Perry Ellis a different player after one season in D-League

Former KU forward Perry Ellis comes off the court after scoring 27 against Maryland in the NCAA Tournament. | Travis Heying | The Wichita Eagle

By Kellis Robinett

Perry Ellis has a message for those who haven’t seen him play basketball since his final college game at Kansas more than a year ago.

You may not recognize his new style.

“I am a little bit different player now,” Ellis said. “I would say I am shooting a lot more and putting in a lot of work on ballhandling and things of that sort. I have been focusing hard on that since the season ended and it is all really coming along. It is exciting to see how much progress I am making.”

Ellis, a former standout at Heights and KU, has played around the basket his entire life, so it’s not like he’s suddenly crossing over defenders and draining step-back threes. But the 6-foot-7 forward is ready to be more than a stretch four.

“I am definitely able to play a lot more positions,” Ellis said. “I am feeling a lot more comfortable doing that. Playing on the perimeter wasn’t something I used to be really comfortable with, because I hadn’t done it all my life, but I have really worked on it this spring.”

In time, he hopes to stop thinking about specific positions and just play.

“If you are able to do everything, you don’t need to worry about your position,” Ellis said. “It doesn’t really matter.”

This is the sort of lesson you learn while making the transition from college to the pros. Ellis wasn’t sure what to expect from his debut season with the Greensboro (N.C.) Swarm in the NBA Developmental League, but he vowed to become more versatile after averaging 9.7 points and 4.7 rebounds as a rookie.

It was a solid first season. He made 12 starts while playing in 50 games. He had as many as 25 points on his best nights, and contributed on several fronts. That was enough for him to gain attention from foreign teams. On Friday, Ellis signed with the Sydney Kings of Australia’s National Basketball League. He’ll play in that league if he doesn’t make an NBA roster this fall.

Still, things could have gone better.

“It was an up-and-down year,” Ellis said. “I was coming off an injury in the first half of the season, so it was tough getting in a groove. Later, I started figuring it out and things went really good. All in all it was a good experience and I learned a lot from it.”

The plan is for him to put his knowledge and new skills to good use overseas when the Australian season begins in October. But the NBA remains his dream.

He will take another shot at it in July when he plans to play in the NBA Summer League. A good month could further boost his pro appeal. But, as he learned last summer, that won’t be easy.

Though he went undrafted, Ellis thought he had a good shot at making an NBA roster when the summer league began. He had good workouts with several teams and landed a spot on the Dallas Mavericks’ roster, but he struggled when the games began. A sports hernia, which eventually required surgery, held him back.

“It didn’t go too well,” Ellis said. “I didn’t get to play much, then I got really sore and had to get surgery. I’m just excited to get another opportunity to go through it healthy this summer.”

Whatever happens, an adventure awaits.

Ellis has never been to Australia. There are worse places to spend the second season of your professional basketball career.

“I’m excited about it,” Ellis said. “This is a journey, and you never know where a journey will take you. If that’s the next step then I am happy to do it. I hear it is a beautiful place, and I love seeing different scenery. It will be good.”

Kellis Robinett: @kellisrobinett

More from this section