While the University of Kansas men’s basketball team fights to keep its season alive with an Elite Eight matchup against Oregon set for Saturday night, former Jayhawk Perry Ellis will be preparing for the end of his own season.
After going undrafted in this past year’s NBA draft and making stops with the Dallas Mavericks and Charlotte Hornets, Ellis found a landing spot with the Greensboro Swarm of the NBA Development League.
With the regular season winding down, Ellis reflected on his first year in the D-League, and the adjustments he has had to make transitioning from college ball.
“Playing at KU for four years is a whole different process,” he said. “It’s a grind, I’ve learned a lot this first year playing professionally. Overall I’m looking back on it, the season’s almost over and I’ve learned a lot and know what I need to work on for the summer.”
In 47 games this season for the Swarm, Ellis is averaging 9.3 points and 4.4 rebounds a game in about 21 minutes of playing time.
With circumstances constantly changing in the D-League, the 23-year-old is content with the performances he has put together in his first season of professional basketball.
“You know I thought it was good, it’s tough because the team changes and people get sent down, so sometimes you don’t get many minutes,” Ellis said. “The key thing I’ve learned is you just gotta take advantage of every opportunity and any minutes you get.”
Right away, Ellis said he noticed the differences in style of play between the two levels, but has taken the necessary steps to adjusting.
“It’s a lot faster, definitely because of the shot clock and all that,” he said. “I’d say there’s a lot more space on the floor, a lot more spacing and it took some adjusting to get used to.”
He added: “I think the main thing was watching a lot of film, watching myself out on the court. Looking for openings that I had, just taking my time. Even though the shot clock’s fast, you still have a lot of time to make plays.”
Having a former teammate on the team has also helped Ellis.
Cheick Diallo, who played for Kansas last season before being drafted in the second round of the draft, is also on the Greensboro roster.
“It’s cool, we battle, we had a lot of practices together at Kansas and all that so it was good seeing him and seeing him develop,” Ellis said. “We’re both just trying to get better.”
Away from his own season, Ellis had high praise for his former college team, especially the trio of Frank Mason III, Devonte’ Graham and Landen Lucas.
Ellis played three of his four years with Mason III and Lucas, and two with Graham.
“I’ve played with them, we’ve been through ups-and-downs so it’s good seeing them do great. They’re really playing well right now so it’s a good thing to see,” he said.
The admiration didn’t stop there, as Ellis raved about freshman sensation and future lottery draft pick Josh Jackson.
“I love watching him play because of the energy he brings on both the defensive and offensive sides,” Ellis said. “He has an aggressiveness about him that’s fun to watch, he’s a competitor and I would tell him to keep that up and just keep playing with his heart and good things will happen.”
Seeing the Jayhawks defeat the Ducks on Saturday would mean a trip to the Final Four, something Ellis never had the chance to play in.
His advice: Keep playing the way they’re playing.
“They’re sharing the ball, and the guys are just having fun competing and just have to try not to put on added pressure,” Ellis said. “Just keep playing how they are and playing free, and I believe good things will happen.”
As the offseason looms, Ellis is prepared to do whatever he needs to in the summer to improve on his game, including his ability from the perimeter.
“I’ve learned a lot about what I can improve on,” he said. “I’ve never had a lot of time when I could work on perimeter stuff, but now after the season I have a lot of time to be able to do that, and I feel like that’ll really help me a lot.
“Just (improving) my overall game, being able to play the three a lot more and also the four, so I feel like that’s what will really help me.”