The Ellis name is certainly royalty in Perth basketball, if not Australian basketball.
The prince of the Ellis clan, Cody, will be lining up for the Illawarra Hawks on Saturday night at the WEC for a crucial game against the Perth Wildcats.
Sitting courtside here on holiday from Perth, proudly wearing his Illawarra Hawks’ polo top, will be one of the all-time greats of Perth Wildcats’ basketball and Cody’s father, Mike Ellis.
Mike Ellis captained the Perth Wildcats for 11 straight years, taking them to two NBL championships.
The Ellis clan king has also served as head coach, assistant coach and general manager of the Wildcats at one time or another.
When Cody and his Illawarra Hawk team-mates walk into the Perth Arena in front of the thousands of screaming Wildcats fans known as the “Red Army” and they look up to the ceiling of the stadium, they see Cody’s father’s retired No. 6 singlet hanging from the rafters.
Yet there can be no doubting Mike’s allegiance these days …. he proudly wears Illawarra Hawks gear.
“He even does it at Perth Arena when we play too,” Cody said with a sense of pride.
“At Perth Arena we go in before the game with all the owners and the sponsors and if we are playing the Hawks I’ll wear a Hawks shirt in there,’’ Mike added.
“I get a few comments and a few looks.”
When asked how it goes down with the Perth fans, one of their all-time greats wearing a Hawks shirt, Cody chipped in “a lot better last time” referring to the Hawks curse-breaking win.
It was probably good for me to spread my wings a bit, be away from Perth and kind of make my own footprints I guess. Pretty big shoes to fill over in Perth.Cody Ellis
“The trouble is every other time I’ve done it I’ve watched these guys get their butt handed to them, you know?,” Mike added,
“So it was actually nice the last one where I could walk around and not have people throwing stuff at me ….. well they were still throwing stuff at me, but I could say ‘yeah, we won’.”
In fact the Ellis clan’s lineage with the Perth Wildcats is such the Perth club’s MVP trophy is named in honour of Mike’s father Gordon, who was a founding father and an early coach of the club.
Cody says he never felt pressured to play basketball. In fact he was only two-years-old when Mike retired from playing and Cody said he was a teenager before he started to understand the influence and legacy his family had on basketball in WA.
While he also showed a talent for footy (of the AFL kind), Cody was always destined to be a basketballer. He joined the AIS, took up a scholarship to a college in the US and the rest is history.
Hawks supporters need to thank then Sydney Kings coach Shane Heal for ensuring Cody ended up on the eastern seaboard and not in Perth.
“(Perth) offered me a development spot where Sydney offered me a full contract,’’ Cody said of signing with the Kings in 2013 and not the Wildcats.
“It was probably good for me to spread my wings a bit, be away from Perth and kind of make my own footprints I guess. Pretty big shoes to fill over in Perth.”
Hawks coach Rob Beveridge pounced on Cody before the start of last season and Bevo’s confidence was rewarded.
Cody was awarded with the Hawks’ most improved trophy at the end of last season and he remains a key player in this year’s Hawks outfit which is currently sitting second on the NBL ladder.
Cody last year returned to Perth in the off-season to play under his dad who these days is the high performance director and head coach of the Stirling Senators in WA’s State basketball league. He will do so again at the end of this NBL season.
“It’s good for him because you get to do a bit more and experiment a bit more, it’s not the same pressure as the NBL,” Mike said.
“Cody has always been a really unselfish player, probably to his own detriment at times. I actually think he is better than he thinks he is,” Mike said.
_ JULIAN O’BRIEN