The Ellis twins of Marietta nearly took scholarships to Georgia Tech together. "I didn't want it," says Ellis. "Darryl understood." Darryl was cut while trying to make the Savannah (Ga.) State team in 1979. He's now a Marine recruit at Parris Island, S.C. and is said to be more demonstrative than Dale. "A lot of people say that if Dale had Darryl's temperament, we'd really have a player," Mrs. Ellis once said. Says Dale, "After playing for DeVoe, I figure I can give Darryl advice about boot camp."
Georgia had been Dale's first choice, "but they didn't seem too interested in me, not until they had already gotten Dominique," he says. Dominique Wilkins cast a shadow over Ellis until last season, when in "my most satisfying game of the year" Ellis had 28 points, 10 rebounds and five steals (compared to Wilkins' 21, eight and none) in a 66-64 Tennessee victory at Athens.
Ellis' teammates, notably the triumvirate of guards, Tyrone Beaman, Ed Littleton and Michael Brooks, have learned to expect such performances. "If we're going to do anything," says Beaman, the point guard, "it'll be behind Dale." Georgia Coach Hugh Durham says, "Dale Ellis is exceptional. He's got strength and grit. Emotionally, Dale is an inward person. How do you judge intensity? Look at the key games. I think he shows he's there." When Ellis was named SEC Player of the Year last season, Durham was among those who voted for him.
The first half of last week's game against UTC was a tight defensive struggle. Tennessee led by only 21-19 at the intermission, and Ellis had nine points and several hard knocks. After falling behind by 14 in the second half, UTC pressed harder behind Gerald Wilkins, the younger brother of Dominique, a 6'6" sophomore who was to finish with 20 points.
Two dunks by Wilkins and two jumpers by White pulled the Mocs to within five, 43-38, with six minutes left. Then DeVoe's defense ignited three straight breakaway slams—by Littleton, Ellis and Forward Willie Burton—and the Vols held on to win.
Though Ellis said, "I give myself a failing grade for that game," Wilkins was awed. "Ellis is the best by far I've ever played against," he said. "Oh, except for Dominique." UTC's Stanford Strickland said, "I did what I could, but I've never been up against a player like that."
"I feel good when I have the ball," Ellis says, a smile playing on his comely, high-boned face. "I prefer the wing because I want to prove I can play there. But when I have the ball low, I'm supposed to make that shot. It's my duty to make that shot. I can shoot from 15 to 18 feet. I can shoot from farther out than that, but here at Tennessee if I took that shot and didn't make it, I'd be sitting." Even DeVoe has to smile at that.