At an press conference at his high school gym, 2012 power forward Perry Ellis announced his commitment to his in-state school, Kansas. Ellis chose the Jayhawks over finalists Kentucky, Kansas State, and Wichita State.
In an earlier interview with CBS Sports' Jeff Borzello, Fonda Ellis, Perry's mother, noted that "all four coaches have recruited him for at least three years." Ellis sounded truly enamored with each program, and the decision was assuredly a difficult one.
For Kentucky, this is a big recruiting blow. The Wildcats had been closely linked with Ellis during his junior season, but his recruitment tailed off in the early part of 2011, leading to speculation that Kentucky had stopped recruiting the talented big man. However, Calipari made a concerted effort to spend as much time as possible watching Ellis during the summer evaluation period. As the summer wore on, it became clear that Calipari thought of Ellis as his top target at the power forward position.
The Wichita Heights (Kan.) star certainly has pedigree backing him. He is a three-time Kansas Gatorade Player of the Year and is ranked 24th overall by Rivals, 33rd by Scout, and 37th by ESPNU. In the end, it appears that the local connection was too much for Kentucky to overcome. When it comes to prospects overlooking their in-state flagship, sometimes you win (see Archie Goodwin picking Kentucky over Arkansas), and sometimes you lose (see Trevor Lacey picking Alabama over Kentucky).
Ellis is a high-energy, powerful "4" that can slide right into the power forward spot at Kansas, currently manned by projected first rounder Thomas Robinson. Per Ellis, the decision to play for Kansas "has been in [his] heart for a while now." He's a huge get for the Jayhawk program and coach Bill Self, especially since he's been the top high school prospect in the state of Kansas for quite a while.
Luckily for Kentucky, its recruiting cupboard is not bare. The Wildcats' remaining power forward targets are more hybrid-like than Ellis, a true power forward. Mitch McGary and Robert Carter could both slide up from power forward to center, and Anthony Bennett and Alex Poythress can both swing down to the "3" from the "4". None of them, save for possibly McGary, has a clear favorite at this time. It will be interesting to see which direction the Kentucky coaching staff takes in recruiting big men for the 2012 class.
Losing Ellis to Kansas is disappointing, but best of luck to the young man in his future as a Jayhawk.