Zach Ellis of McGehee, All-Southeast Arkansas Boys Basketball Player of the Year (Pine Bluff Commercial/Ralph Fitzgerald)
McGEHEE — McGehee’s Zach Ellis was a force on offense for Owls this past season.
The junior found a way to develop more than just a perimeter game and ended the year averaging 23 points and eight rebounds per game and helped lead McGehee to the quarterfinals of the 4A boys state tournament.
Despite putting up impressive numbers, Ellis has not heard from any colleges yet.
“I think I got a chance, but I don’t think anyone is looking my way right now,” he said. “Hopefully I can get a scholarship.”
Maybe being awarded the Pine Bluff Commercial’s All-Southeast Arkansas Boys Player of the Year will help Ellis’ college resume.
“It feels good. It’s unexpected, but glad I got the award,” said Ellis when he was told of the award. “I thought I was going to make All-State, but I didn’t. But I am glad to get this award.”
McGehee coach Jerome Pace said the offense went as Ellis went.
“He was definitely our offense for the year,” McGehee coach Jerome Pace said. “As the year progressed, he picked up more of a leadership role. I think he has the potential to be a pretty solid player as a senior.
“There’s no doubt we wouldn’t have gotten as far without him scoring. We wouldn’t have been in contention.”
Ellis has always been able to put a good amount of points on the board, but his offensive game evolved. Instead of having his tent set up as he camped out at his favorite hot spot at the three-point line, Ellis started to go down into the trenches this year.
“He can score, no doubt about it,” Pace said. “I am just glad he found some balance. Sometimes his outside shot wouldn’t go and I would move him inside and he is a very capable scorer.
“He found the balance and found out he can do it inside and out.”
Ellis’ three-point shot was not falling as well as it did when he was a sophomore, either. It was still falling, but not at the same rate.
“The three-ball wasn’t working as good this year and I had a size advantage and went to the post,” he said. “It frustrated me for a little bi, but I had to step up and I started driving.”
It helped that Ellis had someone to make the three-pointers he was no longer taking.
“I could give it to (teammate) Dontez (Racy) and he could shoot the threes better than me as I worked my way down low,” he said.
Ellis still has another year to learn how to become not just a better scoring, but also a better all-around player. Ellis does not play football, which gives him a chance to work on honing his basketball skills.
Pace knows exactly what skills Ellis can improve on as well.
“He has the opportunity this summer and we play all summer,” Pace said. “I think he has to get a little bit more aggressive on defense.
“You want a kid who can score, no doubt about it, but also one that is more aggressive on the defensive end.”
Pace’s words have not gone unnoticed to Ellis either. He knows in order to get more colleges to look at him, Ellis has to improve his prowess on the defensive end.
I need to step up my defense way more, and I am going to do the drills to get better and be an impact,” he said. “I am going to try and do better and improve my numbers and set my goals higher so I can be a better player.”
If Ellis improves not only his defense, but also scores more, it will be hard for coaches at the next level to not notice him.