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A steep Shakespearean learning curve awaits the multi-talented junior. Besides, the 6-foot-3 forward already has a starring role on Stivers’ streaking boys basketball team.
Ellis is one of four returning starters from a Tigers team that became the surprise Division III wildcard last season, taking eventual undefeated state champ Cincinnati Deer Park to the limit before bowing in a classic district final.
That set Stivers up for an anticipated encore and the Tigers have delivered. Stivers (7-1) already has separated itself in the City League.
“We feel like we’ve moved from being the hunter to the hunted,” veteran Stivers coach Felix Turner said. “We’re no longer a secret. That’s put us in a different mode.”
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All the Tigers credit Turner as being a difference-maker. That includes Ellis, who’s averaging a triple-double (11 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists) and owns an offer from Albany State (Ga.). Other Tiger’ starters are junior Doug Spear, sophomore Allen Lattimore, junior Da’juan Allen and senior Lorenzo Lewis.
This is the 30th season for Turner to coach mostly City League boys basketball. In his fourth season at Stivers, he previously spent 12 years coaching at Patterson Co-Op, 10 years at Meadowdale and four at Trotwood-Madison.
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He’s groomed and coached against great City League players and teams in at least three distinct eras.
“He’s like a father to a lot of us,” Ellis said. “We go to him for pretty much anything. He’s always talking to us about leadership and being a man, first. He’s the reason why our brotherhood has gotten so much stronger. A lot of us used to be immature, but with Coach Felix by our side, we’re pretty much gelling together.”
Stivers was regularly beaten by City League rivals Belmont, Dunbar, Meadowdale, Ponitz and Thurgood Marshall last season, but that all changed when the postseason began.
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A tourney afterthought after winning just nine games, the Tigers posted three blowout sectional wins and quickly won over an appreciative University of Dayton Arena crowd after leading Deer Park early in the fourth quarter. Deer Park won, 72-63, and Stivers (12-14) looked forward to this season.
“I always say basketball is a microcosm of life,” said Turner, a 1979 Roth grad. “It gives me an opportunity to mentor young men through tough situations on the court that hopefully gives them something to lean on as they go through life. That’s really what excites me about coaching, even more than the X’s and O’s and the winning. The mentoring piece is big to me.”
Stivers home games are a hot ticket after three sell-outs. The team has won over alums and new fans, and is backed by a raucous student section.
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“This is very special,” said Ellis, who played for the 16U Columbus Hidden Gems AAU team last summer. “Deer Park is what we play for, tough, big games. We just came up short. It added fuel to our fire.”
Stivers is at Meadowdale on Friday.
• Fairmont (7-2) swept three games and defeated Canal Winchester Harvest Prep 73-67 to win the Joe Machens Great 8 Classic at Jefferson City, Mo. Harvest Prep returned four starters from a 28-1 team that advanced to the D-III state semifinals last season.
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Firebirds senior Ryan Hall averaged nearly 20 points and was named Classic MVP. Fairmont hosts Beavercreek on Friday and is at Columbus St. Francis DeSales, which Firebirds coach Blair Albright previously coached, on Saturday.
• Brookville (9-0) and Anna (8-0) are the last remaining unbeaten area boys teams and both are lumped in D-III, along with Stivers. Brookville is at Monroe on Friday and Anna hosts defending D-IV state champ Marion Local on Saturday.
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FRIDAY’S BEST BOYS BETS
All at 7:30 p.m.
GWOC: Butler (8-1) at Fairborn (6-2).
GCL CO-ED NORTH: CJ (7-1) at Fenwick (6-2); Carroll (4-6) at Alter (5-5).
CBC: Ben Logan (6-2) at North Union (6-2).
OHC: Catholic Central (8-1) at Fairbanks (6-1).
MAC: St. Henry (6-1) at Marion Local (3-2).
MBC: Emmanuel Christian (7-0) at Legacy Christian (8-2).