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Chico State's independent student newspaper

The Orion

Chico State's independent student newspaper

The Orion

Chico State's independent student newspaper

The Orion

First-year Wildcat makes strides on basketball team

Chico State's Isaiah Ellis jumps for a rebound against Cal State L.A.'s Andre McPhail on Friday. Ellis is averaging six points per game but recently tied his season high of 14 points against Cal State East Bay on Jan. 23. Photo credit: Caio Calado

For first-year forward Isaiah Ellis, basketball was the first sport he played and it turned out to be the only one he wanted to be a part of.

Ellis grew up watching basketball and following his favorite team, the San Antonio Spurs, and credits his aunt with getting him started in the sport.

“My aunt got me into playing basketball,” Ellis said. “Going to the gym with her every day when she had practice — running up and down with my cousin really got me started.”

According to Ellis, while he was growing up basketball became a big part of his life.

“From my mom taking me to practices late at night and waking up early, basketball is something that defines me,” he said.

Ellis attended Antelope High School in Sacramento where he quickly made a name for himself and became a star player.

While in high school, he helped lead his team to back-to-back Sac-Joaquin Section Division titles. According to the Chico Wildcats website, in Ellis’ senior year, while averaging 11.2 points and eight rebounds per game, he received Capital Athletic League MVP honors.

Transitioning from high school to college, Ellis was immediately surrounded by good players.

“Coming to Chico State and playing with all-stars that were stars at their high school can get competitive,” Ellis said. “But we play as a team and are always there to pick each other up.”

With the help of Ellis coming off the bench and shooting 60 percent from the field, Chico State is currently 13-5 overall and 10-3 in conference play, which puts it in a tie for first.

Greg Clink, head coach for the men’s basketball team, said that he is excited about Ellis and his performance.

“He’s done a great job at building his body up and he is getting more and more confident,” Clink said. “In the last couple of weeks he has created a big role for himself. He plays hard and has great defense.”

Ellis is averaging six points per game for the season but recently tied his season high of 14 points against Cal State East Bay on Jan. 23.

“He’s gotten better with playing without fouling, which enables us to keep him on the court,” Clink said. “He’s shooting the ball well, and he has really blossomed in the last three weeks.”

After this season the Wildcats will be losing three seniors: guard Mike Rosaroso, center Jordan Barton and forward Jordan Semple. Their departures could mean a greater role for Ellis on the team, Clink said.

“All of our post players have done a good job of setting an example every day of how to come in and work,” he said. “A couple players have taken him under their wings and have showed him how to work on a daily basis and how to improve.”

According to Ellis, Semple and Barton have been two of his main role models throughout the season.

“They are good leaders and are constantly pushing me in practice to do better, never take a play off,” Ellis said. “They are good to listen to for notes — when to cut to the basket and informing me on what I should be doing.”

So far in the season Ellis said that one of his favorite moments was when he stole the ball and got his first college dunk against William Jessup University.

“It really meant a lot, and it got the team going,” Ellis said.

Ellis is going to try and continue to pursue basketball further when after graduating, he said.

“Basketball is what defines me, and if I can continue to do that and play basketball, that is No. 1,” Ellis said. “That is the No. 1 goal right now.”

Matthew Vislosky can be reached at [email protected] or @MattVislosky on Twitter.

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