Kansas coach Bill Self recalled a stretch last year when forward Perry Ellis killed it. It was late in the season, a two-week period when Ellis averaged 23.5 points and shot 66 percent from the field.
“All-America, first-team-type dominant, right before he got hurt,” Self said.
A knee injury ended the run and slowed Ellis. A year later, he is on a similar tear, only this one started earlier and has lasted longer.
Over the last six games, Ellis averaged 20.3 points and shot 63 percent from the field, increasing his season averages to 16.9 points and 53 percent.
It’s Ellis’ best stretch of the year, and he looks to keep it going Saturday when sixth-ranked Kansas visits No. 3 Oklahoma at 1:30 p.m.
The shooting percentage is the key. More efficient offense — and a greater determination by Ellis —has led to the increased production.
“I haven’t really been thinking about it, I’ve just been attacking a lot and making those shots,” said Ellis, who had 27 points and 13 rebounds in Kansas’ triple overtime victory over the Sooners last month. “Maybe I’m attacking the basket a little more aggressively, taking my time off the dribble, not just rushing into it and using my dribble a little bit more.”
Ellis is coming off a 21-point game against West Virginia. He hit seven of nine shots from the floor and made one of two three-point attempts. Always a perimeter threat, Ellis is having the best shooting season of his career, hitting 47.5 percent of his threes.
The improvement in that aspect of Ellis’ game has a specific origin. Last summer, Ellis was under orders from Kansas coaches to work on NBA-range three-pointers, not necessarily to prep him for the next level, but to make the college stripe — 3 feet closer behind the key and on the wings — seem easier.
“It helped just stretching my range,” Ellis said. “At first I wasn’t comfortable shooting those shots, then I gradually started getting better and better.”
Opponents have to respect Ellis’ range and his ability to put the ball on the floor.
“I think he’s settling less than maybe what he has in the past,” Self said. “He’s driving it more. And he’s a terrific in-between jump shooter.”
In between, as in the space between the basket and three-point line. In his last two games, Ellis is 17 for 19 on two-point field-goal attempts.
He’s cracked the Jayhawks’ top 15 lists for career scoring and rebounding, the eighth player to reside that high on both lists. After Tuesday’s victory, West Virginia coach Bob Huggins observed the abundance of banners honoring KU greats hanging from the Allen Fieldhouse rafters and suggested the school make room for Ellis.
That possibility may depend on what occurs over the next few weeks. Kansas is tied for first place with the Sooners and West Virginia as the Jayhawks bid for a 12th straight Big 12 title. Ellis seems a lock to repeat his first-team All-Big 12 status, but he’s also landing on late-season watch lists for the Wooden and Naismith Hall of Fame awards.
A spot on the All-America first team isn’t a long shot. Ellis has been making a strong case over the last few weeks. Continue on the current pace, and he and Kansas will move closer to those achievements.