perseverance and then there is perseverance. The saga of
is part of the latter. At age six his father was tragically stabbed
to death. Then while in eighth grade he lost his mother to lung
cancer. Growing up in the tough streets of Chicago with six younger
siblings to look out for, it was probably enough to break many
kids. But the 6-foot-5, 200-pound Ellis found refuge in the game of
Ellis hung with the game and school at Westinghouse despite some
struggles in the classroom. After graduating from Westinghouse
High in 2004, he kept his basketball dreams alive by heading to
Chipola Junior College in Marianna, Florida, a town in the
middle for the Florida panhandle.
"He comes from a tough family background and is so strong willed
and has a great heart coming from that type of background," says
Chipola head coach Greg Heiar.
Ellis was pretty highly regarded coming out of the Chicago high
school ranks but the Chipola coach think he has taken his game
to another level.
"He has really matured as a basketball player," said Heiar. "I
think he'll be in the top five (Juco rankings) and top 10 for
sure. I think Indiana is getting the most versatile basketball
player....it is going to be hard to find a kid with more
versatility than Jamarcus Ellis. He averaged 9.9 rebounds as a
three as a freshman. Go across the board in the NCAA and find
me another three that averaged 9.9 boards. He is just a great
get for them."
To go along with those 9.9 boards, Ellis produced 13.5 points,
5.5 assists, 2.5 blocks and 2.5 steals. Impressive stats for a
freshman on a team that had to feature D1 bound sophomores.
"Last year I had seven guys average between 9.5 and 15 points
per game," said Heiar. "Both my guards from last year are going
to the Big 12 and one is going to Bowling Green, one is going to
Louisiana-Monroe, one is going to Fresno State...so we really
had some good players."
The commitment to Indiana may have took other high major schools
"Oklahoma came in to see him, Oklahoma State was looking at
him a little bit," said Heiar. "I think a lot of
schools....no one thought he was going to sign early, so
they were kind of waiting until the fall to come in and see
him. Texas A&M was in to see him."
"I think there would have been others that would have been
interesting in hosting him for a visit but Jamarcus was
serious about Indiana and that is how it went down so
Some leg work last year didn't hurt.
"(Indiana assistant) Coach (Ray) McCallum recruited him when
he was at Oklahoma," said Heiar. "He saw him play once last
The Hoosiers are also tracking another Chicago area player
on the Chipola roster.
"I think they are watching DeAndre Thomas's progress
throughout the year," said Heiar.
Thomas also played his high school ball at Westinghouse. He
is beefy (6-foot-7, 270-pound) power forward.
The coach told us that Ellis will be finished with his
classwork at Chipola in early May of next year. He added
that another trip to Bloomington is expected soon.
"I know (last week's visit) was an unofficial visit because
they were talking about taking him back up there in the
fall," said Heiar.
While he went to junior college for academic reasons, that
issue seems well under control now.
"They (Indiana) couldn't believe it when they got his
transcript," said Heiar. "He only needed 14 hours and could
have graduated this summer but he wanted to come back for
While there was talk that off the court issues kept some
away back in his Westinghouse days, the Chipola coach was
pretty adamant that Indiana is getting a pretty mature
"He is a great kid, low maintenance when it comes to off the
court," said Heiar. "I will be honest with you, people said
a lot of stuff about him when he was coming out of high
school but I have had no problems with him. He has done
everything I have asked him to do. He has gotten good
grades in the classroom. What some people may say and what I
see on a day to day basis are two totally different things
and I am with him every day."