As recruiting news goes, this is no blockbuster. Perry Ellis is a very good recruit -- he's the No. 37-ranked player in the class of 2012 according to ESPNU -- but it's not like he's a top-five recruit whose commitment guarantees at least one year of dynamic excellence. Judging by ESPNU's recruiting rankings alone, this is hardly a crucial signing for a program as talented as Kansas.
But Ellis' Kansas choice, which he made at a news conference at his high school in Wichita, Kan., Wednesday, is symbolic in its own way. Besides Kansas, Ellis' biggest suitor was Kentucky. KU and UK have battled for the services of dozens of top recruits in the past five years, and when you do battle with the John Calipari recruiting machine, it's not unusual to take your lumps here and there. Losing Ellis would have been one of those lumps. He's in Kansas' backyard, he's won three 6A state championships in Kansas and is a three-time Gatorade Player of the Year in the state, and his gym even hangs a Kansas banner, which just so happened to be behind the podium where Ellis announced his decision.
Ask Washington how it feels to lose one of your state's top recruits to Kentucky. The Terrence Jones waffle still stings, and the Jayhawks avoided that here. That alone is reason for a big sigh of relief.
There's another element to Ellis' commitment that has less to do with symbolism and more to do with sheer talent. Frankly, Kansas' 2011 recruiting class is just OK. There are some talented players in there -- Ben McLemore is particularly interesting -- but as a whole the class fails to stack up to Self's longtime standards for recruiting dominance. Because of that class, and the possibility that talented forward Thomas Robinson will look to the NBA if his 2011-12 season is the breakout year we all expect, Kansas needs a talented 2012 class to prevent any sort of short-term drop-off. Ellis' commitment is the first indication that the Jayhawks are back on their typically dominant recruiting track.
In-state symbolism meets real-world need: That's a recruiting combination any coach could love.