DORCHESTER, Mass. -- Consider Khadijah Ellison a decidedly visual learner.
Jeremiah Burke High's Mississippi State-bound, 5-foot-8 senior guard is the latest in a storied tradition of Bulldog players with both gritty toughness and street-like handle. But Ellison -- an ESPN100 guard for the Class of 2011 -- is a special breed, with the ability to broad jump over waist-high boxes and hit rim when driving to the basket.
She can also create her own shot with a dazzling variety of moves off the dribble, a variety of spins, crossovers and jab-steps that will leave some dizzied, others confused.
Her favorites? It's tough for her to explain -- "They just come to me," she shrugs -- and when asked by an ESPNBoston reporter about her handle she merely grabbed a basketball and demonstrated. First, she took her right heel and tapped the ball behind her back (illegal, she knows), and with her left hand guided it in between her legs out front. From there, she bounced it back underneath her legs, tapped the floor with her right hand and bounced it behind her back with her left. And then, for kicks, she shoots the ball into a trash can across the room.
Hard to explain, but there's the scholarship right there, huh?
"Yeah, a little bit," she laughed.
Ellison sat down with ESPNBoston for a few minutes before a Thursday afternoon practice at school to discuss her scoring ability, staying grounded and why "smooth" music is the way to go.
Q: What's playing on your iPod right now?
A: "'No air' (by Chris Brown). I just like the smooth type of music. It can be old school, but not too, too, old school, like Earth, Wind and Fire or something. I listen to all the smooth stuff, not that crazy Lil Wayne, Waka Flocka junk. I hate that, that's just madness. So Chris Brown, what else do we have in here...(browses her iPod Nano)...Usher, on a good day Nicki Minaj, Justin Bieber -- that's that dude right there -- it depends what kind of day it is. Sometimes a little bit of Drake, little 2Pac, little T.I....
Q: The smooth 2Pac, right?
A: "Yeah, the smooth dude, like 'Changes'. Yeah, not all that other junk. Probably a little Eminem, it depends where I'm at. In school I like to get that school flow, that smooth flow, 'No Air', stuff like that. My favorite one would have to be that Rugrats one, 'Take Me There', by Mya, that Jackson Five remix. Blackstreet, too, 'No Diggity'."
Q: You say you're always listening to music. Why is that?
A: "It's just better that way. It's just what I like to do."
Q: Let's go back one month to the early signing period, and you signed your National Letter of Intent for Mississippi State. How did it feel to put your signature down and make it official?
A: "After a while, it kind of hit me, like 'damn'...it's like, you know a glass of water filled to the top, and you keep putting more water in it? Like that."
Q: You are often described as a scorer. Are you comfortable with that?
A: "Whatever needs to be done, I try to do."
Q: Who's the funniest player on the team?
A: "Everybody's really funny on this team, but the funniest girl I'd have to say is this girl Yissa (Whanellely Guerrero)."
Q: Who's the most underrated?
A: "I'd have to say Cassie (Cassandra Tinius). Everybody contributes something to the team, though. You're not going to hear about everybody, but people on the team can be like 'Oh yeah, I was in that game'."
Q: Do you feel any added pressure with yourself, seeing all the ink about you and how highly you're ranked?
A: "I don't know, I like to think I'm like everyone else. Like, there isn't no superstar. People will be like 'Oh, there she goes, superstar' -- nope, no such thing, no superstars on this team. Everybody's on the same level. I don't think there's any superstars, because everybody contributes something, you know? If that's the case, then everybody on the team's a superstar, even the water girl. Portia (Wilkins), that's her name, she's the water girl, she's so cool. Everybody's cool, you know?"
Q: There have been a number of athletes to come through this program and go on to big things, from your coach Elaine McCants to even thinking back a few years ago to Laniece Langford. What makes the girls basketball tradition at this school so unique?
A: I've just heard alot of the girls that come out of here at pretty top notch. Some of them do stop by sometimes, and they still got it, I didn't even know...coach (McCants), yeah, she's the toughest one (laughs)."
Q: What do you think needs most improvement in your game?
A: "I don't know, if somebody tells me I need to work on something, I'm just going to take it in and try to improve on it, you know. They'll be like 'Oh, you can't shoot', so I'll go in the gym, put up the shots. Just the basic stuff. I don't know why people say I can't shoot, that's mad weird to me...Like, I've heard it, but then I'll go out there and make it happen -- like, 'Here you go'."
Q: Everyone says you're a pretty good ballhandler. What's your favorite move to pull out of the dribble?
A: "I just like to do whatever's necessary. I've got a couple moves in the bag, deep down, way down in the bottom. I'll keep it a secret, through, I like to show and not tell them. It's easier for me to show you than tell you."