Ellis, Eagles seek 2021 rebound

By Mark Oliver

It hasn’t been the season that Conway Christian has hoped for so far, but sophomore guard Cooper Ellis and the Eagles have already set their first New Year’s resolution — to start 2021 with the team’s first win of the season.

Conway Christian High School’s Cooper Ellis is a member of this year’s 501 Basketball Team, sponsored by Conway Regional Health System and First Security Bank. (Mike Kemp photo)

“We have a lot of room for improvement right now,” Ellis said. “The most important thing we can do right now is play as a team. Despite our record, we have had a ton of bright moments this year, and we have a lot of potential as a team.” 

A member of last year’s district champion junior high Eagles squad, Ellis understands what it takes to win and hopes to transition that success to the senior high team this season.

“I like to think of myself as a floor general,” Ellis said. “In practice, I try to encourage my teammates as much as I can. I’m telling them to keep working and to not give up on our season. Encouragement, especially in games, can be a big thing. Right now, our goal is to go into each game and give 100-percent effort. If we push ourselves to our limits and try our best, it’s a good day for us.” 

Ellis was selected to this year’s 501 Basketball Team — 34 players representing the best the 501 has to offer both on and off the court. The team is sponsored by Conway Regional Health System and First Security Bank. The sophomore was nominated by his head coach, Justin Kramer.

“Cooper has very good awareness on the court,” Kramer wrote in his nomination. “He has a knack for getting to the rim and protecting the rim on the defensive end. He drives so well that he often brings help, allowing other players to get good shots.”

In a key road match-up for the Eagles, Conway Christian faces Pangburn this week in search of the team’s first win.

“This is a huge game for us,” Ellis said. “Pangburn is a good team with a lot of good sophomores. We are watching game film, working on boxing out for rebounds and understanding how to deal with their big guys. From the opening tipoff, we have to go hard and never let off the gas.” 

According to Ellis, a win would not only boost the morale of this team, but the entire student body as well. 

“Getting that first win under our belt will give not only our team the confidence it needs, but our school as well,” Ellis said. “My teammates that also played football are coming off a winless season as well, and it has hurt their confidence. We’re looking to get a victory to spark the energy for our school.” 

“As a teammate, Cooper has become more vocal,” Kramer wrote. “He is a natural leader on the court with his talent, so when he encourages or tells someone good job, they listen to him and they continue to improve. He makes sure that he is engaged on the bench when he is out of the game just as much as when he is in the game.” 

As he continues to grow with the program, Ellis has set a big personal goal for his high school basketball career.

“My goal is to score 1,000 points in my high school career,” Ellis said. “To do that, I’ll need to average 15 points per game. It means that I’ll need to give 100-percent every game and never take a game off.” 

“I have very high expectations for Cooper,” Kramer wrote. “My biggest expectation is his growth as a leader. He has a huge presence in practice and in games that plays a major impact on his teammates and the opposing team. I also expect big things from him in areas of points, assists, steals and rebounds.”

Off the court, Ellis plays AAU basketball and runs track for Conway Christian. In his free time, the sophomore attends Woodland Heights Baptist Church in Conway and enjoys video games and experiencing the outdoors of the 501 with friends and family.

Conway Christian plays at Pangburn at 11 a.m., Saturday, Jan. 2.

Mark Oliver
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