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Westinghouse center James Ellis signs with Duquesne

Jerry DiPaola
| Tuesday, May 8, 2018, 8:12 p.m.
Westinghouse's James Ellis scores over Allderdice's Jackson Blaufield during their game Friday, Jan. 19, 2017, in Squirrel Hill.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Westinghouse's James Ellis scores over Allderdice's Jackson Blaufield during their game Friday, Jan. 19, 2017, in Squirrel Hill.

Duquesne coach Keith Dambrot said there's a lot to like about his eighth and most recent recruit, center James Ellis of Westinghouse.

Ellis stands 6-foot-11 on 230 pounds, with a wing span of 7-feet, 6 inches, but those numbers aren't the most interesting parts of Ellis' resume, according to Dambrot.

As someone with an appreciation for Duquesne basketball history – his father Sid played there in the 1950s -- Dambrot pointed out that Ellis will be the first Westinghouse graduate to attend Duquesne since the legendary All-American Chuck Cooper. A 1950 Duquesne graduate, Cooper became the first African-American drafted into the NBA.

Ellis, who signed a financial aid agreement with Duquesne, is a project, but one that Dambrot welcomes.

“He reminds me a lot of when we got (McKeesport's) Zeke Marshall (at Akron),” Dambrot said. “A big guy who has really good upside.”

Former Westinghouse coach Eugene Wilson, now at Baldwin, remembers Marshall, and believes Ellis may have more potential.

“I think he's more skilled than Zeke Marshall, my own personal opinion,” Wilson said.

Ellis will enroll at Duquesne this year, but won't be eligible academically for the 2018-2019 season. He won't be able to practice with the team or coaches in that time frame, but he can work out with the strength coaches and on his own.

Dambrot said he accepted similar student-athletes during his time at Akron and “it paid really good dividends for us.”

“I like his upside as a person,” Dambrot said. “I like that he's really thankful for the opportunity. With a good diet, good weight training, good coaching, he has really good potential.

“We'll put natural weight on him and he'll play at 250 in the future.”

Wilson said Ellis averaged nearly a triple-double for the past two seasons at Westinghouse, with 15 points, 11 rebounds and eight blocks as a junior and 21 points, 12 rebounds and seven blocks as a senior.

Because of his academics, Ellis wasn't highly recruited and was getting ready to go to Allegany College of Maryland, a two-year school. But Dambrot watched Ellis play and started to aggressively recruit him.

“The thing about this kid is he's willing to work,” said Wilson, who coached against Ellis before taking the Westinghouse job in 2016.

“He has the right mindset. Everything wasn't easy for him in terms of the transition of having a new coach who was going to push him, but he bought into the system. He allowed us to mold him a little bit.

“I think coach Dambrot is going to do some really good things with James because James is a worker.”

Jerry DiPaola is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at or via Twitter @JDiPaola_Trib.

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