."
There were plenty of happy teammates Thursday night. Tops among those was Gordon, who finished with a game-high 38 points on 16-of-27 shooting. In fact, all of the members of the Hoosiers' 2007 class reached double figures, as Gordon was joined by Eli Holman (30), Jordan Crawford (22), Brandon McGee (15) and DeAndre Thomas (13). Class of 2008 commit Bud Mackey (eight points) and Ray McCallum, Jr. (three points) rounded out the Indiana recruit squad.
Holman – who said afterwards that he was cleared to play this year by the Clearinghouse a couple weeks ago – didn't miss a shot until the final two minutes and was 14-of-15 from the floor and added 10 rebounds and six blocks. Crawford nearly had a triple double of his own, adding eight rebounds and nine assists.
But on a night of impressive efforts, it was Ellis who made the biggest impression.
"(Jamarcus) is an overall player," Gordon said. "He rebounds, he gets points. I've never played with a guy his size that can rebound like that. He's an impact player.
"I played against him in high school. He's matured and is a lot better. He's going to be a good player here."
Ellis will be making his presence known at a variety of positions this winter. He has the size and rebounding skill to play small forward, but the ball handling and passing skills to play the point as well.
"I could see myself playing the point, shooting guard, small forward," Ellis said. "I expect to play my role, be an impact player, do what Coach (Kelvin) Sampson wants me to do. Get D.J. (White) and E.J. (Eric Gordon) the ball, get in there and rebound and help the team win."
He did that Thursday night, and he'll be counted on to do it once the season starts in November. He and Gordon both showed why it will be very hard to keep them out of the starting lineup by the time the season arrives. While many of the players were raving about Ellis' play Thursday, the reigning Junior College Player of the Year was equally impressed with his new teammates, particularly Gordon.
"He's incredible," Ellis said of Gordon. "He's living up to the hype. Living the life of a basketball star. He earned it, worked hard everyday. He's fun to play with."
It was an all-around fun atmosphere for the newest Hoosiers, who buried their New Albany All-Star foes with a barrage of fastbreak dunks and highlight reel plays. The recruits' effort was well received by the fans in the stands, and the fans' presence was a welcomed sight to Ellis and his teammates.
"I heard it was sold out, I looked in the window, I was like, ‘wow, it is sold out,'" Ellis said. "Everyone loves what IU is bringing to the program, and we sure appreciate the fans coming out to see us play."
IU Recruit Statistics:
D. Thomas 6-11 1-2 13, Crawford 8-12 4-4 22, Ellis 6-12 0-0 12, Gordon 16-27 3-3 38, Holman 14-15 1-1 30, McCallum 0-1 2-2 2, Mackey 3-9 1-2 8, McGee 7-9 1-4 15. Totals 60-96 13-18 140. Rebounds: 62 (Ellis 16, Holman 10), Assists: 32 (Ellis 14, Crawford 9), Blocks 14 (Holman 6, McGee 4).
Ellis, IU Recruits Dazzle In New Albany
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