A 5-foot-1 bundle of giggles, smiles and energy, Jessy Ellis is the little engine that could. So small she could bathe in a soup bowl, Ellis offers up a little-girl voice that has seventh grade written all over it.
Ellis is so small she was once pushed through a school bus window on a road trip to Ouachita, so she could unlock the yellow transport.
But Jessy Ellis is a Southwood senior and perhaps the best player on perhaps the best Class 5A girls basketball team in the state. Beneath the cuddly exterior off the court, beats the heart of a champion on the court.
“What makes playing her challenging is her quickness and her ability to see the floor very well,” said Byrd’s 6-0 point guard Diamond Willis. “She’s good at finding her teammates or creating a shot for herself.”
Just how important is Ellis to coach Steve McDowell’s 31-1 club? The only Southwood loss so far this season came to Flower Mound (Texas) when Ellis missed half the game with a stumped toe.
“I believe she is the most complete point guard I have ever seen in my coaching career,” said Airline coach David Duhon. “If you play her man, she breaks you down. If you play zone, she penetrates and dishes.”
Ellis hopes to lead the Lady Cowboys to a win over Denham Springs at 8 p.m. on Friday in the 2013 LHSAA Regional Championships in the CenturyLink Center.
“We are really excited. We take each game a step at a time and play hard, play smart, so we can go to the championship game,” Ellis said on Thursday, while toeing McDowell’s company line.
Parkway coach Aaron Megee said Ellis became a different player this year.
“Jessy is both the most improved player and the most complete player in the area,” Megee said. “She was impossible to stop.”
Byrd coach Toni Martinez had the unenviable task of trying to find a way to slow down Ellis, who upped her scoring average this winter.
“She’s so smart and talented. In my opinion, Jessy’s the best point guard in the state by far,” Martinez said. “She is so quick and if you back off, she can shoot the jumper.”
Almost joined at the hip with Lady Cowboys forward Kourtney Pennywell, the pair have grown up together on the basketball court. They’ve played together since the sixth grade with Pennywell providing the power and Ellis the grace for McDowell.
“I feel blessed to have had those two young ladies in my program. They’ve had a big impact on our team,” McDowell said.
“They’ve been together so long that they communicate well and they know where each other are going to be on the court.”
Because of her size, college recruiters haven’t been beating down Ellis’ door. That’s because there are few ways for college coaches to measure heart. Jessy Ellis will eventually make some college coach look very smart.
“Jessy has been praying that people would look beyond her size to see her heart,” said Nicole Ellis, her mother. “People have told her she’s too small. But she trains every day and keeps pushing herself. I’ve told her that she belongs to God and allow him to do the rest.”
Standing outside the Lady Cowboys gym on Thursday afternoon, Ellis stood tall, well, as tall as she’s capable, and said she’s going to miss the hallowed halls on Walker Road once she graduates in May.
What awaits next is anyone’s guess.
Connect with Jimmy Watson on Twitter at @JimmyWatson6