by Ronnie Estoque
Basketball runs deep in the local Elleby household. In 2011, Garfield High School honored Bill Elleby as a legend for his contributions as a player during the late 1980s. He went on to play for the University of California, and the team made two National Invitation Tournament appearances and one NCAA appearance during his four years as a Golden Bear. Raised to love the game of basketball by his late uncle, Carl Ervin, Bill was a Cleveland High School and Seattle University star and was eventually drafted by the Seattle Sonics in the 1980 NBA Draft. Four decades later, the next generation of basketball talent in the family, C.J. Elleby, is officially in the NBA as the Portland Trail Blazers guard.
“The moment he [C.J.] got drafted, it was kind of surreal, I had tears fill into my eyes because I know how hard he’s worked,” C.J.’s father, Bill Elleby, reminisced. “And I know how hard it is to get to that dream — for players to get drafted.”
A local basketball talent who graduated from Cleveland High School in 2018, C.J. attended Washington State University where he played for two years before being selected 46th overall by the Portland Trail Blazers in the 2020 NBA Draft. He is the first Cougar underclassman to be selected in the NBA Draft and as a first-round Draft pick since NBA All-Star Klay Thompson was drafted by the Golden State Warriors in 2011.
“I’ve seen tremendous growth in C.J., just in him you know, becoming a leader,” Bill said. “He really is so unselfish — always cares about his teammates.”
Set on giving back to the community, the local basketball talent and his foundation, the Elleby Foundation, hosted their first annual C.J. Elleby Youth Basketball Camp this past weekend. The Elleby Foundation was incorporated as a nonprofit in December of last year to provide more community resources to youth in the greater Seattle area. The organization largely focuses on providing basketball skill development to program participants but also stands by its call to emphasize the importance of mental health, a healthy diet, and academic performance in school.
The Elleby Foundation hosted the free camp to help youth focus on developing their basketball skills. The camp catered to attendees as young as second grade, all the way up to eighth grade, and was hosted at the Emerald City Basketball Academy gymnasium in Kent. T-shirts and food were also provided for youth that attended the camp. The turnout was strong with over 25 youth in attendance. The Elleby Foundation hopes to provide more camp opportunities for local talent in the future. Several youth brought NBA jerseys for C.J. to sign, and others enjoyed taking home the free shirt alongside newly developed basketball skills provided by the Elleby Foundation.
“Me and my son C.J., you know, he has a strong passion to give back to the community. Him as a child growing up going to camps of different sports, it was a big resource for him and a big inspiration for him — an outlet for him to get some good mentoring from great coaches in the Seattle area,” Bill said.
Bill is also in charge of Seattle Basketball Services, which scouts young premier basketball players in the greater Seattle area. Due to his deep connection to the local basketball community, the camp included instruction from several prominent Seattle-based coaches and provided exposure for basketball talent that may be flying under the radar.
Over the years, Bill has been a part of several current NBA players’ journeys to the league, such as Zach LaVine and Kevin Porter Jr., but admits that outside pressures and lack of support can deter chances for young players to make it far in their athletic careers. Because of this, both he and C.J. facilitated conversations with youth who attended the camp on the importance of mental health, academic performance, and a healthy diet alongside teaching basketball skills.
“Even when I was coming up from the ’80s to now, you know, we’ve had so much talent up here. And some of the talent has been washed away through the streets through, you know, bad academics,” Bill reflected on hopeful young basketball players that did not perform academically well enough to receive scholarships to continue their athletic careers in college. He also gave advice to young basketball talent in the Seattle area that may have goals of making it far in their athletic careers: “… dream big, always believe, you know, but [know] that that dream comes with a sacrifice … You have to go to school and be a good student.”
Both Bill and C.J. hope that the Elleby Foundation can continue to serve Black and Brown youth in Seattle and act as a bridge to resources that can support them even outside of basketball and athletics. Bill is proud that his son C.J. has utilized his platform as an NBA player while still maintaining his humility throughout all his successes thus far in his professional career.
“I always told him, the odds were against him … and I think that’s what kind of brought tears to my eyes — that he used [my words] as a motivating factor,” Bill said. “Like, he actually made it to the NBA …”
Ronnie Estoque is a South Seattle-based freelance photographer and videographer. You can keep up with his work by checking out his website.
📸 Featured Image: The C.J. Elleby Youth Basketball Camp participants pose with C.J. Elleby for a photo. Photo courtesy of Bill Elleby.
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