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Jamarcus Ellis dead: Westinghouse basketball legend, 38, dies after vehicle hits viaduct


Jamarcus Ellis, a Westinghouse high school basketball legend, died early Friday when his vehicle ran into the pillar of a viaduct on the Near West Side near the Pilsen neighborhood. 

Ellis, 38, was taken to Mount Sinai Hospital with trauma to his body and pronounced dead there, police and the Cook County medical examiner’s office said. He lost control and crashed just after 2 a.m. in the 1700 block of South Western Avenue.

The accident is being handled by the Major Accident Investigation Unit.

“He was a son to me,” Quitman Dillard, Ellis’ coach at Westinghouse, said. “Every Father’s Day he would text me, if not see me, to wish me a Happy Father’s Day. I’m fractured right now.”

Ellis was working as a paraprofessional at a school in the western suburbs, according to longtime friend and former teammate Deandre Thomas.

Ellis is survived by three sons. His father was killed when he was 6, and his mother died of lung failure when he was 14. As a teenager, Ellis was one of the most talented basketball players in the country.

“[Ellis] was a beautiful individual,” Dillard said. “He was caring. He put others before himself. We were family. We were always connected. I loved him dearly.”

Ellis was a Sun-Times’ First Team All-State selection in 2004, along with current Duke coach Jon Scheyer and longtime NBA player Shaun Livingston. 

The 6-5 guard ledWestinghouse to the city title as a senior. He was also a key player on the Warriors’ city and state championship team in his sophomore year. 

Ellis, known around Chicago as “Tone-Tone” and to his close friends as “Tom-Tom,” went on to play at junior college and then at Indiana University in the 2007-08 season. He played at Oklahoma City University during his senior year of college.

He played at Westinghouse on the West Side and at Indiana University with Thomas. The Westinghouse alumni team they play on has won three consecutive championships in an over-35 league at Marquette Park.

“He was my LeBron James,” Thomas said. “He was Kobe Bryant. I felt he was better than all of those guys. We just took the wrong route at the time. We were young and from the inner-city and we didn’t take the right steps. He will always be my favorite player.”

Jamarcus Ellis plays for Westinghouse in 2004.

Jamarcus Ellis plays for Westinghouse in 2004.

Thomas said Ellis found a special fit in his current job. 

“He loved his students,” Thomas said. “All he wanted to do was get up and go to work, to help those kids change their lives.”

Ellis played professionally in Canada and the G League and led Chicago’s three-on-three team in the FIBA World Championships in Brazil in 2015.

“We went up against one another a few times in Canada,” Farragut basketball coach Emmanuel Little said. “We were straight enemies on the court, being the same height. I think I got better than him over time, but he was way, way better than me in high school.”

Contributing: Kaitlin Washburn



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