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De La Salle's Alvin Ellis hits a three-pointer Friday against St. Laurence. Mary Beth Nolan~For Sun-Times Media
Conventional wisdom had it the basketball fortunes of De La Salle would suffer a big drop after four big-time players departed the program in the last year.
It seemed the worst kind of domino effect for the Catholic League power, who lost three Division I recruits in Jaylon Tate, Alex Foster and Gavin Schilling and a quality starter in Demarcus Richardson.
Alvin Ellis stayed faithful, and the Meteors have not looked back. The 6-5 senior swingman and Minnesota recruit has elevated his game and is averaging 22 points, seven rebounds, four assists and four steals for the 8-2 Meteors.
Ellis was spectacular last week in scoring a career-high 33 points against East St. Louis at a shootout in Missouri, 27 against St. Laurence in a conference victory and 25 points against Traders Point Christian (Ind.) at a shootout in Indianapolis Saturday night.
For his achievements, Ellis is the Chicago Sun-Times Athlete of the Week.
The three-year starter has assumed the leadership role. “I’ve just been trying to be the leader that coach [Tom White] needs me to be and get my teammates involved and make sure we can win some games,” he said. His improvement is the natural progression of a senior. “I would say that, and I think my focus has just been to stay aggressive and set the right tone.”
Ellis said he worked hard over the summer to refine and expand his game, improving his perimter shot and also his skill and athleticism off the bounce. “He’s a three-point maker,” White said. “He’s a good jumper who elevates very quickly. He’s an athletic body with some height, weight and long arms.”
Ellis started the season hot and has not cooled yet. He was named most valuable player of the Hinsdale South Thanksgiving tournament. “This kid has been able to grow up the normal way,” White said. “He never had to worry about Internet rankings. He gets better because he likes playing basketball.”
Ellis signed with Minnesota over Northwestern and Kansas State. He downplays the role the departed players had on his drive and motivation. “I think we just responded normally, to playing basketball, in that we needed some [younger] guys to step up and that’s what they’ve done,” he said.
“People thought we weren’t going to be as good because we lost some players, but that’s past, and now we’re just moving forward.”
Now, Ellis and the Meteors have the rare chance to showcase their game for a wider audience when they leave the day after Christmas for Palm Springs for the City of Palms Classic. “It’s really exciting to play some other talented teams, getting good exposure and win some games,” Ellis said.