From being overlooked out of high school to a potential CCA starter, Louisville basketball goalie El Ellis discusses his slow rise and close connection to the coaching staff.
Louisville basketball combo guard El Ellis became the second highest-rated JUCO player in as many years to commit to head coach Chris Mack and the Cardinals.
While the prized rookie – current Clippers goaltender Jay Scrubb – rushed for the league last year, Ellis is on campus and ready to play a major role in Louisville.
Last season, Ellis averaged 17.7 points, 3.4 rebounds and 4.3 assists for Tallahassee Community College. Now he looks set to take his game to the next level.
This week, I spoke with Ellis to learn more about his background and how he ended up in a Louisville basketball uniform.
An outsider mentality
âIt was really tough for me,â Ellis said. Growing up in Durham, North Carolina, home to Duke University, El didn’t get the attention he hoped for early in his athletic career.
“(I was) often overlooked. I wasn’t considered one of the best players on the team. Having to go through that and play behind the guys, it was just a lot to grow up for real,” said Ellis.
Even though he tried his hand at other sporting avenues, at the end of the day there was only one true passion.
âIn high school, I tried football a bit. I played baseball in college, but didn’t try a lot of different things. Basketball was really my thing that I stayed with, âEllis said. Fortunately, he had a solid support cast in his corner.
âMy mom was the one who pushed me everyday to keep going and fighting, and that sooner or later it would work,â Ellis said.
Ellis worked hard on and off the pitch, but apparently to no avail.
âI didn’t have the scholarships I wanted,â he says. Nonetheless, Ellis had the confidence to continue honing his craft in an attempt to gain the attention of top college programs.
âHonestly, I’ve been in the gym longer than most guys and had a really good coaching staff over the past two years (at Tallahassee Community College) that really pushed me and helped me grow. as a player, âEllis said.
Upon arrival, Ellis was admittedly believed in some areas.
âWhen I first came (to Tallahassee) in first grade, it was really hard for me to go from high school to prom, so it was a lot for me,â Ellis said. “But I really had a good group of teammates pushing me every day.”
The more we talked, the more El came to me as one of Chris Mack’s âeveryday guysâ. He loves the grind and embraces adversity.
One night in Tallahassee
Ellis was on a collision course with Louisville basketball. The only variable was time.
Even being a child of Tobacco Road, Ellis was quite familiar with the UofL tradition.
âI knew a lot about Louisville basketball,â he told me. âWatch Donovan Mitchell, Russ Smith, Terry Rozier, guys like that. I paid a lot of attention to Louisville basketball growing up. Particularly in North Carolina, it is ACC territory.
Shortly after starting his career at JUCO, Ellis was starting to turn heads. The seeds of hard work were beginning to bear fruit.
âMaking a name for myself in Tallahassee has been the biggest part of my basketball career,â said Ellis. “Just to show everyone how good I was and not be the underdog anymore.” I had people coming to me every game.
Louisville coaching staff took note.
âMy first year when (Louisville) came to play (at) Florida State, Dino Gaudio, when he was here, came to watch me in practice,â Ellis said. Although the Cards gave up that game at the Seminoles, he started to form a strong bond with the entire staff from that point on.
âThe following week Coach Mack and I got in touch. It was all instantaneous from there. We talked almost every day, âEllis said.
Over time, Ellis was made a priority recruit by Mack. Thinking out loud, it’s a pretty special thing for Louisville to be able to go find such a talented guy from the house of Duke and play in the house of FSU, right under their noses.
Neither Duke nor Florida State offered Ellis. âAny game near me will be a personal game for me. Honestly, I can’t wait, âEllis said.
A new leader for Louisville basketball
In addition to his skills and work ethic, Ellis shed light on his leadership and team building abilities.
âI’m the guy who makes everyone laugh, I try to keep the guys together and try to have fun. It’s great off the pitch and it creates chemistry, just trying to have fun with your teammates and bond, âsaid Ellis.
Spoken like a potential future team captain.
If there is any question as to whether or not this is an achievable achievement, Ellis seems up to the challenge.
Ellis didn’t have any Division I offers out of high school. By the time he signed with Louisville basketball, he was at least 22. If his passing past hurdles is any indication, the best is yet to come.
Another sniper in the arsenal
Ellis began his DI career with a three-point shooting hotspot for Louisville basketball.
Joining Matt Cross, Jarrod West and Noah Locke, Ellis is making a quartet of transfers that all shot 40% or better from the field last season.
2020-21 will mark the first time in school history that Louisville will field a team with more than three players who are on average over 40 percent deep. Louisville head coach Chris Mack channeled his inner Thanos to add the transfer portal infinity gems needed after a dismal shooting season in 2020-21.
Ellis attributes his mind-blowing stats to his work ethic. “I know it’s going to help the team, just play hard and just try to help us win,” he told media on Wednesday. âItâs going to be the main thing. “Everything else will come together if I do just that.” “
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