By GREG MENGELT
There are high expectations for Jeffersonville’s Drew Ellis’ senior year athletically.
After Friday’s season opener against Evansville Bosse was called off, Ellis and the Red Devils will have to wait until next Friday when they go to Seymour for their new season opener.
Ellis has been famous in Jeffersonville and Southern Indiana since he was 12 years old when he led Jeff/GRC Little League to the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pa., where he threw a no-hitter.
Ellis has showed promise as both a basketball player and a baseball player from a very young age, and he certainly hasn’t disappointed.
He has been an All-State baseball player the past two years and led the Red Devils to sectional and regional championships. On the hardwood, he was Jeff’s third-leading scorer and its top outside shooter as a junior. He had 29 points, including 19 in the second quarter, in the Red Devils’ 73-62 semifinal win over Evansville Harrison en route to a regional crown last season.
On Friday afternoon, Ellis did a phone interview with sports editor Greg Mengelt for the News and Tribune’s ongoing “On the Spot” series.
• QUESTION: How disappointed are you guys not to get to get the season started tonight?
• ELLIS: “It’s definitely upsetting that we don’t get to come out and compete on the first night. I know everybody was looking forward to it, just to come out and play against somebody else besides just our own teammates.”
• Q: I know there was a time this summer when you were on the fence about playing basketball your senior season. What made you decide to play?
• ELLIS: “I think it was just about being out there with everybody on Friday nights, and all the hype from the student section and the fans. I think I would have really regretted not playing this year. I think I would have missed all that.”
• Q: How has the transition gone from Coach [Chad] Gilbert the past two years to Coach [Matt] Pait?
• ELLIS: “Coach Gilbert was more of a disciplinarian and didn’t give us much slack. Coach Pait is a great coach and he’s fun to play for. We all respect him very much and we know he’s a great coach and we’re buying into his system. But we know he can only take us so far. It’s up to us to do the rest of the work.”
• Q: What kind of expectations do you have coming into this season? What do you think you can accomplish?
• ELLIS: “To [win] the Hoosier Hills Conference championship and win the sectional again … and to see how far we can get in the tournament. I think we have a great team. I think we’re as good as last year’s team. I think this year’s team would be really competitive with last year’s team - maybe even better. If we keep our heads on straight and buy into Coach Pait’s system, which we are, I think we can be in the state championship. I don’t see why not. I think everybody on this team thinks we’re a state championship contender. I think we have to do our thing and we’ll be fine.”
• Q: I know baseball is your favorite sport. What kind of team do you expect to have back this spring?
• ELLIS: “I think we’ll be good. We lost a lot of pitching in Trent [Astle] and Mark Meyer and [Nick] Gallagher. I think we’ll be inexperienced [with] a lot of underclassmen on the varsity. Our pitchers are going to have to step up on to the big stage right away. I think if our pitching is solid and we can get our underclassmen to have the right mindset, I think we’ll be a pretty good team.”
• Q: I know you verbally committed to Louisville a while ago, but you just made it official two weeks ago. What made Louisville the choice?
• ELLIS: “Going there as an 11-year-old for camps and being around the coaches and the players and the facilities, there was no doubt it was the place for me. The atmosphere is great. Coach [Dan McDonnell] cares about the players and wants the best for his kids on the field, off the field and in the classroom. He’s a great coach. I think it’s a win-win for me as far as education and for baseball. It’s the best place to be for college athletics.”
• Q: Do you expect to get drafted in the Major League Baseball draft on June 5?
• ELLIS: “You know, I don’t know what to expect. I’m going to do my best to do everything I can to get drafted. I can only do what I can do, and then it’s up to [Major League Baseball teams]. If they pick me, I’ll be blessed, but I’ll be happy either way. I don’t know if I’m expecting it, but I’m doing what I can to get drafted.”
• Q: What would it take to make you skip college and go straight to professional baseball?
• ELLIS: “A lot of money.”
• Q: I figured that. Have you thought of an amount that would make you skip college and go straight to professional baseball? Is that something you’ve discussed with your family?
• ELLIS: “Me and my family have not talked about that. The number would have to be life-changing.”