Perry Ellis knows a thing or two about dealing with massive expectations.
Regarded as one of the top hoops prospects in the Class of 2012 since before the start of his freshman year at Wichita (KS) Heights, he's spent the past three years and change living up to those expectations. Now a senior, Ellis has Heights in line for yet another Kansas Class 6A state championship, as the Falcons are currently the owners of a spotless 14-0 record.
The key, in his mind, has been team chemistry. It's always been about team chemistry.
"All the teams, through my freshman, sophomore and junior years, it was all great chemistry," Ellis said. "That's what pushed us, and in close games gave us the edge."
Thus far, the 6-foot-8, 225-pound combo forward is averaging 26.5 points and 9.7 rebounds per game, while shooting 70-percent from the floor and better than 45-percent from three. And while he's a notorious hard worker when it comes to his game, it's the mental side in which he feels he's seen the most improvement this year.
"I improved a lot on just playing hard every play and just demanding the ball," Ellis said. "I'm doing that a lot more, and it's helping me."
Like all great talents, he has set goals for himself and his team along the way, many of which he's achieved. State champion, three-time Kansas Gatorade Player of the Year - Ellis has earned these titles and more.
Recently, he surpassed another milestone - a big one - without even having known he had done so, when he topped former Kapaun Mt. Carmel and University of Kansas star Greg Dreiling's all-time scoring mark in the Wichita City League.
"It was something I really didn't pay much attention to," the soft-spoken Ellis said. "I didn't even know I was close, honestly. I just took it game by game and it happened to come up. There were a lot of great players before me, so it's a real blessing."
And on Thursday he put yet another feather in his cap, with his official selection to the 2012 McDonald's All-American Game. Ellis will represent the East Squad in the annual all-star event, which is slated for March 28 at the United Center in Chicago.
He described his selection - which he has known about for a couple of days - as "humbling."
"It just shows that all the hard work really paid off," Ellis said. "From freshman year it's been a goal of mine, and I just really worked."
Ellis will be in attendance at Allen Fieldhouse on Saturday, to watch his future teammates take on Oklahoma State.