All successful basketball teams need that one ‘glue guy’ within the roster. For those who don’t know, the term ‘glue guys’ refers to players who take pride in doing little things to help their teams win. Most of the time, this doesn’t involve scoring 25 points a game, but making different valuable contributions such as defense, rebounding, unselfishness, hustle, among others. Maturity, in regards to understanding one’s role, typically plays a big determining factor in this. These players more than usual gain an ample amount of respect from their coaches, teammates, and peers for the efforts they bring. I have yet to come across a coach who doesn’t appreciate having a ‘glue guy’ on his team. On the men’s varsity basketball team at Hopewell High School (Hopewell, VA), LaMonta Ellis ‘21 is intriguing in various ways. For starters, he played a significant role for the squad last year only as a freshman. Furthermore, Ellis definitely stood out as a ‘glue guy’ but indeed has emerged as a touted college prospect. So, does that mean his approach will change from focusing on accomplishing the little things to now making sure his stats catch attention? Hearing it from him, absolutely not.
Ellis stands as a 6’3” shooting guard for the Blue Devils. After earning a spot on the varsity roster last season, he found himself having to adjust to a higher level of ball compared to his last few playing seasons.
“Coming into varsity last season as a freshman was good,” the young guard explained. “I think the speed of the game was the biggest difference for me. That, and the physicality.”
Many underclassmen would agree. Transitioning directly to varsity from middle school hoops requires a combination of confidence, toughness, and poise to go along with skill. Ellis’ size and advanced feel for the game gave the Hopewell coaches assurance that he could produce right away. Any feelings of doubt quickly vanished once Ellis started to show the skill on the court that he prides himself in the most.
“Defense. Without question, defense. I love that part of the game.”
With a handful of scorers on Hopewell’s team last season, Ellis’ defense proved key in the group’s run to winning the Region 3A championship. This exemplifies a trait of a ‘glue guy’; Ellis did not come onto the scene point-hunting but instead focused on other aspects as much as possible to help contribute. Following his solid first year, he joined the Team Loaded VA 15u squad for his spring/summer play. The move proved smartly-decided, as the team ended with a 40-0 record on their way to win the 15u Adidas Gauntlet Championship. Several outlets deemed the team as one of, if not, the best in the country for their age-group.
“We had fun during the summer. Our chemistry and bond helped us play really well. Hopefully, we can all stay together for next summer. I think one of our coaches is moving up with us so he can keep our group.”
Ironically, Ellis’ favorite moment of the summer came at the time when the team’s perfect record almost imploded.
“Man, it was crazy because I remember we were down by seven with a minute left to go. It felt out of reach but our entire team and coaches all huddled together during a timeout to talk it through. We came out in a diamond press and ended up winning. Had a lot of confidence after that one.”
Ellis’ stellar play during both the high school and summer seasons started to turn the heads of coaches. His recruitment has steadily picked up in the past several months.
“Right now, I have three offers. Drake University, Canisius, and Virginia Union. A few other schools said they’ll be in touch soon too.”
Coming off of a successful summer, it doesn’t take long to notice Ellis’ development in both his all-around play and confidence. During my recent open gym visit to Hopewell, he had the best day out of the group, in my own opinion. He’s a strong guard who plays enthusiastically at all times and patiently waits to make good decisions. His playmaking for others definitely catches attention but it impressed me the most to see how he now has a nose for the ball offensively. When the Blue Devils played full-court 5v5 near the end of their workout, Ellis scored the majority of his team’s points by knocking down open looks and getting to the rim. This may stem from his own realization that Hopewell has lost most of their scoring output from last season. Elvin Edmonds IV ‘21 returns after leading the team in ppg with an 18.3 clip but the other players who averaged double-figures all graduated this past spring semester.
“(Head Hopewell) Coach Edmonds and I have been talking. He’s explained how the team will need me to score more this season, just being more aggressive to look for my shot. But he’ll need me to do that and still make sure I lock up on defense.”
With Ellis’ work ethic and focus, the coaching staff and players have little to worry about. He shows maturity well-above his years in how he puts his own goals before anything else socially and relishes living as a gym rat.
“It’s honestly hard to find me doing much other than playing ball. I might just relax in my house sometimes but, usually, I’m always in the gym. Wouldn’t rather do anything else.”
On a daily basis, once he arrives to the gym, Ellis makes sure to dedicate some time of each workout to a specific area of focus.
“Dribbling. Just getting a tighter handle on the ball. I think that’s the part of my game that needs the most work right now.”
Even with this new focus of becoming more offensive-minded, Ellis has a uniqueness about him in how he still embraces the role of a ‘glue guy’ on the court. He realizes that the team will continue to find success each year if he keeps contributing in several ways. Some high scorers may brush off this notion.
“Honestly, I just want to win. It doesn’t matter how many points you score if you don’t get the W. I’m all about winning.”
That mindset will combine nicely with Ellis’ standout play. Hopewell has a good one in their hands for the next three seasons.
So, LaMonta Ellis, where do you see yourself in ten years?
“Hopefully in the NBA!”
I once remember being told age doesn’t mean anything once you step on the court. Couldn’t have said it in a better way. In this case, Opponents will find themselves in a pickle if they take Ellis lightly due to his youth!