Prep Basketball: Ellis will coach South Rowan girls
South girls have new coach
By Mike London
LANDIS — Stacy Ellis is referred to as “Coach” by the employees he supervises as a warehouse manager for TireHub in Greensboro.
Ellis, 46, has leadership skills and people skills that have made him a highly successful basketball coach in the AAU ranks.
“Being a manager in my working life translates well to coaching basketball,” Ellis said.
Ellis aced his interview for the vacant South Rowan High girls basketball coaching job. He’s been hired to guide the Raiders in the 2018-19 season. Most high school head basketball coaches are school teachers, but South athletic director Angie Chrismon believes Ellis is special enough to make an exception.
“South Rowan is giving me an opportunity to coach their team,” Ellis said. “I’m very thankful for that. It’s a good program. The previous coach (John Davis) did a nice job with those girls. They’ve done well and I hope we can take things even further.”
Ellis grew up in southern Oklahoma, not far from the Texas border. He graduated from high school in 1991 after starring for the Hugo High Buffaloes.
“I was fortunate enough to be an all-state player at Hugo and went on from there to Southeastern Oklahoma State University,” Ellis said. “But a lot of things happened after that. Some tragedies happened.”
Ellis got out of school, went to work, met his wife, started a family, and lived a pretty normal life. For quite a few years, that life didn’t include basketball.
After relocating to North Carolina, the Ellis children got involved in basketball. That’s when he made a comeback.
“When my kids started playing, it brought me back to that game that I loved so much growing up,” Ellis said. “When my son was 9, I got involved coaching him in AAU, and I discovered I had a passion for it. I coached with the North Carolina Gaters and Team Phoenix, and when I had a daughter playing, I moved over to coaching girls.”
He coached in a high school setting for the first time at Northeast Guilford High.
Five years ago, Ellis won a major championship in Cincinnati with a Lady Phoenix seventh-grade team.
In recent years, Ellis has coached with the High Point-based Carolina Dynasty program. Currently he coaches the Dynasty’s Inferno squad.
Last summer, Ellis’ Carolina Dynasty Dream Team, which included South Rowan’s Janiya Downs, Carson’s Olivia Gabriel and West Rowan’s Egypt Alexander, went undefeated in the U.S. Junior Nationals and took the Gold bracket crown in Oxon Hills, Md.
“We had quite a few heavy hitters on that team,” Ellis said with a laugh. “I just had to point them in the right direction.”
Ellis has a strong relationship with Downs, and Downs, a rising senior, is the standout on the South Rowan High team. Ellis has wanted to get back into high school coaching for a while, so this was the perfect storm. He’ll get to coach Downs, one of the finest players in school history, during her senior year. Downs already has scored 1,532 points. She was the district player of the year as a junior. She was Rowan County’s player of the year as a sophomore and shared that honor with Gabriel as a junior. Downs, who also has starred in volleyball and track and field for the Raiders was the county’s female athlete of the year for the 2017-18 school year. She’s well on her way to breaking Avery Locklear’s school scoring record and has a chance to become a rare 2,000-point scorer.
“You’re fortunate any time you get to coach a player like Janiya,” Ellis said. “She’s a very positive, upbeat person as well as a very good player. She’s kind of unique on the court. She can get into some spaces where most tall girls can’t go.”
South was 7-17 when Downs was a freshman, but Davis coached South to a 14-12 record her sophomore year. Last season, South jumped to 18-9 and was fourth in the 10-team Central Carolina Conference, one of the state’s tougher 2A leagues. MaxPreps ranked South 31st in 2A, and South’s season included three wins over 18th-ranked Salisbury. Downs got a ton of scoring help from seniors Riley Corriher and Tazah Hardin, both of whom were second team all-county.
So it’s sort of a rebuilding season for the Raiders, but then again, it’s not. They still have Downs.
One of the first questions people ask Ellis, who has been coaching for 16 years, is if Downs can get better. He’s got a good answer for that.
“When the opponent starts doing things to slow that star player down, what can they do then?” Ellis said. “As good a player as Janiya is, she’s only going to be as good as the supporting cast around her, and she understands that. She has to help make her teammates better, and she’ll do that. She’s always accepted every challenge.”