Ellis was always on target

Former Vol Dale Ellis, left, stands with former UT coach Don DeVoe during the All Century Basketball Team introductions at halftime of a game against Vanderbilt at Thompson-Boling Arena in February 2009.

Photo by Amy Smotherman Burgess

Former Vol Dale Ellis, left, stands with former UT coach Don DeVoe during the All Century Basketball Team introductions at halftime of a game against Vanderbilt at Thompson-Boling Arena in February 2009.

DeVoe talks about Dale Ellis

DeVoe on Dale Ellis

Former Vol Dale Ellis, left, stands with former UT coach Don DeVoe during the All Century Basketball Team introductions at halftime of a game against Vanderbilt at Thompson-Boling Arena in February 2009.

Photo by Amy Smotherman Burgess // Buy this photo

Former Vol Dale Ellis, left, stands with former UT coach Don DeVoe during the All Century Basketball Team introductions at halftime of a game against Vanderbilt at Thompson-Boling Arena in February 2009.

This year celebrates the centennial season of men's basketball at Tennessee. The News Sentinel continues its series looking into the players, teams and events that have molded an exciting history.

When he retired from a long NBA career in 2000, Dale Ellis was one of the most accurate and prolific 3-point shooters in league history.

As for what a 3-point line would have meant in Ellis’ collegiate career at Tennessee, it’s debatable.

Ellis was one of the most accurate shooters around the basket during a terrific four-year career in Knoxville. Had their been a 3-point line, would coach Don DeVoe have let his prize big man drift away from the basket and launch? We’ll never know.

The 6-foot-7 forward from Marietta, Ga., scored 2,065 points for the Vols from 1979-83. That ranked third behind Ernie Grunfeld and Reggie Johnson when Ellis played his last game. He ranks sixth now.

Ellis was about as close to money in the bank as any UT player in history. His 59.5-percent career field-goal percentage is a Tennessee record for anyone who attempted more than 500 shots.

His junior year was deadly. Ellis hit 65.4 percent of his attempts which is still the SEC season record (minimum 300 attempts).

Ellis did most of his work in or close to the paint, but he had some range as well. He proved that as a sophomore when his 17-foot shot in the final seconds lifted UT to 58-56 win over Virginia Commonwealth in a first-round NCAA tournament game.

The Vols won a first-round NCAA game in each of Ellis’ four seasons. His final three years saw the Vols beaten by a No. 1 seed in the second round. As a sophomore and junior Ellis and the Vols were eliminated by Virginia and 7-foot-4 Ralph Sampson, a three-time national player of the year.

The Vols went 46-26 in regular-season SEC play during Ellis’ career, tying for the league championship in 1981-82 when he averaged 21.2 points and was a second-team Associated Press All-American.

As a senior Ellis averaged 22.6 points and earned consensus first-team All-America honors, an honor no Vol has matched since. He scored 30 or more points seven times that season.

He was the SEC’s Player of the Year in ‘82 and again in ‘83.

A couple of months after his college career ended in an NCAA tourney loss to Louisville, Ellis was the No. 9 pick of the NBA draft by Dallas.

He found his stride after a trade to Seattle and became a 3-point marksman.

Ellis averaged 15.7 points over a 17-year career with several teams in which he hit 1,719 3-point shots and made 40.3 percent of his attempts beyond the arc.

Ellis, 47, lives in the Atlanta area and last week was named to the Vols’ All-Century team.

Get Copyright Permissions © 2009, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.
Want to use this article? Click here for options!

© 2009 govolsxtra.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

  • Discuss
  • Print

Comments » 21

volnbig11land writes:

Thanks for the memories Dale and good luck in you future!

ETNTigerFan writes:

59.5 career fg %. I guess that's not tooooo bad. Ha!

johnlg00 writes:

Best post moves of any Vol ever, with the POSSIBLE exception of Bernard King. Certainly no one else was as efficient. Tyler Smith should watch every piece of tape of Ellis UT has.

Basketball_Jones writes:

If yo can average 17 a game for a career in the NBA you've had a pretty good career. Great shooter, Devoe kinda pulled a Dean Smith on him by making him play around the basket. He would have had 3,000pts if their had been a 3pt line

GoVol writes:

I watched him play every home game in Stokley. He could realy excite a crowd with his long shot from the base line!

GoVol writes:

in response to GoVol:

I watched him play every home game in Stokley. He could realy excite a crowd with his long shot from the base line!

realy = really.

orangeinbama writes:

One of the things that always stood out to me was the relative ease with which he passed the ball. The two hand pass in front of his chest looked as tho he just "flicked" his wrist. The velocity that was on those passes always seemed to be at another level speed wise, but the accuracy with which they arrived was uncanny. I wont ever forget when they asked Barkley who he would rather guard in the paint, Bowie or Ellis. He said " I can go after Bowies shot, but I cant stay close to that guy in Knoxville". He had that little jump hook with either hand, and released the ball so fast the defense never had a chance. And by the way. Even with Ralph they (Virginia) collapsed on Dale when he got the ball down low. They did not want Daled isolated one on one with Sampson in the paint.

Timed_vol (Inactive) writes:

big fan of his. really different game from Bernard King. Bernard would simply spin in place and jump over you for his shot.

Those NCAA losses where tough to take. Nowaddays, UT would have maybe made the elite eight. back then, they got matched up with real kilers every time. Didn't they play Louisville AT UL?? And, if memory serves, UL had about 12 deep, and the gym was like a sauan??

Against UVA, didn't we push them alomst to the limit??

Been a long, long time for me to remember, pretty much shadows now.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to Timed_vol:

big fan of his. really different game from Bernard King. Bernard would simply spin in place and jump over you for his shot.

Those NCAA losses where tough to take. Nowaddays, UT would have maybe made the elite eight. back then, they got matched up with real kilers every time. Didn't they play Louisville AT UL?? And, if memory serves, UL had about 12 deep, and the gym was like a sauan??

Against UVA, didn't we push them alomst to the limit??

Been a long, long time for me to remember, pretty much shadows now.

Agree that Bernard was more explosive. Ellis just had a better knack for getting the defenders to lean the wrong way with good foot-work and had a better variety of shots. Better free-throw shooter, too.

Volumni writes:

I've never seen a player like Dale Ellis. He was exclusively an inside player in college, then became an outside threat in the pros with proficiency.

Great player, great Volunteer!

john#208876 writes:

Dale used to come over to the Varsity Tennis Courts and hit tennis balls after his season ended. A great guy and a super talented athlete, he could have played any sport; if he'd have played tennis seriously at a younger age he could have played tennis at UT also. It was near impossible to get it by or over him at the net! Well deserved member of the all century team - Vol Legend!
Still don't understand the Jimmy England oversight???

OrangeRush writes:

He had the fastest first step toward the hoop...like magic to watch him gliding in there.

Alwaysavol writes:

in response to Timed_vol:

big fan of his. really different game from Bernard King. Bernard would simply spin in place and jump over you for his shot.

Those NCAA losses where tough to take. Nowaddays, UT would have maybe made the elite eight. back then, they got matched up with real kilers every time. Didn't they play Louisville AT UL?? And, if memory serves, UL had about 12 deep, and the gym was like a sauan??

Against UVA, didn't we push them alomst to the limit??

Been a long, long time for me to remember, pretty much shadows now.

mparker,

You're right. We pushed UVA as close to the limit as you can get without winning the game. The first year we were up by 10 fairly late in the second half. The second year was a close game all the way, and we wound up losing by one. It was a really low-scoring game - I think the final was 39-38. Painful, both times.

txsvol#372416 writes:

Don't know about his college, but he had turned almost exclusively into a three point specialist when he played with the Spurs in the early '90s. All time career NBA results are second, behind only Reggie Miller, with 1719/4226 for a .403 FG%. SAVol

johnlg00 writes:

in response to General_Watermelon:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

IMHO, and apparently in yours, BK was the greatest player in Vol bball history. Compared to almost everybody else, he was a physical freak with his quickness, balance, and reflexes. Mears used to have a blown-up photo in his office, saying it showed the essence of BK's greatness. It showed King under the bucket surrounded by four mostly bigger UK players. The ball was just visible coming off the rim. The UK guys were all braced to go up for the rebound, while BK was already six inches off the floor! Ellis, OTOH, clearly studied the game in perfecting a series of moves that always gave him SOME kind of advantage in going up for his shot even against bigger and more physical players. As someone else pointed out, the way Ellis reinvented his game in the NBA shows his cerebral approach to the game.

johnlg00 writes:

Scrolling down a little farther, I see that you too, GW, also acknowledged how Ellis reinvented his game in the pros. I always try to give credit where it is due! If I seemed to be particularly partial to Ellis, it is just because his game seemed to be more a matter of consciously learning how to maximize his already considerable talent, an approach more accessible to players of any level of talent. Let me hasten to add that BK was in fact legendary for working hard on his game, too. One more short story if I may: When UT started practice in BK's freshman year, he was off by himself practicing on one of the side goals when Mears called the whole team to center court. King kept on working on his own. Stu Aberdeen went over to him and asked him to join the team for drills. King said that he had his own routine that he preferred. Aberdeen said, "Show me." For the next 30 minutes, King put himself through the hardest individual workout Aberdeen had ever seen. After that, BK was allowed to do his own thing until it came time to work on team strategies!

bkgunter writes:

By far my all time favorite UT player. Arguably one of the most incredible basketball conversions ever---from a low post demon to a long distance marksman---at the next level. He had several NBA seasons where he was the best 3-point shooter by far. Way under appreciated. He was the SEC player of the year twice, I believe, while Dominique Wilkins was at Georgia and Charles Barkley was at Auburn. His years were some of the most electric at SAC.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to ButchIsBack:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

There is often some pretty good ball played in pick-up games, especially when the scholarship players played. Too bad nobody ever let you play! It often seemed to me that almost any existing college team could be broken up entirely and replaced by the best pick-up players, especially at a school as big as UT. However, I know that there is WAY more than sheer talent to putting a good college team on the floor.

PennVol writes:

Ellis came to King College in Bristol for a basketball camp when I was a student there. We had a b-ball coach who had been there for many years and stressed fundamentals. When Ellis arrived, the coach said - "Let's just see what kind of form he has". Ellis walked onto the floor and promptly nailed 3 shots from the top of the key. No warm ups and nothing but net. The coach said, "Yeah, he's got pretty good form, I guess...".

Slystone writes:

Dale was a ultra smooth player for UT back in the 80's. Had a chance to play in a pickup game a few times at the infamous "Doc's Place". Those chest pass he made were like catching a rocket. One of the reasons Dale never exploited his outside game at UT was because Devoe could not afford to put him out on the wing. Face it Dan Federmann and Willie Burton were not premier big men. Serviceable at best. Dale's time in Dallas on the Mav's bench allowed him to improve his perimeter game. We know the rest of the story once he went to Seattle.

midnite__VOL writes:

in response to ETNTigerFan:

59.5 career fg %. I guess that's not tooooo bad. Ha!

Dale needs to teach this team how to shoot.

Want to participate in the conversation? Become a subscriber today. Subscribers can read and comment on any story, anytime. Non-subscribers will only be able to view comments on select stories.

Features