With her effervescent personality permeating a classroom at Jeremiah E. Burke High School, 18 year-old Khadijah Ellison took in the crowd assembled before her and joked that she had forgotten her contract to play Mississippi State basketball at home.
After finding a pen and settling into her seat surrounded by friends and family, the honor-roll student and life-long athlete signed on to play as a Bulldog at 3:20 p.m.
Ellison, who stands 5-7, visited and strongly considered Temple before making her decision, but said she fell in love with Mississippi State.
“I liked the girls. I talked to the players to see how things were [at Mississippi State],” Ellison said of her visit. “I love everything about it.”
Mississippi State is an NCAA Division I program and a member of the Southeastern Conference. The Bulldogs posted a 21-12 record last year and made it to the Sweet 16 of the women’s NCAA Tournament before losing to Florida State, 74-71.
Burke coach John Rice believes that Ellison’s combination of talent and intelligence will take her far.
“She just has a God-given ability,” Rice said. “Many players and student athletes have the talent but they’re missing the academics, or some have the academics but they’re missing the talent. This kid has the talent and she’s gotten it done in the classroom.”
Rice knows that Ellison has what it takes to continue striving in college.
“She’s not facing the New Missions and the Dorchester Highs anymore, she’s going into the Georgias and the Kentuckys,” Rice said. “She’s ready for it. She’s not intimidated. She’s not fearful of it.”
Mark Leszczyk is the coach of Roxbury Community College women’s basketball team and has worked closely with Ellison at the Reggie Lewis Center over the past four years. He also credits her “God-given” talents as an invaluable asset.
“The best thing about [Ellison] is that she's not afraid to share the basketball with her teammates,” Leszczyk said. “Actually, I think the glory kind of scares her. She doesn't like to be in the spotlight. She just wants to be part of the team and that's what makes her so special.”
Ellison, whose athletic endeavors started on the Pop Warner football fields at a young age, didn’t realize her potential as a basketball player until she started high school.
“When I first heard [people talking about me], I was like ‘okay, so, what’s next on our agenda’,” Ellison said. “You know, I never really paid attention to [what people said].”
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