Former Tennessee basketball All-American and NBA All-Star Dale Ellis has been in Knoxville this week playing his way back into shape while taking a look at the coaching profession.
Ellis, the SEC Player of the Year in 1982 and 1983, and a two-time consensus All-American, will head overseas on Nov. 9 to play exhibition games in Germany, Belgium and Holland.
Fellow former NBA All-Stars Dennis Rodman and Anfernee "Penny" Hardaway are among the other players taking part on the exhibition tour.
"It's five retired players and five street-ball players teaming up on a 10-man team,'' Ellis said. "We'll play against some of the professional teams over there.''
Ellis, 49, stretched and warmed up at the end of the Vols' practices before swishing 3-pointers from all over the perimeter in Thompson-Boling Arena.
"It's good to be back here and get my mind on basketball again,'' said Ellis, who has enjoyed a quiet retirement living with his mother and playing golf in Marietta, Ga., the past eight years.
"So I'm trying to get in shape, and I also want to observe coach (Bruce) Pearl and see if I have an interest in coaching. I played 17 years in the NBA, but that was as a player. I do know I like to teach and be around young players.''
Ellis has done clinics all over the world, including supporting the U.S. Troops in Afghanistan, Kuwait and Iraq.
As for the NBA, Ellis said he doesn't miss the travel, but he does miss the camaraderie he shared with his teammates.
"I had another year left on my contract, but I didn't want to play for a team that couldn't win a championship,'' said Ellis, who retired before the 2000-01 season after going to the Miami Heat. "Miami was missing a center, and that was my problem my whole career, high school, college and NBA - I was missing a big man to play with.''
Ellis is regarded as one of the most prolific 3-point shooters in NBA history.
His 1,719 3-pointers rank third all-time. In 1997-98, he led the league with a .464 3-point shooting percentage. His .403 career 3-point percentage ranks 12th all-time in the NBA.
Ellis' most prolific season came in 1988-89, when he averaged 27.5 points per game for the Seattle SuperSonics and scored a franchise-record 2,253 points in a season.
The following season, Ellis set the NBA record for most minutes played in a single game, scoring 53 points in 69 minutes (out of a possible 70 minutes) in a 155-154 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks in five overtimes.
Watching UT's practices, Ellis admitted to getting fired up to play again.
"Bruce would really be a fun guy to play for; I love his intensity,'' Ellis said. "It was fun just to watch. I can't wait to observe him more this week.''
Ellis said he remembers Don DeVoe's practice were extremely difficult, too.
"You should have seen them!'' he said. "They were mean.''
But they got Ellis ready for the NBA, as he was selected ninth overall in the 1983 NBA draft by the Dallas Mavericks.
Ellis' career didn't take off until the Mavericks traded him after three seasons.
"I came off the bench, and they got Detlef Schrempf my third year,'' Ellis said. "He was playing more than me, and he was a rookie, and I couldn't take that.''
So it was off to the Seattle SuperSonics, where Ellis' minutes and production jumped significantly. Ellis went from averaging 7.1 points per game his final season in Dallas to 24.9 points per game for the Sonics en route to winning the NBA's Most Improved Player Award in 1987.
Just to make sure Dallas knew it made a mistake, Ellis led seventh-seeded Seattle to a playoff series win over the second-seeded Mavericks in the first-round of postseason action.
"They had beaten us like five times that season, and beaten us bad,'' Ellis said. "That was one of my favorite moments in the NBA.''
Ellis said he plans to make a sentimental stroll through UT's Stokely Arena, where he played for the Vols, before leaving Knoxville later this week.
"This (Thompson-Boling) is real nice, and I was actually promised I'd get a chance to play in this new building,'' said Ellis, who eventually did, albeit in an NBA exhibition game.
"But that's all right. I loved Stokely. I love the gyms where the fans are right on top of you. It's going to be interesting to go in there.''
Certainly, as interesting as it was to see Ellis wearing Tennessee colors and practice gear this week for his individual workouts.