By Rubin E. Grant
Hoover senior Ahman Ellington laughed at the notion that a point guard is a passer first and a shooter second.
That’s because Ellington does more shooting than playmaking in the Bucs’ half-court offense.
“It’s just the system and the coaches believing in me and allowing me to play freely, and me believing in myself,” Ellington said. “My teammates are doing a good job of getting the ball to me when I’m open.”
Ellington is the Bucs’ leading scorer, averaging 25.4 points per game while shooting 56 percent from the field and 43 percent from the 3-point range. He has scored 30 points in six games this season.
On an off night shooting, he still finished with 24 points in Hoover’s 63-49 loss to Mountain Brook last Thursday, a loss that dropped the Bucs’ record to 14-7 as they head into Class 7A, Area 5 play this week.
Ellington, generously listed at 5-foot-10, also knows how to get to the foul line, and that enables him to put more points on the board.
“Free throws are a big part of it,” he said. “I’ve been able to create contact on the perimeter. We try to get into the bonus early in the quarter, and once we’re in the bonus, any little foul gets us to the free-throw line.”
Ellington had nine free-throw attempts against the Spartans, making six.
“He’s crafty,” Hoover coach Charles Burkett said. “He understands the game and has an uncanny ability to draw fouls. He’s real quick.”
Ellington is shooting 88 percent from the free-throw line. In one four-game stretch early in the season, he made 49 of 50 attempts, including one game in which he made 15 of 15 attempts and another in which he sank 16 of 16.
“I just make sure it’s the same routine every time, make sure I shoot them in rhythm,” Ellington said. “I take three dribbles every time. I have to shoot it in rhythm as if it’s a jump shot.”
With the graduation of guards Jamari Blackmon, who now is a freshman at North Alabama, and Marion Humphrey, Ellington was thrust into a leadership role this season. He gives the Bucs more than just scoring, averaging 4.1 assists, 3.2 rebounds and 1.3 steals.
“This was his year, but he didn’t come out of nowhere,” Burkett said. “He’s a special kid. He’s been playing for me for four years. I called him up from the junior varsity as a freshman and started him in a win or go home game in the area tournament against Thompson, so that tells you something, what I think about him.
“His (basketball) IQ is through the roof. He’s very savvy. You talk to him and it’s like you’re talking to guy who has played for 30 years. He’s 5-10, but he plays much bigger. He’s a true point guard.”
Ellington credits Blackmon and Humphrey for helping him step into the spotlight this season.
“It was a mindset to be more aggressive,” Ellington said. “I saw Jamari and Marion set the standard and I knew what to expect because they set a great example for it.”
Playing on the varsity since late in his freshman year also has been a contributing factor.
“I got called up with 10 games left in the season,” Ellington said. “I remember playing on Senior Night and I started the next game. I’ve been starting ever since. I’ve got a lot of experience.”
Ellington has been playing basketball since he was 7.
“I started playing at Dawson Memorial in the church league,” he recalled.
From just about the time he stepped on the court, he displayed basketball acumen. His dad, Thomas Ellington, has been instrumental in his development.
“He played football and basketball in high school and football at Tennessee State,” Ellington said. “He taught me how to watch film and not to get too high or too low and stay level-headed.
“The film work helps put me in the flow, allowing the game to come to me and seeing things before they happen.”
Ellington hopes a stellar senior season will lead to an opportunity to play at the next level. Right now, the only school recruiting him is Berry College.
“I hope to get more schools interested,” Ellington said. “But right now, I’m just going out having fun and letting my game speak for itself.”