With the 2022 NBA Draft less than a month away,
BasketballNews.com will have you covered from top to bottom. Last
week's NBA Draft Combine began the pre-draft process for a number
of hopeful prospects as they try to break into the league.
I had the opportunity to catch up with Alabama guard Keon Ellis, who averaged 12.1
points, 6.1 rebounds and 1.9 steals per game for the Crimson Tide
this past season. We discussed his path from JUCO to Alabama, his
game and last week at the Combine.
Prior to your time at Alabama, you had deep Florida
roots. Could you start off by giving us an idea of what your
childhood was like growing up there?
Keon Ellis: "Growing up in Florida was pretty
smooth. I mean, it was me, my three siblings and my mom. So we were
all we had in that sense. I looked up to my older brother, a lot.
You know, he kind of led the way for a lot of things; I wanted to
be like him and play sports like him. I’d say he’s the reason I
found out that I liked playing sports.
"After playing sports for a minute, I realized that I was
actually kind of good. But I figured if I was going to do anything
serious and in a sport, it was going to be basketball. So, I quit
the football side of it and tried to focus on basketball, and I
became pretty good. I played AAU for Team M.O.A.M. and we were
under the radar as an Adidas Silver team, then ended up going to
JUCO, made my way to Alabama, and to now to here (at the
When you opted to go the JUCO route, what was the
biggest takeaway from your time there, about that level of
Ellis: "It's definitely not what everyone
thinks it is. When people hear 'JUCO,' they think it’s a bunch of
unorganized basketball or the kind of guys who aren't really
skilled or good enough. JUCO definitely taught me a lot. I built
some great relationships and am happy that I actually went that
route. I learned a lot from that."
When you decided to play for Nate Oats and Alabama, what
was it about the program, or him, that enticed you to
Ellis: "Honestly, it didn't take much from the
coaching staff. Alabama was my favorite school growing up. So once
I got the offer from them, I knew I was going there because I mean,
it's my favorite school. That was all the motivation I needed."
With your first year at Alabama being affected by the
COVID-19 pandemic, how did that season compare to your
Ellis: "It was the opposite of what I expected.
I thought COVID-19 was going to go away a lot faster than it did
and things were going to be normal. I didn't expect us to have the
amount of team success we had in that first year. From the amount
of success we had as a team, to the fans not even being in the
stands, those were two things that were opposite of what I had
For those who haven't seen you play, how would you
describe your game?
Ellis: "I describe myself as a 3-and-D player.
I think I can do more than what people see. I’m just trying to buy
into a role and, you know, not play outside of what I can do."
What are some things that you worked on during your time
at Alabama? And what other things are you improving in your game
Ellis: "The biggest things that I worked on at
Alabama were my three-point shooting, shooting off of moves and off
screens. Handling the ball, making decisions with the ball as a
primary ball-handler, making the right reads and my decision-making
with the ball."
What short-term or long-term goals do you have for
Ellis: "Well, short-term goal, obviously, I
just want to land somewhere in the NBA. Get my feet in the door and
start somewhere. A long-term goal is to sign that second contract.
I think that's a goal for a lot of people."
What does your day-to-day routine look like right now as
you're preparing for the draft?
Ellis: "Day-to-day routine, it kind of varies.
I've been on the road a lot lately. On a regular day, if I'm back
home training, I probably wake up to get some breakfast, go to the
gym for a morning workout and lift after that. Then, get some food
and refuel from that; then, I'd take a nap. Then, I’d have a
shooting session again and be done for the day."
How has your week in Chicago gone?
Ellis: "It's been good. I've seen a lot of
players that I've played against, and now some of them are on my
team. It’s been good to get a new experience, as it’s my first time
ever in Chicago. All the stuff that I've been put through, like our
stations, media training, whatever it's been. I think it's
definitely a good experience to be a part of this journey."
What did you think of the scrimmage?
Ellis: "I think it went well. My team,
obviously, got the win by a large margin and that’s all I cared
about coming in. A lot of the scouts already know what you do as a
player. So in this setting for me, it’s about coming in and doing
what I'm capable of, doing what I will be expected to do. I'm just
happy that my team got the win."
Who is one player, past or present, that you model your
Ellis: "I wouldn't say I model my game after
one player specifically. I try to pick up things from a lot of
different players because different players do things differently,
or better, than others. So I try to pick things from a lot of
Alright last question, one you've probably been asked
quite a bit here in Chicago.
You're in an elevator with a general manager or
decision-maker for a team, and you've got one 20-second pitch as to
why you are their guy in next month's draft. What are you telling
Ellis: "I’ll tell them that no one plays harder
than me. I’m a great 3-and-D player. I think every team needs that.
No problems off the court — you will never get a late-night phone
call about me. I’m about the right stuff. I’m a great locker room
guy and willing to buy into the team's success."
Looking to go to the hottest concerts, sports, theater &
family shows near you? Get 100% guaranteed tickets to more than
125,000 live events from TicketSmarter, the official ticket
marketplace of BasketballNews.com. Order online now!