”Everybody doesn’t love the game, you grow into loving the game,” Izzo said. ”It didn't happen at the beginning of the summer, but it really did at the end of the summer. …
”He came alive the second half of the summer and he's definitely competing for a starting spot.”
Ellis too said it came around later this summer. It was when he realized the Spartans would need players to step up with pieces departed from last year’s roster.
”I knew I had to be one of those people to step up,” he said.
That manifested itself with more time in the gym as he worked to improve all areas of his game.
”My freshman year, coming into it, I wasn’t in the gym that much,” he said. “I was just adjusting to the schedule and playing style, but this summer I really made a jump in working in my game.”
The summer consisted of workouts with fellow guards Denzel Valentine and Bryn Forbes – many with grad assistants such as Drew Valentine – as well as film sessions. The result was a much improved shot, something he said he realized he had to improve after watching Gary Harris last year.
“Gary made a lot of shots and just knocked down shots,” Ellis said. “I knew we were going to need that again this year. We have a lot of scorers this year and I just knew that I needed to work on my jump shot a lot.”
While his shot has improved, Izzo said the Spartans are working on his ball handling, passing and cutting down turnovers.
”I’ve just gotta keep working all around,” Ellis said. “That’s what I’m doing right now is just keep working on my shot, my ball handling and my defense.
”I can always be better at everything.”
But with the work ethic in the mix and “the bug” stuck, Ellis is in the mix to start for the Spartans this season.
”Now, he's getting a little bit more of the bug,” Izzo said. “He is improving in areas. When I say he's very solid in a lot of those areas, he is very solid in a lot of those areas.
”That means with a little bit more, he's capable of starting on this team.”