Lanier’s Mr. Everything Ellis is that good’

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, January 5, 2005

[12/30/04]Maple Street in Jackson is being renamed Monta Lane or Ellisville, or whatever other moniker can be used to describe the best basketball player in the state.

He’s not only the best basketball player in the state, he is arguably the best guard prospect in the country.

Monta Ellis does it all for the top-ranked Bulldogs. He dunks forward and backward, one-handed and two. He shoots 3-pointers from just behind the arc to near half court. He throws no-look passes through a maze of hands and arms for easy layups.

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There is little doubt that Monta Ellis owns Jackson right now and rightfully so.

Children and adults walk around the Lanier High gym wearing Monta Ellis replica practice jerseys. The shirts are not special orders, but rather on sale in the gym’s main hallway.

Others carry signs with pictures of Ellis claiming him as the best guard in the country. When the Bulldogs’ starting lineup is announced and Ellis always introduced last is called, the packed gym erupts.

Fans wait outside behind iron gates desperate for a seat to the sold-out show. Everyone wants a piece of Monta Ellis.

He’s that good. He’s beyond good, he’s amazing.

Standing 6-foot-4 as tall as many power forwards in high school he can run point guard, shooting guard, small forward or even center if he wanted to.

In a 94-68 win over Warren Central on Tuesday night, Ellis scored a game-high 39 points four below his average.

Scouts drool over this prospect, who has signed to play at Mississippi State. Whether he will step foot on the Starkville campus is another story.

He has said over and over that playing at State and getting an education is imperative. But the NBA money will certainly come calling.

With the success of the now-common high school-to-pro basketball athlete and the money they receive, the lure of the big time may be too much.

LeBron James, Kevin Garnett and Kobe Bryant are among a long list of prep superstars who made the jump straight to the pros. In Mississippi, Travis Outlaw, Jonathan Bender and Al Jefferson all made the leap, with varying degrees of success.

Having seen Bender and Outlaw, neither was as good in high school as Ellis is now.

Tuesday was the second time watching Ellis in person. The first came when he was a freshman and the Bulldogs were playing in the JPS Tournament.

“Who’s that?” I asked a fellow scribe from the Jackson newspaper.

“Freshman. Monta Ellis. Awesome,” he said.

Ellis put on a show that night as well. He’s been putting shows on for a loyal following on Maple Street for four years.

Mississippi State supporters are salivating at the prospect of him gracing Humphrey Coliseum for the next four years.

If he does, consider yourselves fortunate for landing the best player this state has seen in many, many years, and having him buck the NBA money.

He’s that good.

Sean P. Murphy is sports editor of The Vicksburg Post. E-mail him at smurphy@vicksburgpost.com.