For all the talent on the court at the Adidas Invitational this week, the best player may have been patrolling the sideline.
LaPhonso Ellis, the former Notre Dame star and No. 5 pick of the 1992 NBA Draft, is coaching his son, Walter, and a number of other talented 2018 players for the South Bend-based Ellis Elite.
“My assistant Jimmy Beane and I love helping kids and trying to create opportunities for our kids post-high school while trying to encourage them to be young men of God,” Ellis said. “Which means kids who are polite and have values while getting after it in the classroom.”
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Ellis, 45, said his coaching role dovetails nicely with his role as a college basketball analyst for ESPN. His team includes his son, 6-4 South Bend Adams guard Walter Ellis, along with other talented prospects like South Bend Clay guard Jimmy Beane II, South Bend Riley’s Shamar Dillard and South Bend Riley’s 6-5 Damezi Anderson.
“Five months I’m on with ESPN and some light preparation during the summer,” Ellis said. “When my season ends with ESPN in early April, we start with our practices and start getting ready.”
Those of a certain generation remember the 6-8 Ellis, a native of East St. Louis, Ill., not only as a college phenom but as a rising star in the NBA before injuries took a toll. After he was drafted fifth by the Denver Nuggets, Ellis averaged 15.0 points and 8.9 rebounds in his first two seasons. That included a 27-point, 17-rebound effort in Game 4 of Denver’s memorable upset of top-seed Seattle in the 1994 Western Conference first round.
Ellis suffered a stress fracture in his right knee prior to the 1994-95 season and injured his left knee the following season. The former McDonald’s All-American came back as an improved 3-point shooter and ranked 10th in the league in scoring (21.9 ppg) in 1996-97 for the Nuggets. After six seasons with Denver, he played five more years with Atlanta, Minnesota and Miami.
“There are some things I’ve had a privilege to see at three levels of basketball that you try to instill and pass on to a younger generation,” he said. “The basketball part of it is important, but the spiritual aspect is more important. You hope they become mature men who understand their responsibilities in the classroom and their civic responsibilities and will one day become leaders in their communities.”
It was pointed out that Ellis’ son has a similar hair style his father displayed in college.
“I don’t have as much anymore,” Ellis said with a laugh. “I have to live vicariously through him.”
>> The Evansville-area based Pocket City 16-U team defeated the UA Indy Hoosiers 84-77 in an exciting pool-play game on Friday. The Indy Hoosiers were without Southport’s Paul Scruggs and North Central’s Kris Wilkes, but both are expected to be back from the Under Armour All-American Camp in North Carolina in time for Saturday’s action.
Castle’s 6-9 Jack Nunge had 20 points in the win. Another player worth tracking is Alex King, a 6-8 junior-to-be from Columbus North. King, who has an offer from Toledo, is thin but can shoot it from distance.
Other schools with interest in King include Purdue, Xavier, Ball State, Cornell, Wisconsin-Green Bay, UNC-Greensboro, Northern Kentucky and Lipscomb. King averaged 5.3 points and 4.0 rebounds as a sophomore at Columbus North.
“My role wasn’t that big because we had some good seniors on the team,” King said. “Strength and quickness off the bounce are probably the biggest things I need to improve. Then I think I’ll be more of a force.”
>>Purdue offered New Albany guard Romeo Langford during an unofficial visit in late June, according to his travel coach Brian Keeton. Langford, a 6-3 guard and one of the top prospects in the Midwest, has interest from a number of other high-major programs, including Butler and Indiana.
>> Purdue also has interest in two of the top 2018 prospects at the Adidas Invitational, Carte’Are Gordon and Courtney Ramey of the Ramey-Jets United. Gordon, a 6-8, 250-pound forward from Vianney in St. Louis, already has offers from Kansas State, Illinois and Missouri. Ramey, a 6-2 guard from Webster Groves in St. Louis, has offers from Kansas State and Missouri. Gordon, Ramey and 6-4 guard Torrence Watson (offers from Kansas State, Missouri and Saint Louis) are worthy of consideration on any 2018 national rankings.
>> The Adidas Invitational will continue Saturday and Sunday with bracket play in all age groups. The top 17-U bracket will be played at North Central with the all games through the quarterfinals played on Saturday. The semifinals are 10:30 a.m. on Saturday and the championship at 1 p.m. The top 16-U bracket is set for Carmel High School with the semifinals (10:30 a.m.) and championship (1 p.m.) moving to The Fieldhouse in Fishers on Sunday. The 15-U top bracket will be played at Warren Central on Saturday and The Fieldhouse in Fishers on Sunday.
Call Star reporter Kyle Neddenriep at (317) 444-6649.