Jah-Leah Ellis fulfills her hoop dreams at College of New Rochelle
By LOIS ELFMAN
Special to the AmNews
As a kid, Jah-Leah Ellis says she didn’t have much interest in basketball. She was into skateboarding. After moving to Harlem at age 11, she started to play some hoops in gym. In seventh grade, a middle school coach who saw her play encouraged her to check out the Dunlevy Millbank Center on 118th Street.
“That’s where I found my love of basketball,” said Ellis, now in her senior year at the College of New Rochelle. “I still have friends from there. My best friend, I met her there.”
This season, Ellis, a 5-foot-11 forward, is receiving accolades for her play. In mid-January, both the Association of Division III Independents and the Hudson Valley Intercollegiate Athletic Conference named her player of the week. AD3I also named her Student-Athlete of the Month for December.
Coming to CNR last year helped refuel her love of basketball, bringing her game to new heights and giving her a platform to flourish as a leader. After having played at Kilgore College, a junior college in Texas, and then academically transferring to DePaul University in Chicago, Ellis had stopped playing competitively. She was working out and playing pick-up when she came to the attention of CNR.
“I was pretty good coming out of high school,” said Ellis, who attended A. Philip Randolph before transferring to the Hun School in Princeton, N.J. “I was OK in junior college, but what CNR represented was after I had that break of not playing basketball, I could show I developed on my own. I put together everything that coaches ever taught me and developed a work ethic on my own.”
Ellis made an immediate impact on the Blue Angels last year, and now in her senior season, she’s showing her full talents. Usually a player who has led by example, Ellis is also finding her verbal leadership skills.
“Once I was forced into that leadership position, it really helped me grow all around,” she said. “Everyday, I focus. We have a lot of young girls [nine freshmen on the team]. I focus on being the best me and hoping that leads by example. They also help push me. I remember when I was a freshman, which seems so long ago. I had no confidence, so I try to provide that to them.”