One of the more interesting moments of Kansas’ 69-64 victory over Texas came nearly an hour after the game, as Kansas coach Bill Self stood in front of a handful of reporters after his postgame news conference.
Kansas’ Perry Ellis had just dropped 28 points and 13 rebounds on Texas’ towering frontcourt. Texas coach Rick Barnes had (twice) referred to Ellis as a senior during his postgame comments. And Self said something that was sure to get some Kansas fans’ attention.
“If he keeps playing well, he will be a senior,” Self said, implying that this could be Ellis’ final season at KU. “Which is fine. That’s what you want. You want guys to play well, so they can put themselves in good position.”
If it wasn’t already clear, Self was speaking of Ellis’ NBA stock, which is certainly trending upward after he averaged 22.4 points and eight rebounds during the Jayhawks’ last five games. During the same span, Ellis is shooting 57.5 percent from the floor, and his offensive rating is up to 109.8, according to KenPom.com.
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“He’s playing as well as anybody in the country, I would think, right now,” Self said.
This is true enough, but Perry Ellis leaving early for the NBA? Hmm.
Let’s examine. For one, college production or stardom doesn’t necessarily make a player a coveted NBA prospect, and the case of Ellis as prospect can be complicated. For the moment, Ellis is not listed among the top 100 prospects at DraftExpress.com or on the Big Board of ESPN draft analyst Chad Ford. Given Ellis’ size — maybe 6 feet 8 — and tweener status, it has always seemed as if Ellis would be a lock to return to Kansas for his senior season.
So why would Ellis flirt with the draft? Well, the argument for that might look like this. He IS undersized and he IS a tweener, and if he were to finish the season strong and lead Kansas to a deep run in the NCAA Tournament, his stock might never be higher — even if he were to return and have a standout senior season. His limitations will be there next year, too, and given his physical tools, he may never be much more than a fringe first-round pick — if that.
Ellis has been a source of intrigue for the scouts that have paraded through Allen Fieldhouse this season. According to an NBA scout who attended a Kansas home game earlier this season, Ellis is at least getting evaluated by NBA teams in case he were to become draft eligible. He is a natural scorer and very skilled, and perhaps he could slot into a second-round-type pick for the right team. But for the moment, that appears to be his ceiling.
Ellis is perhaps playing like one of the best players in the country right now. And Self has a history of speaking honestly about his players’ NBA prospects — and the idea that certain players may leave school early. So maybe that’s why Self’s comments about Ellis were a little jarring.
Ellis seems like a classic four-year college player — talented enough to piece together a great career, but lacking the tools that make him attractive to NBA scouts. That’s most likely still the case. But perhaps it’s something to track over the next few months.
How Kansas’ title streak measures up
If Oklahoma loses on Monday night at Iowa State, Kansas will clinch at least a share of its 11th straight Big 12 title. If Oklahoma wins on the road, Kansas can clinch a share with a victory over West Virginia on Tuesday night at Allen Fieldhouse.
The streak, according to the NCAA record book, would then be tied for the second-longest conference-title streak in history.
Look at the Greene-o-meter
After a victory over Texas Tech on Feb. 10, sophomore guard Brannen Greene was shooting 52.3 percent (34 of 65) from the three-point line — a mark that would have set the KU single-season record for three-point percentage.
Greene, perhaps, was due for some regression, and it’s hit hard over the last five games. Greene is just two of 14 from three-point range during the stretch, and he finished zero for two against Texas.
The player of the game
Perry Ellis, junior forward
One more number on Ellis, who was selected the Big 12 player of the week on Monday. After scoring 28 points against Texas, Ellis recorded more than 20 points in three straight games for the first time in his career.
The stat of the game.
The Jayhawks have now won 23 straight games at Allen Fieldhouse.