Boogie Wonderland: USC’s star guard is putting on a show for his last dance

Boogie Ellis is standing in front of a crowd in black and white with the Sword of Troy in his hand
Senior guard Boogie Ellis has commanded tremendous leadership and basketball prowess at USC, and looks to lead the Trojans into the postseason one more time. (Brooks Taylor | Daily Trojan)

Senior guard Boogie Ellis smiled from ear-to-ear as he hoisted the sword of victory after USC just defeated their crosstown rivals, the then-ranked No. 8 UCLA Bruins in Januray, behind an at-the-time career-high 31 points from the San Diego native. Ellis also contributed 6 assists, 4 rebounds, a steal and a block: a stat-stuffing performance to propel the team to victory. Head Coach Andy Enfield put it best when he simply said: “When he gets it going, he’s really hard to guard,” in an interview with the Los Angeles Times.

It hasn’t been difficult to see that Ellis has been hard to guard all season long. He’s averaging career-highs in nearly every statistical category, as well as leading the Trojans in points per game. Ellis has scored 15 or more points in 20 different games so far this season. He is also second on the team in assists per game and steals per game. 

Ellis credited his successful season to his progressive mentality.

“I just believe in myself, trust in my work [and have] confidence in myself,” Ellis said. “I try to get better every year. I feel like I got better from my freshman year to sophomore year, junior year to senior year. I’m just all about getting better.”

It’s not hard to tell that redshirt junior forward Joshua Morgan is happy to have such a talented player running point for him and his squad. 

“He’s great. He makes the right passes, he’s a great knockdown 3-point shooter, he keeps the tempo up and he makes really smart decisions,” Morgan said. “I love playing with him.”

Morgan, who is in his second year playing with Ellis, has seen firsthand the huge step Ellis has taken in his time with the Trojans and acknowledged his hard work. 

“One thing we’re all super proud of is that he’s been getting better and better,” Morgan said.

Although he’s been one of the Pac-12’s best players this season, college basketball hasn’t been an easy road for Ellis. Coming out of Mission Bay High School in San Diego, Ellis initially committed to Duke before decommitting and committing to Memphis. In his first season at Memphis, Ellis struggled to live up to his top-50 recruitment status, and ultimately found himself losing minutes. 

“Going into college was my first time really going through adversity as a top player in the country,” Ellis said. “High school was really easy, but getting to college was kind of tough, it took me a while to adjust.” 

And just like he said he would, Ellis trusted himself and improved — perhaps with help from a change of scenery. He officially transferred to USC in April 2021, and he’s stepped up in a big way since arriving in South Central. He showed flashes of his impressive skill set at Memphis, but as a Trojan, those flashes have become consistent and Ellis’ is putting his true capabilities on full display every time he steps onto the court.

Ellis has noticed the differences in the culture at USC compared to other programs he has been a part of. 

“It’s definitely a great place. It’s a family-oriented place,” Ellis said. “All the coaches want to see you win, they want to see you get better. They put you first and your game first, so I really respect that.”

With the recent signing of top-ranked guards for both the men’s and women’s teams and the recent success of transfer players such as Ellis, Drew Peterson and Joshua Morgan, it’s clear that the culture of USC basketball is something that many players want to be a part of and can succeed in.

 “Coach Andy [Enfield] is doing a great job with the culture here, and I would tell anybody that has the opportunity to come to USC that they should come here for sure,” Ellis said. 

Ellis is noticeably quiet and pensive, at least off the court. On the court, he has been touted as a vocal leader by his teammates, not to mention he’ll also break you down on defense and let you hear it after he drains a 30-foot three-pointer in your face. Freshman guard Oziyah Sellers has learned a lot from his veteran guard counterpart. 

“Being a freshman, early on coming in, he’s taught me a lot,” Sellers said. “He’s been a true leader this year for me, [and] he’s shown me how to be more of a leader.” 

Trojan fans should be very excited for their young, up-and-coming guards with the mentorship and guidance that they’re receiving from one of the nation’s most skilled guards.

USC basketball has been an underdog before and thrived under that title, reaching the Elite Eight in the 2021 NCAA Tournament as a No. 6 seed. It seems as if the team has proved itself to be dangerous at its fullest potential and Ellis has proved himself to be a legitimate NBA talent. However, Ellis told the L.A. Times “we still have more to prove.” 

The soft spoken senior once again kept it simple when talking about his goals for the rest of the season. 

“I don’t really have goals for myself. I really believe that if you win and you continue to do what you do, you’ll be rewarded [individually],.” Ellis said.

Ellis’ team-first and “work hard and you will be rewarded” mentalities have worked well, as both he and the team are trending upward. 

With a name as smooth as his game, it’s undeniable that the legend of Boogie Ellis will live on far past his years at USC. Wherever he ends up, it’s safe to say that Ellis will always have fans in L.A. Ellis cracked a smile as he said what wants to be remembered most for as a Trojan.

“Buckets. For sure,” he said.

Buckets will be greatly appreciated as the Trojans play behind their star guard in the Pac-12 Tournament quarterfinals Thursday at 8:30 p.m. against the winner of Arizona State and Oregon State’s Wednesday night matchup.