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Malik Ellison sweats the details for Pitt basketball

November 24, 2018

The final score didn’t matter, but the numbers on the stat sheet sure did to Pitt’s Malik Ellison.

Ellison was one of three Pitt players to score 14 points in Pitt’s 78-59 exhibition victory Thursday against Pitt-Johnstown at Petersen Events Center. Senior Jared Wilson-Frame and freshman Xavier Johnson were the others.

But Ellison wasn’t looking at points. The numbers only a coach might notice -- rebounding, turnover/assist ratio and free-throw shooting -- stood out to Ellison. And not in a good way.

Raised by 1989 first-round draft choice and 12-year NBA veteran Pervis Ellison, he said his dad “absolutely” critiques his efforts.

“I never have a good game,” he said, laughing.

So, why not expect better from his own team?

Overall, “I thought we played well as a team,” he said. Then, he dug deeper.

“I’m looking at the team rebounds. We only won by one (35-34),” he said. “We have to do better on the glass, and we have to do better taking care of the ball, 17 turnovers to 18 assists.

“Those two things really stand out to me, and we have to make free throws as well (9 of 19). Everything else I thought was good. We’ll build on it. We got out. We pushed the pace.

“I thought we played good defense for the most part, got a little sloppy in the second half.”

Ellison, who had plenty of time to study the game last season when he sat out after transferring from St. John’s, said he learned to sweat the details from listening to the pros.

“I watch guy like LeBron James,” he said. “The level of professionalism they have. They tend to recite everything that goes on in the game.”

Ellison said he also learned plenty from his dad.

“He taught me to play with a lot of energy and let the game come to me,” he said. “Don’t worry about trying to score or trying to do this or that.

“All that is going to come with just playing hard and playing with energy and just being out there for your teammates and being unselfish.”

Ellison and his teammates have plenty of time to work on their problems before venturing into the ACC on Jan. 5 against North Carolina at the Pete. The 14-game nonconference schedule opens at home Tuesday night against Youngstown State.

Pitt coach Jeff Capel sounded generally pleased with his players’ efforts against a Division II team from the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference. For the most part, he wanted to see how his team reacts against another team -- no matter its level of talent -- in a game setting in front of people (3,194 officially).

“First of all, it was good to play against someone under the lights,” he said. “To have a real live game situation with people here and to see how our guys react to that. It was a great learning experience for us.”

Capel started a four-guard lineup, with freshmen Johnson and Trey McGowens, who said he was nervous at the beginning, but settled down and ended up with two dunks and 10 points. The other three were returning players Wilson-Frame, Khameron Davis and center Terrell Brown.

Capel said that could change, based on practices Saturday, Sunday and Monday.

But he seems to like what Elllison brings to the floor, almost constantly jumping around, even during stoppages in play.

“We need all of our guys to be high-energy guys,” Capel said. “He’s a natural high-energy guy. He has that quick twitch. He’s a really good athlete. He can be a versatile defender. He can be versatile on the offensive end, but we need his competitive his spirit all the time.”

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