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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.