Today we continue with our profiles on each of the six Indiana
basketball signees. Up next is Jamarcus Ellis who was named
this week as the Junior College Player of the Year. Find out why
the former Chicago area player is so highly acclaimed and a
legitimate starter candidate next fall.
Three years ago Jamarcus Ellis was battling with Shaun
Livingston for most people's vote as best high school player in
Illinois. Today Livingston is an NBA veteran making millions
and Jamarcus has yet to lace them up in front of a big crowd.
But Ellis has persevered and his patience is about to be
rewarded this fall in Bloomington. In fact one of the things I
immediately noticed about Ellis when I saw him last November was
his determination. He was very intense, no nonsense on the
court. In both games his team struggled early and he was
visibly upset and determined to do something about it. Given
that everyone has described him as very quiet, it was great to
see him get vocal with some teammates and show some on court
leadership. You sense also a very apparent inner strength in
him probably related to his tough times growing up and that
should bode well for dealing with the Big Ten pressure
situations he'll have ahead of him.
Jamarcus really looks like a "glue" guy that should be able
to fit around any Indiana lineup that Coach Sampson wants to
throw out there in his two years in Bloomington. That is because
Ellis does just about everything well. He rebounds, he defends,
he runs the offense when needed. There is not a whole lot to
complain about in terms of what he'll bring to the table at
If you want to
complain then the areas would be perimeter shooting outside of
15 feet and maybe the occasional bad decision with the
basketball. The latter should correct itself, the former is
anybody's guess. In the two games in Tennessee, Jamarcus did not
knock down any shots outside of about 12-15 feet. On the other
hand he was a terrific 15-16 from the free throw line over that
stretch. My guess is because his lefty shot is kind of a simple,
short motion shot, it may loses its effectiveness as more lift
and recoil is needed. Kind of the opposite of somebody like
Roderick Wilmont who shoots it better with more lift and full
motion versus a free throw where he has to limit that.
The stat line for Ellis shows his versatility. Playing on a
team that went 33-3 and was ranked #1 most of the year in the
top division of junior college, Ellis led his team in scoring
(17.1 ppg), rebounding (8.6 rpg), assists (6.0 apg), steals
(1.34 spg) and free throw shooting (79.7%). He may have showed
more range than I give him credit for by knocking down 20 of 60
three pointers (33.3%). Despite getting a lot of defensive
attention he was able to hit 48.6% of all his shots from the
Ellis led in all those categories despite playing on a very
loaded team. Of course his 6-foot-8 teammate DeAndre Thomas is
headed to Indiana as well. The you have sweet shooting forward
Victor Dubovitsky who signed with Texas A&M. Big forward
Johnnie Harris committed this week to play for Steve Alford out
in New Mexico.
Also when talking about Chipola personnel it is important to
note that in his first year at Chipola, Ellis did not play a lot
of point or handle the ball much because that team featured
point guard Stefhon Hannah. The Chicago native who played a part
in getting Ellis and Thomas to Chipola, went on to Missouri this
year and led the Tigers in both points and assists.
So with Hannah off to Missouri and no other highly acclaimed
point prospect on the roster, Ellis really took on mostly a
point guard responsibility this winter. Given the kind of
season Chipola had, it certainly appears that he did the job
well. When I saw him Jamarcus showed he could go behind his
back quite easily and is comfortable with the ball. Has a very
effective crossover move as well. What he really does well is
hold the ball high and make quick little flip passes inside to
cutters or posting big men. He also has a very nice tow-hand
outlet pass that you can see in the video highlights linked
below. There's no doubt that ability would have been of great
help to last year's Hoosier team.
Could Ellis play point guard for Indiana this year? I
suspect at times he will and he certainly has the court vision.
But it did appear his dribble was a bit high and like as
mentioned, decision making was sometimes questionable. Maybe
you see Ellis in a point forward type role given that he plays
so tall and you want him a little closer to the basket where he
can make quick slashes and help you on the boards.
Indiana is listing Ellis at 6-foot-5 and 200 pounds. Others
have listed him at 6-foot-4. All I can add there is he looked
at least a legit 6-foot-4. He definitely plays 6-foot-5 or
taller because of his long wingspan.
Ellis seemed to be a good but not great athlete. Or in other
words not a big leaper like a Wilmont or Ratliff. But because he
has a very long reach he throws it down without too much
trouble. What he does well is slash to the basket and then use
that reach to his advantage, often using the glass to finish his
drives even outside of layup range. Some of us in the crowd
when watching him commented how he was very old school in his
use of the glass in that 5-8 foot range from the hoop. He also
has little flips at the basket once he gets close that are a
little unorthodox but effective nonetheless. Probably helped
there by his long reach.
Ellis appears ready to come in and compete for a starting
wing spot. At minimum he should earn a role among the main
rotation. He might not replace the outside shooting of Roderick
Wilmont but he should give you Rod's ability to rebound against
taller players and do much more on drives and passes. He will
give Coach Sampson real flexibilty in that you can probably
throw any collection of four guys around him and he can find an
effective role to take on. Best of all he is coming to Indiana
with some determination and maybe a little chip on his shoulder.
Make your own opinion of Jamarcus Ellis by checking out
our video highlights of his play.