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Grad Transfer Elijah Elliott Set to Finish College Career with Southern Illinois



After a long journey throughout college basketball, UTRGV grad transfer Elijah Elliott announced on June 5 that he would be finishing out his collegiate career at Southern Illinois under newly minted head coach Scott Nagy.

While it’ll mark his fifth and final season of eligibility, Elliott knew the opportunity that Nagy and his staff presented couldn’t be passed up after immediately forming a bond with the former Wright State leader.

“Coach Nagy has had a ton of success throughout his career,” Elliott said. “He has a lot of experience with good guards and just winning overall and I wanted to get back to playing for a really serious, winning program.

However, the path to a starting point guard role at the Division I level wasn’t always so clear for Elliott; an undersized 6-foot guard who had limited attention out of Jack Yates High School in Houston, TX.

Ultimately, Elliott elected to attend Division II Oklahoma Christian where he emerged as a freshman averaging 15.5 PPG, 3.0 RPG, 4.4 APG and 2.0 APG despite battling some injuries and making just 18 appearances.

While playing at the highest ranks of college basketball was always the goal, according to Elliott, having the opportunity to learn and grow at the DII level in his first season was invaluable for his development.

“There’s high level basketball at DII and a lot of people shouldn’t look down on it,” Elliott said. “I [was able to] learn the amount of effort and energy it takes to really play at this level with the [transition] from high school. It was a pretty good learning experience.”

After his lone season in Oklahoma City, OK, Elliott entered the transfer portal for the first time in his career and arrived at Mount St. Mary’s during the 2021 offseason under head coach Dan Engelstad. 

While he found limited minutes in his first Division I stop making just 17 appearances, Eliott still achieved one of his personal ambitions and once again saw an opportunity to further develop his game.

“[Playing] DI was definitely always a goal of mine coming out of high school,” he said. “The main difference I noticed [between DI and DII] is the height and length of the bigs and the physicality that brings. That’s where the real big jump comes in, with the bigs; their athleticism, skill, and their ability to move.”

In hopes of continuing that development and finding more playing time, Elliott once again hit the transfer portal and would join Blinn College for the 2022/23 season, a JUCO program in Brenham, TX.

Undoubtedly, playing at the JUCO level is a grind with the majority of players time spent in the gym lifting weights and improving on the court all while providing chances to further showcase their skills.

For Elliott, the story is no different after starting 29/30 contests for the Buccaneers while averaging 16.7 PPG, 3.6 RPG, 3.6 APG, and 2.2 STLPG to earn an NJCAA All-American selection.

“I was in the gym every single day, getting up shots and working with my coaches so it was definitely a great experience,” Elliott said. “I felt like my game grew a lot, coming from not playing to being able to showcase my skill set at the JUCO level, I was really excited. I ended up being an All-American and it was just another really great experience.”

In search of yet another opportunity back at the DI level, Elliott was one of the nation’s most coveted JUCO recruits with offers from Charleston Southern, Prairie View A&M and Lamar amongst others.

Eventually, it was UTRGV that convinced Elliott to commit, offering the Houston, TX native a chance to stay close to home and play at a high level in the Western Athletic Conference.

“I was proud, it was definitely a great opportunity to play close to home,” Elliott said. “We had a lot of injuries so it was a pretty tough season but I just tried to push through al; that, to stay in the gym and keep working. I feel like I have a crazy story and journey with the game of basketball so I was just happy I could continue playing the game I love.”

That mentality paid off for Elliott as in spite of the Vaqueros 6-25 record, he’d average a team-leading 16.6 PPG, highlighted by 40-point performance against Stephen F. Austin back in February.

Now, Elliott arrives in Carbondale, IL which is just a little bit different than living in Houston, TX.

Nonetheless, it felt like home with Eliott quickly noticing just how immersed the community is in Southern Illinois athletics during his visit to the campus.

“What I noticed and really stuck out to me is just how serious the entire city of Carbondale is about winning here with this basketball team,” he said. “Everywhere you go you’ll see Saluki symbols, like this is a real basketball town. You go around the gym, you see banners everywhere, you see pictures around and they made history. I just felt like that was something I definitely wanted to be a part of.”

While Elliott said he took several other visits and had interest from programs such as Cal, Virginia Tech, Marshall, App State, Fresno State, Drake and more, it was this visit to Southern Illinois that really provoked his commitment. 

With high-majors evidently interested in Elliott’s talents, his addition speaks to the project Nagy is building at Southern Illinois with five transfer portal recruits already secured ahead of the 2024/25 season.

As for what fans can expect out of these Salukis’ on the court, Elliott said he’s ready to help spark the change that leads this program back to that historic success regardless of this being just Nagy’s first season at the helm.

“I feel like coach Nagy is definitely the type of person who can take this team to the next level and get to the tournament,” he said. “The bond I built with him and coach [Jevon Mamon] and the opportunity to play right away and make a big impact on winning for this team is really what drew me to be honest.”

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