The 6-foot-7 Washington State commit comes from a long line of standout basketball players. He’s having a standout season averaging 22.4 points and 12.1 rebounds per game.
Scrolling down this year’s list of McDonald’s All-American Game nominees was affirming for Bill Elleby.
“There’s definitely some Washington players being left out,” he said after a review of the 24 Washingtonians who received a nod for the 41st annual game. None were named to the final rosters.
“You look at California and they have all of these players (nominated),” Elleby continued. “Our kids aren’t being looked upon the same. That’s kind of why I started my service. To get these guys represented and the exposure they need.”
Elleby established Seattle Basketball Services (SBS) in 2013, an NCAA-compliant scouting site for boys and girls basketball. It’s not difficult to rattle off notable college, WNBA or NBA players from the state. But many don’t know the depth of talent is more comparable to the Puget Sound than a swimming pool.
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“This is really guard central,” said Elleby, a two-time state champ for Garfield who played the position at California (1988-92). “We have the best guards in the nation in basketball and they’ve proven it time and time again. And the list goes beyond guards.”
One of the most underrated is Elleby’s son C.J. When born, the story is doctors bundled up the gangly boy, handed C.J. to his parents and declared, “There’s your basketball player.”
Bill Elleby repeats the story with pride. His oldest of five, Victoria, did play college basketball, but C.J. embodies most of the family’s basketball talent.
Immersed in Seattle’s basketball lore, it’s a wonder how the 6-foot-7 lefty is overlooked. C.J.’s paternal great uncle is Carl Ervin, who had a two-year record of 50-1 as a point guard for Cleveland, winning state titles in 1975 and 1976.
It’s because of Carl that C.J. also plays at Cleveland. The Washington State commit is ranked third behind four-star athletes Kevin Porter Jr. (Rainier Beach) and J’Raan Brooks (Garfield) as the top players in the state, according to SBS. Elleby, a senior shooting guard, is second to Porter in scoring this season, averaging 22.4 points per game with 12.1 rebounds.
“He’s under the radar, but C.J. has always been one of the best in Washington no matter what grade it was,” said Porter, who grew up playing AAU ball with Elleby. “It’s crazy how much he’s progressed from freshman year to now. Really, he got used to his body, realizing how easy it is for him to score.”
C.J. jumped from averaging seven points per game as a freshmen to working alongside classmate Jahleel Breland to clinch Cleveland’s first state tournament berth since 2004 the following year. The Eagles placed sixth.
Cleveland didn’t advance last season, which motivated Elleby during the offseason. Since birth, he’s been able to learn from Seattle stars such as Jamal Crawford, Nate Robinson and Brandon Roy, who now coaches at Garfield.
“I can base what I’m able to do by learning about their work ethic,” Elleby said. “Because since I was a kid, I’ve had a basketball in my hand. I remember playing in this rec league and I scored 32 points, so they made a rule that the most points you can score in 16. I’d always get taken out the game or just couldn’t shoot the ball.”
Elleby grew five inches as a high schooler and gained muscle mass that’s helped make him a force as a shot blocker on defense. Yet, it’s his ball handling and shooting skills contained in a forward’s body that makes Elleby a marvel.
Cleveland coach Jerry Petty, who also was Elleby’s youth coach, said this is a pivotal season in terms of the future of Eagles basketball. The team recently suffered Metro League losses to O’Dea and Eastside Catholic, which are also in The Seattle Times’ Class 3A rankings, but hopes to advance to state via strong play in the SeaKing District tournament.
“We have woken up a lot of people,” said Petty, who won a state title for Garfield in 1998. “But you have to go out and prove it. So, we talk about him leaving his mark. C.J.’s a kid that stayed at his school for four years, went through losing and has done great things. Now, we definitely want to put the icing on the cake. It’s not his whole legacy, but would be really good for him to put on his résumé.”