DETROIT — The raucous crowd of about 2,000 fans at Detroit Renaissance High fell dead silent.
East English Village Prep and Detroit Pershing had gone the other way down the court, but EEVP senior guard Greg Elliott lay writhing in pain, grabbing his knee under the now-abandoned basket. The spindly 6-foot-3 Michigan Mr. Basketball candidate had gone up for a reverse layup in traffic and come down awkwardly.
“When it first happened, I thought it was way worse than it really was,” Elliott later said. “I overreacted to it at first. I was really scared.”
His coach, Juan Rickman, didn’t have much time to dwell on the severity. His team trailed by seven points in the fourth quarter of a Detroit Public School League playoff game on Friday to a Pershing team it had already beaten twice.
So what was he thinking?
“Who was gonna sub in,” he said plainly.
Just as assistance surrounded Elliott, he lifted himself up and limped off the floor toward a back corner of the gym. Play resumed.
Elliott has broken out in his final year of high school basketball. Prior to the season, Rice, Toledo and Temple had offered, and he had taken official visits to the first two of those three.
“I’ve still got three left,” Elliott made sure to note, referencing the NCAA limit of five official visits per player. And he knows exactly what three schools he wants to check out.
Marquette offered on Jan. 2 after seeing Elliott put up 40-plus points in multiple games. He plays in a system in which the guards have control and try to fly fast. He sees that in the Golden Eagles.
“I like their playing style,” he said. “They play up-tempo. They let their guards play. And really, with them, they’ve got (Family AAU teammate and Marquette commit) Jamal Cain. That’s a real close friend of mine. I’ve been playing with him for a while now, so that’s really big knowing I’d be able to play with him again.”
Providence hasn’t offered, but the Friars started showing interest around the same time as Marquette. Ed Cooley’s program has Elliott’s attention and will get an official visit from him, he said.
“They’re really guard-oriented,” he explained. “They let their guards go after it. That’s real good, especially with me being a guard.”
Then there’s Michigan State. Elliott grew up as more of a Michigan fan, but he followed the Spartans closely. He knows freshman point guard Cassius Winston, a fellow Detroit native.
Michigan State started ramping up interest in Elliott in December, and he knows exactly what compelled the Spartans to offer when he visited on Jan. 29 for the their win over Michigan.
“It was the chip,” he said. “It was the way I play. I play with a chip on my shoulder. I try to go out and show that nobody is better than me.”
And right now, Elliott ranks as the top uncommitted player in Michigan, per the 247Sports composite. He doesn’t have dates set for his official visits, but he knows he wants Michigan State to be last.
He continues to hear from Spartans coach Tom Izzo and assistant coach Dwayne Stephens consistently. They have consistently watched him play and made sure to let him know how he would fit at Michigan State.
“They’ve got so many senior guards leaving, so it’ll be a lot of playing time for me as a freshman,” Elliott said. “Knowing that (head coach) Tom Izzo put his own time into me, he’ll be behind me through mistakes as well as success.”
‘Proving a point’
No more than 30 seconds after limping out of view, Elliott jogged by the bench and directly to the scorer’s table. He had calmed himself down and had no doubt about his ability to return.
Once back in the game, he quickly drove the lane and finished a tough shot over the outstretched arms of multiple defenders.
His teammate, 2018 Michigan commit David DeJulius, added a highly-contested three-pointer down the stretch. If EEVP would make a comeback, it would have to be behind those two guys.
“It’s so great to play with this dude,” DeJulius said earlier in the year. “Me being a point guard, it makes it so easy to play, so easy for me to get baskets just feeding off him. He’s a great player. He’ll have a great basketball career.”
Behind their standout guards, the Bulldogs grabbed a lead with less than 30 seconds to play, but Pershing went the other way and tied it, 80-80, at the free-throw line.
With the game on the line, Elliott took the ball up the left side of the floor. Met by three defenders just inside the 3-point line, he spun to his left, leapt and found teammate Zavon Godwin wide open with a bounce pass. The big man dunked with two seconds remaining.
Michigan State target Greg Elliott spins out of a triple team and delivers the game-winning assist. EEVP 82, Pershing 80. pic.twitter.com/cBHJUo8Id9
— Luke Srodulski (@lsrodulski) February 10, 2017
Pershing rushed to get a shot off before time expired but couldn’t. In the rush of the 82-80 victory, Elliott ran toward the sideline and flexed in front of fans. Asked later whether he had any doubts about his team’s ability to come back, he shook his head.
“Never,” he said. “I never have doubt in my team. I know what my team can do. I know there’s nobody better than us.”
Afflicted by a bit of swelling, Elliott had to ice his knee and spent the rest of the evening limping around during the second part of that night’s doubleheader. But he looked as content as ever.
He said he’s certain he will play Tuesday in his team’s next game. He has too much to accomplish. From the start of the season to this point, his strides have been massive.
“Basically it’s just me proving a point that nobody in the state is better than me,” he said. “That’s all I’ve been trying to do.”
First things first
Elliott had planned to drive up to East Lansing and see Michigan State face Iowa on Saturday, but knee soreness held him back.
Asked whether he’s concerned it could be more serious than he thought, he said, “I hope not.” He still has work to do to reach his goals of winning city and state titles (and potentially Mr. Basketball).
After city playoffs, at least, he’ll start taking his official visits. He doesn’t yet know when he’ll take them or when he ultimately wants to make a decision. It hasn’t been at the front of his mind.
He just knows that he wants a fast style of play predicated on guard play and pick-and-rolls. He also wants a coaching staff that knows what to do with him.
“I want them to have a vision for me,” Elliott said, “know what they want me to do from Day 1. How they want me to get stronger, how they want me to get bigger, stuff like that.”
He mainly watched the Wolverines while growing up, but Elliott won’t take love from the Spartans lightly.
“It’s real big knowing that Michigan State is interested,” he said.