Ellison steps up in point guard role, helps lead Flint Beecher to third title in four yearsBasketball  |
EAST LANSING — There's enough pressure being a starting point guard as a freshman on a varsity basketball team.
The pressure gets ratcheted up when the player is handed the keys to a team that is coming off back-to-back state championships.
Oh, and then try filling the shoes of one of your school's legendary players on top of that.
Good luck, kid.
Well, it's not like Malik Ellison didn't know what he was getting into when he stepped into his personal pressure cooker last season by earning the starting job at the point for Flint Beecher.
Ellison has followed Beecher basketball his entire life, aspiring to one day leave his mark on one of the state's premier programs.
The dream was put on hold when he was benched for the second half as Beecher suffered a devastating loss to Pewamo-Westphalia in last year's quarterfinals, blowing a four-point lead in the final 14 seconds.
The setback was temporary, however, as Ellison helped Beecher won its third Class C title in the last four years with a 78-52 victory over Grand Rapids NorthPointe Christian on Saturday at the Breslin Center.
Ellison was one of four Buccaneers to score in double figures, scoring 10 points to go with four assists and two steals. He was a steady influence on the offensive end, much like Monte Morris was during a four-year career that ended with two straight state titles and the 2013 Mr. Basketball award.
"It's unbelievable, just to think that in 20 years I can tell my kids I won a state championship," Ellison said. "All the greats who went through here like Monte and Marquise (Gray) had their runs. I have a state championship, so that's great."
Although this was Ellison's first time playing at the Breslin Center, he had insider knowledge of what it took to win a state championship. As a middle school student, he would practice with the Beecher varsity players to get ready for the day when he would take over from Morris.
"It was a lot of pressure, but I grew up playing with Monte and all the greats in open gym, so I was ready for the moment," Ellison said. "I just had to overcome my youth and take my time and let things come to me. I was overdriving last year, overpassing. I had to calm that down and take my time this year."
Beecher coach Mike Williams made the difficult decision of benching his point guard in the second half of last year's quarterfinal. Ellison had only two points and appeared to be rattled playing in a packed gym in front of 2,000 fans.
Saturday was Ellison's moment of redemption.
"I take my hat off to Malik to step in as a freshman after Monte Morris," Williams said. "He struggled at times last year. In the quarterfinal game, I sat him down. I never gave up on him. This year, he improved so much. The one thing I challenged him to do was to do something Monte didn't know, which is win a state championship as a sophomore. Lead your team. Set the table. I'm so proud of the way he matured. He's just a joy to coach. I've got him for two more years, so I'm smiling."
Ellison averaged 12.8 points this season, receiving special mention on The Associated Press' All-State team.
"Last year I was only 14 when we were in the season," the 5-foot-9 Ellison said. "It was tough. Being 5-7, it's really tough. I had to overcome a lot of things. I kept watching film on (smaller gu