Archdeacon: Living up to one of the best names in college basketball

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Kobe Elvis interview: Dec. 1, 2021

If it’s about a guy living up to his name, University of Dayton basketball fans can be glad Joy Elvis named her youngest son Kobe and not Curtis.

“Both of my older brothers, their names start with a C,” Flyers’ guard Kobe Elvis said of siblings, Colin and Curwin. “Honestly, she was going to name me Curtis.”

But in 2000 and 2001 the Los Angeles Lakers were winning back-to-back NBA titles and that struck a chord with Joy, who had come to Canada from Guyana in 1992 and – after growing up on cricket – said she soon fell in love with basketball and especially the NBA.

“She was a huge Lakers fan and she always loved Kobe and that Afro he had,” Elvis said. “So she decided to name me Kobe and made Curtis my middle name.”

Thursday morning – by phone from Brampton, Ontario – Joy Elvis explained the NBA naming rights her family wrangled over back then:

“In 2000, Kobe was my favorite basketball guy. My husband liked the Spurs and Tim Duncan. And my brother liked Scottie Pippen and the Chicago Bulls.

“So we had three babies born in 2000 and 2001. I named my son (born in March 16, 2001) after Kobe. My brother named his son Scottie and my niece named her son Jordan after Michael Jordan.”

After the Flyers’ 64-44 victory over Alabama State on Wednesday night at UD Arena, Elvis shared some thoughts about growing up named after the person he called “the best player on the planet.”

His Kobe embrace involved more than just a name, though.

“When I was a kid, they had me with a big Afro,” he said with a laugh. “I had a picture of Kobe cut of a magazine on my wall and I was always on YouTube watching him play and stuff.”

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A young Kobe Elvis. CONTRIBUTED

A young Kobe Elvis. CONTRIBUTED

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A young Kobe Elvis. CONTRIBUTED

When he started seriously playing basketball as a teenager, he said he didn’t pretend he was some type of Kobe clone:

“That’s something I couldn’t possibly do. I don’t have his physique, his build. I can’t do what he did. But that’s not saying there aren’t some things you can’t take from his game. And I tried to be the best Kobe I could be.”

Wednesday night he did a decent job of that.

Starting for the fourth time this season, the 6-foot-2 freshman transfer from DePaul made 5 of 8 shots and scored a career-high 15 points. It was his third time hitting double figures this season and he now averages 7.7 points per game, fourth best among the Flyers.

Asked if she felt she’d put pressure on her son – naming him after a basketball great before knowing if he’d be good or stink at the game – Joy seemed a bit surprised and then laughed.

“No, I didn’t ever think of it in that way. I thought he’d do well.”

That idea, she said, was reinforced by a Michael Jordan poster her son had in his bedroom:

“It says: ‘Believe in yourself and all things are possible.’”

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The Elvis Family – Joy Elvis holds her son Kobe, with sons Curwin and Colin (right) next to her. Husband John in back. CONTRIBUTED

The Elvis Family – Joy Elvis holds her son Kobe, with sons Curwin and Colin (right) next to her. Husband John in back. CONTRIBUTED

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The Elvis Family – Joy Elvis holds her son Kobe, with sons Curwin and Colin (right) next to her. Husband John in back. CONTRIBUTED

‘Dayton is a great place for him’

As a high school junior, Elvis played for Southwest Academy in London, Ontario, averaged 27.3 points, 8.1 rebounds and 4.8 assists per game and was named the MVP of the league. The following year he averaged 26.6 points for Bill Crothers Prep and led the team to the 2020 Ontario Scholastic Basketball Association championship game.

Recruited by the likes of Ole Miss, Minnesota, Saint Louis and Richmond, he chose DePaul and played in all 19 of its games last season and started four.

But it was a rocky run for the Blue Demons. The program was plagued by COVID pandemic and former coach Dave Leitao admitted players spent “25 to 40 days in isolation” due to issues involving the virus in the months leading up to the season.

DePaul didn’t play its first game until Dec 23 and finished the season 5-14. In March, Leitao was fired.

Soon after, Elvis decided to transfer to “get a fresh start,” his mom said.

Although several programs took interest, Dayton – which recruited him virtually – connected with him. He said former associate head coach Anthony Solomon first won him over and then head coach Anthony Grant sealed the deal with the help of assistant coach Ricardo Greer.

Elvis agreed to come to UD without ever visiting the campus.

“Dayton is a great place for him,” his mom said. “It’s perfect. With his coaches and his teammates, I think he’ll thrive in that environment.”

He started the first three games of the season, scoring 10 points in the opening victory against UIC, but then he went scoreless in a loss to UMass Lowell and had nine points in another loss to Lipscomb.

Replaced as a starter, he got 10 off the bench in a third straight defeat against Austin Peay.

He didn’t score in just three minutes against Miami in the opening game of the ESPN Thanksgiving tournament in Florida and did not play at all in the stunning victory over Kansas.

Sunday he scored 10 as the Flyers edged Belmont in the title game. That set the stage for his start Wednesday night and he drew praise afterward from Grant, who noted how he’d stayed ready even when his time had been reduced:

“That’s how the season goes. You’re always going to face adversity of some type. And that was a sign of his character, of his maturity as a young man, to be able to handle that and be prepared when the opportunity presents itself.”

Elvis talked about it, as well:

“Honestly, I got to control what I can control and give energy wherever I can.

“My teammates started – and they did an amazing job – and I was there to encourage them and see them through that. And (now) they’re there to see me through it.”

He said the renewed Flyers – who have now won four games in a row and are 5-3 going into Saturday’s game against Northern Illinois at UD Arena – have begun to understand their roles:

“That’s extremely important. Something that Coach Grant says every day is to ‘star in your role.’”

In the process he said the Flyers players finally are realizing “we just don’t have to be the young team that everyone says we are.”

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Dayton's Kobe Elvis shoots against Alabama State on Wednesday, Dec. 1, 2021, at UD Arena. David Jablonski/Staff

Credit: David Jablonski

Dayton's Kobe Elvis shoots against Alabama State on Wednesday, Dec. 1, 2021, at UD Arena. David Jablonski/Staff

Credit: David Jablonski

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Dayton's Kobe Elvis shoots against Alabama State on Wednesday, Dec. 1, 2021, at UD Arena. David Jablonski/Staff

Credit: David Jablonski

Credit: David Jablonski

Bringing down the house at UD Arena

When 41-year-old Kobe Bryant was killed in a plane crash in California on January 26, 2020, Joy said all her sons immediately reached out to her:

“I was very emotional. All the boys kept ringing my phone to see where I was and how I was doing. They knew how I felt. It was a great loss for me.”

It made her youngest son all the more cognizant of representing his name the best he could.

“I’ve always known I had a unique name and I’m very proud of it,” he said.

Before the season started, Andy Wittry of NCAA.com saluted his entire name – Kobe Elvis – as one of the “33 Best Names” in college basketball.

“People have told me that Elvis played here, but I don’t know anything about that,” Kobe Elvis said.

He was right.

Elvis Presley sold out three shows at UD Arena in the 1970s and also packed the UD Fieldhouse, when it was the Flyers’ hoops home in 1956.

A Dayton Daily News account of his April 7, 1972 show before a crowd of 14,000 at the Arena said he brought down the house when stepped on stage “decked out in a blinding white outfit, bedecked and bejeweled.” He was accompanied by an orchestra that played the theme from “2001: A Space Odyssey.”

His other concerts here also sold out and had the crowd roaring.

“Honestly, I know what he looks like, but that’s it,” Elvis said. “I have no idea of any of his songs or anything like that.”

But he should know that if he lives up to that back half of his name, as well – and he “brings the house down” with his performance at UD Arena – Flyer fans will be “All Shook Up.”

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