Sophomore Sensation

Danny Polk

Go watch a Hanover basketball
game. It won’t take long before you
notice Jalen Elliot. Whether it’s his
signature color coordinated headband,
ankle-breaking ball handling,
or the stat sheet, the sophomore
stands out.
The charismatic Elliot earned a
starting role on the varsity squad as a
freshman and doubled with then-senior
Treyvonte Brown to account for
the majority of the Hawks’ scoring.
With Brown gone, Elliot has taken
even more of a leadership role on the
team this season.
“Last year was a first step for Jalen
to see what high school basketball was
all about,” third year head coach Darren
Thornton said, “I thought he did a
great job last season. He learned a lot
from (Brown) on how to be more aggressive
and be more vocal which prepared
him to embrace his leadership
role this year,”
In the fall, Elliot combined with
senior Korbin Bordonie in a twoquarterback
system for the Hanover
football team. Thornton believes this
helped shape Elliot’s leadership skills.
“I think sharing the responsibilities
of being the quarterback on the football
team helped him a lot, knowing
that you have to be more vocal in that
leadership role,” he said. “He’s done a
great job of motivating our guys and
getting us going in the right direction.”
Elliot has embraced his role as the
go-to man this season, averaging 18
points per game.
“I accept the challenge,” he said,
“I know my team has my back either
way and I know that I can count on
them,”
His right hand man has been 6’6”
junior Cutch Ellis, who has evolved
into one of Hanover’s top playmakers,
averaging a double-double (15 points
and 10 rebounds) per game.
“Cutch has really come into his
own this year,” Thornton said. “He
really has blossomed,”
A three-point specialist last season,
Ellis has indeed blossomed both
figuratively and literally – he’s grown
three inches in the offseason. His
newly found size has helped him see
a more diverse role this season giving
Hanover a much needed post presence.
“I think he’s one of the best big
men around the area,” Thornton said.
“He can go inside and he can go outside,”
The flexibility of what both Elliot
and Ellis can do on the court has
made them a duo worth watching. Although
Elliot scores most of his points
in the lane, he isn’t afraid to pull up to
shoot – he’s launched 60 three-pointers
already this season.
“(The versatility) is what makes
that duo really competitive; they can
do a little bit of everything; they can
create for one another,” Thornton
said.
If the shot isn’t there, no worries
says Elliot. “We play well together
because I can penetrate and kick and
know that he’s there to hit the shot,”
he said.

The two have made it a goal to make each other better every practice.
“We push each other in practice a lot and get on each other to pick it up,” Ellis said, “We just have good chemistry on the court.”
Elliot concurred. “It all starts in practice. We work so hard and it translates to the game,”
College coaches have taken note of Elliot’s success. He has drawn interest from the University of Virginia, the University of Richmond and Virginia Tech to name a few in a list that will surely expand over the next twelve months.
“I don’t want to settle for being the same player each year,” Elliot said, “Being a better player each year and finding a way to help my team get better is really what I’m looking forward to,”
But it isn’t only on the court where Elliot is impressive. According to his teachers, he has expanded his leadership to the classroom as well.
“This is the second year that I’ve taught Jalen and he is hands down one of the most respectful students that I have ever taught,” English teacher Francis McMillan said, “He’s not the type of kid to make excuses for anything,”
McMillan noted that his success in balancing athletics and academics is a tribute to his maturity.
“I know that he has practices and training and stuff that he’s doing as an athlete, but he never brings any of that into the classroom,” she said. “He definitely is a role model to his classmates. He clearly has his life together and I think the other kids see that and admire that.”
“Every teacher, coach, and my parents have always taught me that academics come first,” Elliot said, “That’s really what my mindset is; before I even go into a sport I make sure my grades are up,”
Thornton thinks that Jalen’s academic success is as contagious as his defensive intensity.
“I’m very prideful when I talk to people about him because I can brag about him in the classroom as well,” he said, “Our program and all of the programs here do a great job of emphasizing classroom first.”
Only two years into Elliot’s high school career, there’s no telling what the future holds. But one thing is for certain: a sophomore slump is out of the question.

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Author: The Hawk Eye

Hanover High School, Mechanicsville, Virginia The Hawk Eye Student Newspaper thehawkeye@hcps.us

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