When the Portland Trail Blazers selected CJ Elleby with the 46th pick in the second round of the 2020 NBA Draft, many in Rip City scratched their heads, wondering what Elleby could bring to Portland. Aaron Fentress of the Oregonian profiles Elleby’s family history, exploring how Elleby is carrying on the legacy of his family: his father, Bill Elleby, played for Garfield High School in Seattle before going on to Cal to play at the collegiate level, and his uncle was Carl Ervin, a legend out of Cleveland High School, where Elleby chose to attend high school. Bill Elleby served as his son’s first coach, aiming to develop more versatility in his son’s game.
However, his game, he admits, was flawed. He focused too much on scoring, and that hindered the development of the rest of his game. So, he coached his son to be more versatile.
“I didn’t want him to fall short like me, just thinking about his points, thinking about himself,” Bill Elleby said.
The lessons stuck. Over the years, when Bill would find himself telling CJ to be more aggressive offensively, CJ would respond: “I’ve got to make the right play, Dad. Just like you told me to.”
When CJ Elleby moved on to Washington State, that versatility stuck with him.
Former Washington State coach Ernie Kent said he believed Elleby had NBA potential while recruiting him out of Seattle, which has produced a plethora of NBA talent over the years, including two first-round picks last week. Elleby, Kent said, played well against that level of talent while growing up and in high school.
And he did so with a grit that stood out. Diving on the floor. Going after rebounds against taller players. Fighting for every inch to get an edge. He also learned concepts quickly.
“He just competes so hard and he has a really high basketball IQ,” Kent said. “He’s like a sponge that way.”
Current Washington State University head coach Kyle Smith notes that Elleby works hard, something that bodes well for him as part of the Portland Trail Blazers.
“He is really dedicated, almost obsessive,” Smith said. “He will get in the gym. You don’t have to worry about him. He is a gym rat.”
For his part, Elleby is excited to play for the Blazers, thanks to one of Seattle’s famous sons: Brandon Roy.
“Growing up and hearing stories about him and seeing his legacy that he left behind and that he is continuing to live, it was just inspiring,” Elleby said.
Neil Olshey noted in his press conference that this year will be like an apprenticeship for the young Elleby, but his father emphasized his son’s dedication to the gym and to the work, two things the Blazers’ organization values.
“His work ethic is just second to none,” Bill Elleby said. “That’s what Portland is going to see. He’s not going to be out on the town at night. He is going to be in the gym. That’s going to separate him.”
You can read the entire profile here.