PITTSBURGH — Pitt signed St. John’s transfer Malik Ellison to a National Letter of Intent on Thursday, solidifying the presence of the guard in Pitt’s lineup for the 2018-19 and 2019-20 seasons.
Ellison, a 6-foot-6 shooting guard, who will have two years to play with the Panthers after sitting out the 2017-18 season.
Pitt hasn’t always had a lot of luck with transfers, but Ellison is unlike any transfer Panthers fans have seen in quite some time. Fellow Class of 2017-18 transfer Monty Boykins comes from mid-major Lafayette. Incoming guard Jared Wilson-Frame and returnee Jonathan Milligan came from junior colleges.
Going back through the entire Jamie Dixon era, most of Pitt’s transfers fell into one of those two piles. Chase Adams, Mike Cook, Rafael Maia, Alonzo Nelson-Ododa, Sterling Smith and Trey Zeigler came from mid-majors. Chrisshawn Clark, Cassin Diggs, John DeGroat, Jermaine Dixon, Tyrone Haughton, Doyle Hudson, Rozelle Nix, Ed Turner and Joe Uchebo were JUCO grads.
Only Sheldon Jeter and Derrick Randall came in from another power-conference program and they came under vastly different circumstances. Randall had played two mostly unproductive seasons at Rutgers, averaging 2.3 points and 2.2 rebounds over 57 games. Jeter had showed promise coming off the bench as a freshman at Vandy, where he averaged 6.6 points and 4.5 rebounds per game.
Ellison was part of the regular rotation at St. John’s last year, starting 17 of 18 conference games. He averaged 7.2 points per game as a true sophomore and also added 3.3 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 0.9 steals per game. He shot 41.9 percent from the floor and 34.1 percent from 3-point range.
Basically, Ellison was a starter as a sophomore and was poised to take an even bigger role with the Red Storm when he decided to transfer. He should slot directly into the starting lineup at Pitt in 2018-19 and could quickly become one of the team’s better players.
“I don’t ever want to make the habit of overblowing guys when they come in here,” Stallings said in a one-on-one interview last week. “He’s good. I’ll be surprised if he’s not a really, really good player for us.”
Stallings is also excited about getting Ellison into the fold as a practice player while he sits out the 2017-18 season. With almost an entirely new roster, establishing a new culture for the team will be high on the list of priorities for Stallings and his staff over the next few months and on that front, an experienced player like Ellison could quickly become a leader.
“One hundred percent,” Stallings said. “As good of a player as we think he is, we think he’s even better on the character end. He comes from a great family. … He’s very articulate, very well-spoken, a great student. As best as we can tell, he really is everything that we’re trying to attract here.”
Ellison doesn’t just come from top-flight program, either. He was rated as a 3-or 4-star recruit coming out of high school and his father Pervis had an 11-year NBA career.
There’s no question that Pitt is going through a rebuilding process as a program. In Ellison, Stallings may have found one of the cornerstones.