This week’s column features a former prep basketball star earning a head coaching job (Ashley Ellis-Milan), two former metro basketball players competing at the collegiate level (Jericho Sims and Race Thompson), and a community leader and basketball official pioneer (Jim Robinson).
Ellis-Milan, who was recently named the head girls’ basketball coach at East Ridge after stints as an assistant with Minneapolis South and DeLaSalle, joins the Suburban East Conference that already boasts three of the state’s top coaches in Willie Taylor (Stillwater), Crystal Flint (Cretin-Derham Hall) and Tansyha Scott (Roseville).
Ellis-Milan starred as a center at St. Paul Central, where she was coached by Taylor, and at the University of Minnesota in the 2000s.
The University of Texas men’s basketball team defeated Indiana University 66-44 in a Division I basketball matchup that featured Sims, a former prep star at Cristo Rey Jesuit, playing for the victorious Longhorns, and former Robbinsdale Armstrong standout Thompson competing for the Hoosiers.
Both came into the game as members of their team’s starting lineups with the 6’10” senior Simms averaging 6.0 points and 6.5 rebounds per game and Thompson, a junior, scoring 11.5 points and grabbing 7.5 rebound per contest.
Sims’ season-high is 12 points in a 78-76 win over Davidson University, while Thompson had a best of 22 points and 13 rebounds in a 79-58 win over Providence College.
Jim Robinson, who passed away last week, was many things to many people. In 1971 he was the first African American official to work the state tournament. He was also among the first Blacks to work Big Ten basketball games.
He became the supervisor of officials in 1991. He was president of the Minnesota Mr. Basketball committee and also served as executive director of the Loft Teen Center in St. Paul. But he will be most remembered in the basketball community as a person who was always there to give advice and support, to listen, and look out for those who were fortunate to meet him.
Dr. Mitchell Palmer McDonald is a contributing columnist at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.