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SBN Wisconsin Hall of Fame Nomination #6: Bo Ellis

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This is the fifth of ten posts revealing the ten Marquette nominees for the SBN Wisconsin Hall of Fame.  These are in no particular order, except for the particular order they're in.

This post comes from guest author John Pudner, who writes for the always-excellent Cracked and is the author of Ultimate Hoops Guide: Marquette University. We appreciate John taking the time out of his busy schedule to write this feature on Bo Ellis.

Since All-American Eber Simpson and his Wisconsin Badgers defeated Al Delmore and Marquette 14-13 in their first meeting on December 19, 1917, thousands of students have played Division I basketball in Wisconsin, including greats such as Alando Tucker (UW-Madison), Tony Bennett (UW-Green Bay), Clay Tucker (UWM) and Dwyane Wade (Marquette), as the state has produced 51 NCAA tournament teams and five Final Four teams.

However, only one player – Bo Ellis – has played in TWO Final Fours.  The 6-foot-9 forward from Parker High School in Chicago also started in more wins – with a 102-17 record – than any other player in state history.  In fact, only UW’s Jason Bohannon (102-33) and Tucker (102-35) have even PLAYED in 102 wins, but both came off the bench for many games early in their careers.  Ellis took the court as a starter for his first MU game on December 1, 1973, and started every game through the NCAA championship win over UNC on March 28, 1977.

Prior to the NCAA championship telecast on NBC, Ellis was referred to as the best forward in the college game.  In 2007, Dick Enberg introduced him after the Al McGuire play was performed in Atlanta thirty years after the title game, and the next year he started the annual Marquette golf outing to benefit the Nicole Ellis Scholarship Fund.

After spending the better part of a year crunching the numbers and reading accounts of all 667 Marquette basketball players, I concluded by writing, “Ellis is clearly the most valuable player in Marquette history…” (page 103, “Ultimate Hoops Guide: Marquette University.”)  I compiled 10 factors on each player, and Ellis is the only MU player that ranks at or near the top in all 10:

What makes Bo Ellis the most valuable player in MU history, after the jump!


1. Points: 1663 ranks in the top 10

2. Rebounds: 1085 is second behind only Don Kojis

3. Assists: 207 – the 6-foot-9 Ellis is the tallest MU player to record 200 assists (the next tallest were Kerry Trotter and Roney Eford at 6-foot-6)

4. Blocks: 307 estimated – I went through an exhaustive process for estimated blocks and steals for all players when they were not kept and it appears Ellis had by far the second most blocked shots in MU history (behind Jim McIlvaine’s 399), and he even averaged almost two blocks a game playing against the toughest competition in the country in NCAA tournament games, where the block stat was recorded.

5. Steals: 99 estimated – probably ranks 5th in steals among all-time frontline players behind only Lazar Hayward and Trotter (158 each), Trevor Powell and Marc Marotta

6. Defense: Ellis was a defensive star as MU finished in the top 5 in the country in scoring defense ALL FOUR OF HIS YEARS, including finishing second to only Princeton one year and having two of the only three MU teams to hold opponents to less than 60 points a game since 1950

7. Success: the only player in MU history to play on two Final Four teams (1974, 1977)

8. Leadership: as a freshman, he was the second-best player behind only Maurice Lucas, and he was the star on the team his next three years as Dean Smith called him “the most intelligent forward in the college game today”

9. Record: 102-17 – leads all MU players with 102 career wins (originally 101-18, but NCAA gave MU another win after Mychal Thompson was ruled ineligible for Minnesota in 1977)

10. Honors/NBA: One of only seven first-team All-Americans and one of only seven 1st round draft picks from MU

The “Win Credits” formula based on these factors calculates that Ellis was worth an additional 26 wins to Marquette over his career, three wins more than any other player in MU history.  In fact, only seven players come within 10 wins of Ellis’ value; Travis Diener, Lazar Hayward, Butch Lee, Jerel McNeal, Dean Meminger, George Thompson and Dwyane Wade were worth 17 or more wins during their careers.

Ellis best season was 1975, the fourth best season a Marquette player has ever had behind only Wade’s 2003 season, George Thompson’s 1968 season and Butch Lee’s POY 1978 season.  At their peak, these three players were a little better than Ellis, but no one comes close to matching the impact he had over four years.

If the Wisconsin sports Hall of Fame included only one college basketball player, it should be Bo Ellis.