Since he had already had Kansas,?Kansas State and Wichita State coaches visits in the past seven days, recruit Perry Ellis and his family knew they would hear some of the same things from Kentucky coach John Calipari Friday that the other coaches had told them.
However, Calipari was much more clear about one thing — playing at Kentucky is not for everybody and no one is guaranteed playing time.
"He said that he would love to coach him, but he also said it is hard to play at Kentucky," said Fonda Ellis, Perry Ellis' mother. "He said it is hard and not for everybody and you really have to have a mindset that this is what I want to do. It is not an easy road.
"He said, ‘I don't promise starting, playing time, how many shots you are going to get. We try to bring in a lot of good players and I?don't want to promise anything because I don't want you to fall back on what I said. I?am honest with everybody. We might bring two or three guys in at the same position and everybody will be fighting for that spot. We will be competitive and you will be playing with great kids in practice. I want you to know that.'"
Fonda Ellis said other coaches presented the same idea, but Calipari "just went out there and said it" early to make sure there was no confusion.
"Instead of it coming out through questions we asked, he just told us that was the way he was," Fonda Ellis said.
She noted that Calipari referred to interviews where John Wall, the No. 1 pick in the 2010 NBA draft, emphasized that he was not promised a starting spot or so many minutes per game when he came to Kentucky.
"He just brought all that up himself to be up front with Perry. He wanted us all to know it would be hard at Kentucky, but he also said that makes you want to work," she said.
"Hearing Kentucky was not for everybody was no surprise. We have heard that before. He pre-warned us before we took our unofficial visit. He said, ‘It's not a walk in the park. The fans are tough. The media is tough. You might have one person telling you one thing and someone else telling you something else. But it's all about Kentucky basketball. Basketball is really important to the fans and not everybody can handle that.' He just wanted to make sure we knew that."
However, he also wanted to make sure the 6-9 recruit, who is ranked among the nation's top 30 players, knows how much Kentucky wants him. Calipari offered him a scholarship when he was a freshman and Calipari was coaching at Memphis where Ellis' sister played. He extended a UK?offer as soon as he got the job at Kentucky.
Calipari brought assistant coaches Orlando Antigua and Kenny Payne both with him Friday.
"Coach Payne said this really was his first summer to watch Perry play and he really enjoyed watching and would love to have him come, too," Fonda Ellis said.
Calipari, like the previous coaches, talked about how he would use Ellis and said he would see him playing either a "3 (small forward) or 4 (power forward)" since they were similar in his system.
"He said he could see him guarding a 2 (two guard) also," Fonda Ellis said.
She said it was a "positive and open" visit that lasted almost two hours and included a highlight DVD as well as a look at what the new players' lodge would look like and how conveniently located it would be.
She said the family knew a lot about UK?from its unofficial visit when her son went to class with UK?junior Jon Hood, met the academic advisor and got a watch a practice and game.
"Coach Cal talked about how he liked watching Perry this summer and told him you could not always be at your best. There would be ups and downs," Fonda Ellis said. "He talked about family and we are big on family. He said he liked to have guys over and his wife will cook or guys will just hang out and watch movies. He is real big on family and having his team over, which I like."
Perry Ellis did not set an official visit or make a commitment to Kentucky, but Calipari did not pressure him to do either.
"He told him he had to do what was right for you," Ellis' mother said. "He said, ‘You are not trying to please other people. Do what is right for you.' It got you thinking about what to do. He told us to call and he would be glad to schedule an official visit."
There was no specific NBA talk other than Calipari shared the success story of previous players and how he tries to help them. He also stressed that while his time coaching the Dominican Republic national team had been tiresome, he had also learned things that would help him at Kentucky.
Fonda Ellis says the family along with her son's high school and AAU coaches must decide how many official visits Perry Ellis will take.
"Nobody is telling Perry what to do. He has four great options and we are going to support his decision," Fonda Ellis said. "He has known these four coaches a long time. That's why they are still on his list. They have all recruited him for three or four years. He has built relationships with them all, and that does make it harder to pick one. Coach Cal asked Perry what he wanted and Perry told him he wanted to ‘feel comfortable and be around people he could trust.'
"Perry just needs to re-evaluate everything. Four visits in eight days in a lot to soak in. He still likes them all. It would be easier if there was one team or coach he didn't like any more. But that's not the case."
Fonda Ellis gives post visit update
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