Notre Dame honors former basketball great LaPhonso Ellis with Purcell Pavilion Ring of Honor Saturday

Glenn and Stacey Murphy Head Men’s Basketball Coach Mike Brey chose LaPhonso Ellis as the program’s ninth individual inducted into the Purcell Pavilion Ring of Honor. That happened yesterday, Saturday, December 11, 2021. 

“LaPhonso Ellis is one of the greatest athletes and gentlemen to ever suit up for Notre Dame basketball,” Brey said. 

“A dominant player on the court, ‘Phonz’ faced his share of challenges at Notre Dame, but overcame them all to become a great ambassador not only for our program, but our entire University. The Ring of Honor was meant to celebrate amazing individuals like LaPhonso and we can’t wait to induct him in December.”

Ellis dominated the front line, both offensively and defensively, during his career with the Irish from 1988 through 1992. He finished his career as the all-time leading shot blocker (200), third leading rebounder (1,075) and eighth on the all-time scoring list (1,505 – those rankings have changed over the years). Upon completion of his time at Notre Dame, Ellis was just the fourth Irish player to score 1,000 points and grab 1,000 rebounds in a career. 

One of the elite athletes in college basketball during his time, Ellis exploded for 27 points in 27 minutes in his first college game and never let up through his 97 career contests. He saved his best performances for some of Notre Dame’s best competition. During his senior season in 1991-92, Ellis averaged 20.6 points, 11.0 rebounds and shot .679 from the field against ranked opponents. 

That final season for Ellis at Notre Dame is one of the finest for a front court player in program history. Recording 22 double-doubles (third best for a single season), Ellis played 1,194 minutes (36.2 per game, a school-record at the time), shot 63 percent from the field while scoring 17.7 points per game and pulling down 11.7 rebounds per contest. On February 29, 1992, Ellis connected on 16 of 16 free throws against Rutgers which earned him a share of the school record for free throw percentage in a game. 

Ellis helped three Irish teams to postseason appearances, including a first-round NCAA tournament victory over Vanderbilt in 1989. He capped the 1992 season by leading the Irish to the NIT Championship game, earning all-tournament honors with 18 points and 12.8 rebounds per game. In keeping with Ellis’ penchant for stepping up against the best competition, he averaged 17.0 points, 12.5 rebounds and shot 55 percent from the field in seven postseason performances. 

While Ellis missed 20 games during his career when he fell behind academically, he graduated on time with a degree in accounting in 1992. He was the fifth overall pick of the 1992 NBA Draft by the Denver Nuggets, earning first-team all-rookie honors with the squad after the 1992-93 season. He helped the Nuggets make history in the 1994 postseason as they became the first No. 8 playoff seed to defeat at No. 1 seed (Seattle). Over his 11 year NBA career, Ellis played for the Nuggets, Atlanta Hawks, Minnesota Timberwolves and Miami Heat, scoring over 7,400 points (11.9 average) with over 4,000 rebounds (6.5 average). 

Ellis joined the Notre Dame Basketball Radio network after his retirement from professional basketball as a color commentator, eventually working his way to ESPN in 2009 as a college basketball analyst. Ellis became a part of the popular College GameDay crew at ESPN starting in the 2019-20 season. 

Ellis In The Notre Dame Record Books:

  • T-1st – 16-16, 1.000, Free Throw Percentage, Single Game, vs. Rutgers 2/29/1992
  • 2nd – 200 – Blocked Shots, Career
  • 2nd – 2.1 – Blocked Shot Average, Career
  • 2nd – 54 – Double-Doubles, Career
  • 2nd – 86 – Blocked Shots, Season, 1991-92
  • 3rd – 22 – Double-Doubles, Season, 1991-92
  • T-3rd – 24 – Rebounds, Single Game, vs. Creighton 1/30/1990
  • 4th – 1,075 – Rebounds, Career
  • 4th – .631 – Field Goal Percentage, Season, 1991-92
  • 6th – .577 – Field Goal Percentage, Career
  • 8th – 11.1 – Rebounds/Game, Career
  • 10th – 385 – Rebounds, Season, 1991-92
  • 10th – 1.96 – Blocked Shot Average, Season, 1988-89
  • 11th – 53 – Blocked Shots, Season, 1988-89
  • 17th – 587 – Field Goals, Career
  • 18th – 12.6 – Rebounds/Game, Season, 1989-90

The Purcell Pavilion Ring of Honor was established in 2010 by the University of Notre Dame Athletics Department to honor former or current men’s and women’s basketball coaches and student-athletes who have made distinguished and noteworthy contributions during their careers at the University.

Upon induction, the individual’s name, jersey number and years at Notre Dame are stitched onto a banner and raised to the rafters in Purcell Pavilion to forever inspire the present and future fans who attend events in the Joyce Center. The individuals are also presented with a small reproduction of their Ring of Honor banner and also receives a ring – similar to an NCAA or ACC Championship ring – in a private ceremony with the current men’s or women’s basketball team.

LaPhonso Ellis 20 during Irish career (courtesy Notre Dame Athletics)


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