Perry Ellis has heard all the talk and hype as he enters his junior season. The 6-8, 225-pound Kansas forward is a preseason All-Big 12 selection, on the cover of preseason college basketball magazines, and listed by The Sporting News' Mike DeCourcy as the third best power forward in the land.
With the departure of Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid to the NBA, Ellis is the new face of Kansas basketball and the team’s leading returning scorer (13.5 ppg) and rebounder (6.7).
But don’t expect him to get caught up in the hoopla.0
“I really don’t pay much attention to it,” Ellis said. “It’s there, I know it’s happening. I really try to take my mind off of it. (But) it’s motivation for me to get better and work harder. That’s what I try to take it as.”
The Wichita native, who plans on shooting more threes in 2014-15, honed his game over the offseason.
“My shot has definitely gotten better and dribbling also,” Ellis said. “I’ve been dribbling a lot, trying to push the ball and working going coast to coast. The key for me is just going to bring energy and play with effort each possession and good things will happen.”
Ellis, whose confidence has grown each year, is now a completely different player than he was as a freshman, where he struggled a lot and averaged just 5.8 points and 3.9 boards in 13.6 minutes per game.
“The key thing is confidence,” Ellis said. “I feel like there’s a lot of things I can do. It’s just all in the mind. You just got to think you can do it. ... As I got older and older, I just realize confidence is key. If something (doesn’t) go well, I realized you can’t think about that. (You have to) move on from that, it’s just the next play.”
Ellis’ confidence got a huge boost this past summer where he played against some of the best in college basketball at the LeBron James Skills Academy, the Nike big man camp, and the Adidas Nations camp.
“It was a lot of confidence because those are some of the best players around the country,” Ellis said. “I went out there and did pretty good. I definitely left with the sense that I can do whatever I put mind to.”
Ellis is hoping KU’s early loss to Stanford in the second round of the NCAA Tournament last March will help the team focus its mind early on getting better.
“Every little things count,” he said. “We want to make sure we’re finding all these little things we’re doing wrong, because it could take just a little slip to turn a game around. If we realize that now I feel like it will help us tremendously.”
Ellis wants to go out with a bang during his junior year and win a national championship.
“That’s always a goal,” he said. “We want to think that. We just got to take it game by game ... and go from there.”
MORE FROM PERRY ELLIS
On choosing Shaquille O’Neal’s jersey No. 34 at a young age?
“He was just a dominant force back in the day when I was watching him,” Ellis said. “I just happened to watch a lot and picked his number 34 when I was real little and I just kept it ever since.”
And you're the same weight as Shaq, right?
“Not at all,” Ellis said with a laugh.
On modeling his game after former KU standout and current Phoenix Suns’ forward Marcus Morris?
“I’ve been looking at a lot of film on him and just learning from him and what he did,” Ellis said.
Ellis said he saw that that Marcus and his twin brother Markieff shared a four-year contract extension worth $52 million.
“It’s definitely encouraging (since I’m a similar player as Marcus) and just shows that, God willing, if you get the opportunity, you can do that,” Ellis said.
On the four freshmen:
“It’s a fun experience I think to meet all these new guys and try to figure out how to become a great team,” Ellis said.