Buc reaches beyond JUCO

Keon Ellis, sophomore Bucs player, has multiple offers to play at Division 1 universities after his FSW graduation. Photo by Lianna Hubbard

By Jonathan Pressley

Keon Ellis hit a 3-pointer then turned to flash his team a smile from ear to ear.

He had just set the new single game scoring record at 41-points in the conference opener vs St. Petersburg College on Jan. 5.

Later in the month, Ellis made even more history by recording 100 career steals vs IMG Academy on Jan. 15 for the first time in FSW Buccaneers history.

Ellis has championship in his blood. He was a three-time champion while attending Leesburg High School. There he won a national and two-state titles his junior and senior years.

He earned second-team Class 6A State Honors as a junior and entertained offers from Troy, Stetson, Gardner-Webb, and Eastern Washington.

Ellis picked none of those Division 1 offers. Instead he enrolled at FSW, a Junior College (JUCO).

“I think there’s a bad connotation if you say ‘I’m going to go to JUCO.’ They probably think, ‘Oh, he’s a bad kid [or] he didn’t have the grades,’” said Ellis.
Ellis didn’t choose JUCO because of his grades.

He hopes to gain more experience at FSW before moving onto Division 1.

“So they’re looking for JUCO players actually,” Ellis said, “because they know getting a freshman out of high school, he probably won’t be as prepared as a JUCO player who has played a little bit more skilled basketball.”

Many famous athletes have JUCO in their background, including Aaron Rodgers, Alvin Kamara, Warren Moon and Jimmy Butler.

Ellis has more offers now than he did during his senior year. Currently he has offers from East Tennessee State, Louisiana-Monroe, Florida Gulf Coast University, Wright State, Fresno State, and Long Beach State among others.

“It’s actually been pretty good to me. I think it was a better route for me in the end than going straight to a Division 1. Coming here I think was probably my best decision.”

Ellis is from Eustis, FL. He transferred to Leesburg High School for his junior and senior years to gain more exposure. At FSW Ellis is gaining more experience.

“Some coaches at the Division 1 level, their job is to get their team to be a winning program.” Ellis saw the same thing in Eric Murphy, Bucs head coach.

Coach Murphy has been with FSW for four seasons, two as head coach. He recruited Ellis and showed him the winning ways by posting an impressive record of 53-4 in the past two seasons.

“Keon has grown a lot,” Murphy said. “He has grown up as a person as well as a player. Coming from high school, it is just a different mentality and his maturity level and approach to the game has really picked up late last season and into this year.”

Ellis credits Murphy for putting him in positions to succeed this year, as he currently leads the team in scoring with 18 points a game while shooting 57% from the field and 43% from 3-point range.

“Coach Murphy definitely told me that I have to be more aggressive and he draws the plays up to get the ball in my hands because he knows what I could do with it.”

Ellis is not worried about offers at this time, just ball. This season is his second chance to impress scouts.

“You get another opportunity. It’s like a second wind for getting more scholarships”

And Keon Ellis is taking that opportunity to make the most of it, and in the process, leaving a few new FSW records for the next players to break.

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