Photo courtesy of University of Memphis.
By David Cordova
In the high school basketball scene, the world loves the story of the unknown player rising from obscurity and making a name for himself and suddenly becoming one of the most coveted names in the country and having coaches vying for his attention.
At one point in time, Rejean “Boogie” Ellis was one of those youths that were under-the-radar, until a spectacular spring and summer on the Nike EYBL circuit last year with the Oakland Solders culminated in offers. Fast-forward to the present day, as he is part of one of the top recruiting classes in the nation with the Memphis Tigers.
The 6-foot-2 point guard is a scorer, but also is a distributor as well. When he has the ball in his hands, he has the ability to impact the game plenty. But how did he get to this point, one may add? First, you have to get to know his story. Because of his play, he is rated as the No. 38 prospect in the class of 2019 by ESPN.
When asked what motivates him to be successful on the court, he replied, “Just coming from nothing, just trying to provide for my family and I just really fell in love with the game at a young age. I just love being in the gym and working har and stuff like that, but I do it for myself, because I love it, but also because I want to get my family out.”
Ellis hails from San Diego, California, where the basketball culture isn’t really as strong as other places in the state like Los Angeles and in the Bay Area. Also, there are three current NBA players from the area in Brooklyn Nets forward Jared Dudley, Toronto Raptors swingman Norman Powell and Indiana Pacers forward T.J. Leaf.
When asked about the hoops climate in the place that is known as “America’s Favorite City,” Ellis replied, “The basketball culture there is pretty weak, there’s only a couple of players that came out of there, so I’m just trying to put my city on the map, me, Jaylen Hands and T.J. Leaf are a couple of players that came out of San Diego, so we’re just trying to show how important basketball is and that people from the 609 can do it.”
At Mission Bay High School, Ellis proved that he was one of the best guards in the state of California, as he averaged 24 points and six assists and was named the San Diego Section Player of the Year. This season, he doubled that performance to 25.1 points per game and led his school to an 18-13 record.
When asked about his four years of high school at Mission Bay, he replied, “It’s gone amazing, my recruitment shot up and just playing on the EYBL with the Oakland Soldiers was a great experience.”
On playing with the Soldiers, with whom he averaged 17.2 points per game and led them to a berth at the Peach Jam, he replied, “The experience was amazing, Peach Jam itself changed my entire life. I came out, I was really playing and so just playing with my brothers and the people I care about and love and just building those relationships and bonds [were great.].”
Another thing that came out of the EYBL campaign with the Soldiers was the attention he received from many Division I colleges all around the country, amongst them Duke, which is one of college basketball’s holy grails and a legendary program.
On November 9th, Ellis decided to commit to the Blue Devils. When asked about his commitment to Duke, which had the No. 1-rated recruiting class in the nation, he replied, “It felt amazing, as a kid, I always dreamed about getting offers from North Carolina and Duke, and I got both, so it was just an amazing feeling.”
Unfortunately, it was not meant to be, as earlier this month on May 2nd, he would renege on his commitment to the Blue Devils, as their freshman point guard Tre Jones decided to return to school. With Duke’s penchant for sending their players to the NBA Draft after just one year on campus, it would have been difficult for him to find playing time, even if it was the school that he once dreamed of playing for as a youth.
However, on May 13th, he would decide to commit to Memphis to play for the legendary Penny Hardaway. With a recruiting class that includes two McDonald’s All-Americans in James Wiseman and Precious Achiuwa, the Tigers now have the second-best recruiting class in the country.
This spring, Ellis was invited to play in three major all-star events such as the Jordan Brand Classic in Las Vegas, Nevada, the Ball is Life All-American Game in Los Angeles and the Allen Iverson Roundball Classic in Souderton, Pennsylvania.
Playing in the Iverson Classic was one of the highlights of Ellis’ senior year, as he was able to meet and play in front of the Hall of Famer himself, Allen Iverson. When asked about the experience, he replied, “Growing up, I really looked up to Allen Iverson, so it was an amazing feeling and it was a great opportunity to play in front of a lot of fans, and the ability to play in front of Baron Davis, Stephen Jackson, people that I really look up to is amazing.”
Unlike a couple of other players in the game, Ellis was nominated for the McDonald’s All-American Game, as is customary for many players in every state across the country, but was not selected to be amongst the twenty-four players to play in the prestigious event.
However, with the opportunity to play in such as marquee event as the Iverson Classic, an event which also showcases players that aren’t particularly ranked in the top 25 nationally, but will still grace the floor of a Division I college next fall, Ellis shined.
When asked if the Iverson Classic was better than the McDonald’s All-American Game, he replied, “I feel like this game is way better, there’s no politics, it’s straight real and gritty, it’s for the kids who get it out the mud.”
Next season at the FedEx Forum, Ellis will be called upon to make things happen for the Tigers, as he and the other seven newcomers, along with the returning players look to bring the school back to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2014, and the first time in Hardaway’s tenure as head coach.
When asked what can be expected of him next season, he replied, “You can expect a lot, I’m going to come in, do what I got to do and try to be a leader and get buckets and stuff like that.”
Getting buckets is all that Ellis knows how to do and the fact that he is poised on the court will serve him well in the coming months. He was almost a part of The Brotherhood and playing for a storied coach in Mike Kryzewski and in a storied conference such as the ACC. But the fact that he left that and chose to play for a former NBA player that knows the youth and the game well and also compete in a great league such as the American Athletic Conference, shows that he went for the right opportunity.
In time, all of the Memphians will grow to love Rejean “Boogie” Ellis as San Diego already does. At the end of the day, he just wants to put “America’s Favorite City,” on the basketball map. Pretty soon, he’ll do just that. But for right now, he will be spending time in the lab, getting ready for the seasonal work to come.
“I’m just trying to get better every day,” he said, “and get to the NBA.”
If all goes well, he will be able to make that dream become a reality.
Highlights of Boogie Ellis: