Yet it didn’t take Ellis long to fit into the fold of the offense last year, as he averaged 10.5 points and nearly five rebounds a game during his abbreviated freshman season.
This year, however, has presented a variety of challenges for Ellis. He battled mononucleosis over the summer and burned his hand in a Fourth of July incident.
On the court, SLU coach Rick Majerus wasn’t pleased with the Australia native’s effort defensively, either. So much so, that the smooth-shooting 6-foot-8 forward didn’t step on the court in the Billikens loss at Portland earlier this season.
“I think it was good, it was a reality check for me that I didn't get in," Ellis told the Post-Dispatch after that game. “Coach didn't think I was defensively ready. I wasn't practicing hard enough. This past week, I've been getting on loose balls, hustling a lot harder than I usually would have. It was a good reality check, I think."
Lately though, Ellis has seemed to find his stride.
After gaining confidence with a 15-point performance against Southern Mississippi in Cancun, Ellis posted another double-digit effort with 13 points against Bowling Green on Saturday, along with a career-high four blocks.
After Majerus’ stern approach, Ellis seems to have gotten the message loud and clear.
“My confidence in my defense has definitely gone through the roof from what it was,” Ellis said. “I think it’s also helped me on the offensive end. I’ve gotten my confidence back in my shooting. (Majerus) was on me about it this whole season, but it’s getting into gear now.”
Associate head coach Porter Moser echoed that sentiment.
“I do think Cody’s playing with a lot of confidence,” Moser said. “Coach has talked about for long-term for Cody to be the player he wants him to be, Coach has really had to put his foot down on defensive rebounding. It’s been the first time in his life that he’s been demanded to rebound like that. Now his confidence is coming back in his shot. He looks more confident, and we still think he has a lot of room to grow with what he’s capable of doing.”
While averaging just slightly over 20 minutes per game, Ellis is scoring 7.4 points per contest.
“I’ve been practicing pretty well,” Ellis said on Saturday. “Coach has been really happy with me lately. I was pretty happy to start, I’m not going to lie.”
With the Billikens opening their conference season at home against the Dayton Flyers on Jan. 5, Ellis knows there needs to be a change in culture from the lackluster 5-8 non-conference record.
“We’ve still got a lot of confidence in ourselves,” Ellis said. “We still think we can be really good.”