"Lance (Stephenson) is the engine," said Pretlow, "But Buddha makes it go."
Darwin Ellis, the kid they call "Buddha", is nothing if not a catalyst. The 5-foot-8, 155-pound senior is one of New York City 's most lethal shooters to be sure, but his value goes beyond that.
He is dogged as an on-the-ball defender, and supremely hard to keep in front of you. But most of what Ellis is for Lincoln falls into the realm of the intangible. He's the team's heartbeat, you might say, the guy from whom the blood courses.
"He's the heart and soul of this team," said Pretlow. "Without a doubt."
Morton points to Lincoln 's accomplishment's on Ellis' watch in order to convey his value to the program.
"His experience (is very valuable)," said Morton. "He has as much experience as anybody. Three city championships, two state (titles)."
It's heady stuff for a (very) undersized shooting guard, until you see the kid play.
The Erving Walker comparisons are apt: small and slight, devastating beyond the arc, with a knack for getting into the gaps to pick defenses apart. What set Walker apart was his robust hoops IQ, something Ellis shares with the University of Florida guard and fellow Brooklynite.
"He's a sparkplug," said Pretlow. "Just a sparkplug. He just plays hard and leaves it all on the floor."
The college equation is yet to be determined. Ellis lists St. Francis (N.Y.), Long Island University, and Manhattan , but is more focused on schoolwork than with schools at the moment.
"I haven't thought a lot about (colleges)," said Ellis. "I'm just trying to get my grades up."
Lincoln's lifeblood has proven that he's a capable defender and a consistent, zone-busting shooting threat. Next up: the transition to the point.
"I've been working on my point guard skills," said Elllis, with a smile. "My coach said I had 11 assists (in Thursday's win over Jefferson ). That's a first."