Will Jamarcus Ellis return on Friday?
Update: According to Terry Hutchens of The Indianapolis Star, Ellis will play on Friday.
That is the question heading into Friday’s Big Ten Tournament opener for the Hoosiers (which yours truly will be attending, by the way). Indiana interim coach Dan Dakich suspended Ellis for Sunday’s game at Penn State for what was described as “disciplinary reasons.” Translation: Ellis wasn’t listening to Dakich.
Anyone who watched the previous four games could see that Ellis wasn’t the same player as he was under Kelvin Sampson. In the Northwestern game he nearly started a fight after Jordan Crawford was fouled and there were instances where Ellis was talking back to Dakich on the sidelines. So Dakich did what he had to do to establish order in a tumultuous situation: he put Ellis on the sidelines.
I’ve read quite a few comments criticizing Ellis for his behavior since Sampson left and rightfully so. However, I also think it’s important to keep things in perspective. I had the opportunity back in August to chat at length with Ellis and came away very impressed with what he had to say. One thing I think a lot of us forget when we talk about Ellis is how strong his loyalty to Sampson really is. Ellis originally signed with Texas A&M and was essentially told by then coach Billy Gillispie to hit the road after he didn’t qualify academically as a freshman. Although I didn’t include that part of the interview in my original post back in August, it was apparent to me that Ellis put a lot of trust in Sampson after being burned by Gillispie. His words, if I recall them correctly, were that Sampson “always stuck with him.”
With that in mind, I hope you all have a bit more understanding of where Jamarcus’ frustration is coming from now that Sampson is gone. As much as many of you don’t like to hear this, a lot of players do sign with a coach and not a program. I think this is a perfect example. The young man most likely feels a bit betrayed that his coach is gone and instead of using it as a rallying cry, he’s chosen to go in the opposite direction.
But if my impression I got from meeting Ellis and talking with him back in August are a measuring stick of how he’ll bounce back from all of this, I expect him to suit up and play well on Friday. He made a mistake and hopefully he’s learned from it and is ready to move on. Indiana is certainly a better and much more dangerous team with a focused Jamarcus Ellis.