Ellis: 'I've always wanted to go there'

Monta Ellis never loses at March Madness 2004. It's because he always picks the same team. Always. His dream school. North Carolina.

"I have always wanted to go there," said Lanier High (Miss.) 6-3 ½, 185-pound junior Monta Ellis. "I watched them all the time when I was younger. Vincer Carter, Shammond Williams, Antawn Jamison and Ed Cota."

"When I play the video game, I picture myself wearing light blue," added Ellis, who is ranked No. 11 in the 2005 class by expert Dave Telep of TheInsidersHoops.

While Ellis' interest in the Tar Heels appears to be at a higher level than his two other favorites - Alabama and Texas - it's still somewhat unclear the value that Roy Williams places on landing Ellis.

Williams was at the KMOX Shootout last week to watch Ellis score 20 points in a sub-par effort in a loss to Belleville West (Ill.). That performance came on the heels of a 41-point outing (also a loss) to No. 1 Oak Hill Academy (Va.) at the Marshall County Hoopfest (Ky.) in which MVP Josh Smith handed the plaque [pictured above left] to Ellis, who had knocked down 6-of-13 from long-range, as a sign of respect.

According to Lanier coach Thomas Billups, the Tar Heels were represented at the Hoopfest as well and have been as active as any school in recruiting his star guard.

One thing is for certain: If the Tar Heels do step up their recruiting efforts with Ellis and make him a priority, they have a good chance of getting him out of Mississippi.

"It would be really, really tough to turn them (North Carolina) down," Ellis said. "With all the television exposure. I just always dreamed of playing there and that would be really difficult to turn down. I don't really want to stay close to home because it's messed up a lot of kids around here. I know I need to get away."

Ellis is a dead-eye shooter from the perimeter who can also score with his quickness in driving to the basket. Some have questioned his ability to run a team, but Billups scoffs at the critics.

"You won't find anyone else in the country his age who will play a better point guard or two-guard," Billups said. "He played his first two years for us at point guard. I've coached a lot of great players and I've never seen anyone like Monta. I think he's the best player ever to come out of Mississippi."

Ellis, who said he plans to make a college decision during the early signing period next year, is putting up big-time numbers once again. He averaged 20.1 points, 3.4 boards and 3.1 assists as a freshman and 27.2 points, 5.1 rebounds and 5 assists last season. So far, Ellis is putting up 34.2 points, 6.8 boards and 4.2 assists per contest.

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