Ellis transcends struggle to lead
Once ‘hot-headed’ guard No. 2 in steals
Published: Tuesday, May 22, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, May 22, 2012 15:05
All it took was an emotional explosion for Rob Ellis to realize that he had to change his approach in order to help lead his team.
Ellis expressed his frustrations about his Comet teammates’ performance during a team bus ride home after suffering a road loss to Las Positas College on Dec. 30, 2011. It was then that Ellis decided to make a turnaround in his attitude not only as a player but as a person.
“I was going through a lot of stuff in my life at the time,” Ellis said. “Playing for Contra Costa College this season taught me how to be a better man.”
Maturation for the 22-year-old student-athlete has been a work in progress this season.
The sophomore guard from Highlands, a small town in San Bernardino County, transferred to CCC in 2010 from Imperial Valley College with a lot of baggage.
Dealing with the incarceration of his father and a long distance relationship with his 3-year-old son Robert Aiden Ellis V, he was finding it difficult to fit in with his Comet coaches and teammates.
“I was on my own out here and I didn’t want to build any relationships with people,” Ellis said. “It was a rough stage in my life having my dad go to jail and being away from home.”
When first working out with the Comet men’s basketball team in the summer of 2010, Ellis was described by both players and coaches as a cocky, hot-headed player with an attitude.
Due to his overly-competitive nature as well as his tenacity on defense, Ellis was immediately respected for his skill by his future teammates.
“Rob never showed his emotion on the court,” assistant coach Jesse James said. “Instead of letting guys accept him for who he is as a person, he forced the team to respect him by showing off his skills and coming into the program with a cocky attitude.”
James, who is a friend of Ellis’ father, said that while Rob hid his feelings about his dad’s incarceration, he held a close relationship with his father.
“He’s been dealing with his father’s incarceration and you would have never known that it would have affected him on the court,” James said. “But you can see his pain as his dad is his biggest support system.”
After his December post-game rant, Ellis went home to Highlands, but came back to CCC and decided to improve his attitude. By taking a leadership role and utilizing his talents, Ellis helped take the Comets on a nine-game winning streak.
“(Improvement in his attitude) started in practice when he came back from SoCal,” guard Joseph Scott said. “I knew he had been going through some things and when he came back he was a better person, started to set an example for the team and become a leader.”
While the Comets didn’t have a standout player, Ellis was able to use his sharp shooting and ability to create his own shots to lead the team in scoring (11.7) as well as employ his quick hands to rank second in the state in steals (2.8).
Behind the hard work of Ellis and the Comets, the team was able to reach the second round of the State Tournament for the first time since 2005-06 under the guidance of sixth-year coach Miguel Johnson.
“Over this past year I’ve seen Rob grow into a better leader and player overall,” guard Paulo Rodriguez said. “He was big for us this season and his leadership helped us a lot. His attitude definitely changed.”
During the off season, Ellis said that he has been practicing with the team while waiting to decide which college to transfer to, with the University of San Diego being his first choice.
While Ellis will not walk away from CCC with a championship, he will walk away from the campus with much more — an addition to his character.
“I learned that I’m not the only person in life that goes through things. Seeing how my teammates went through different or similar issues and stayed strong through them, it motivated me to stay positive,” Ellis said.