14-15 – This was a confounding season from Ellis, right up until the last month, when he turned everything around and started to make the kind of impact some anticipated him being capable of at the season’s outset. By all accounts, Alvin had a bad summer. Izzo made reference to it, suggesting that he simply hadn’t worked hard enough on his game, his conditioning or anything else. Yet, word from fall camp was that he’d turned it around and in fact he started the season opener against Navy opposite Zel on the wing. Alvin sprained his ankle about 11 minutes into that game against the Midshipmen, which kept him out of the lineup for several weeks. Once he returned, he looked to be out of shape and despite MSU having a screaming need for another perimeter body Ellis was unable to claim more than spot minutes for most of the rest of the season. The potential he’d shown as a freshman, showing a decent jumper and some ability to take the ball to the rim, seemed to be out the window as Alvin appeared to be completely out of sync.
Then he found his game. It started modestly, as he was able to contribute some decent minutes if not offer a ton of production in game at Illinois and home against Purdue. He did have a burst of production against Minnesota, the school to whom he’d originally committed, but his 7 points got lost in MSU’s terrible giveaway of that game. Still, at the very least, Alvin was playing solid defense and not looking out of place on the court any longer. Then came the season ender at IU. In 21 minutes Ellis scored 16 points and was a crucial component of that narrow victory. He looked confident, comfortable and assertive. He didn’t have anything close to that kind of production in the BTT or NCAA Tournament but did look like the guy I think many expected him to be this season…a guy who isn’t a net negative when he’s on the floor.
Going Forward – This would seem to be a big few weeks for Alvin Ellis. It doesn’t take a genius to read between the lines in Izzo’s post-season comments, that he’s got questions as to Alvin’s level of commitment to doing the work necessary to make this team better and keep or expand a role for himself. If the answers head in one direction, he’ll be on the roster and likely maintain a role as a backup wing. If it goes the other way, he could transfer out of the program. It’s entirely up to Alvin, it seems. I have no doubt that he has the potential to be a positive contributor over the final two years of his career if he wants to work hard enough to maximize it. He can shoot the ball, he has the size and length to be an effective defender on the wing, and I think he’s one of the better guys MSU has in terms of going to the basket off the dribble. I sense that some MSU fans would like to see him move on, figuring that opens up a scholarship spot for somebody else. Thing is, there’s no guarantee that MSU would fill it immediately (in fact, I’d think the odds of replacing him with anyone eligible to play in 2015 would be slim) and Ellis has shown enough to suggest to me that if he’s committed to getting better, he can be a help to this team in the near term.