On the eve of this year’s NCAA Final Four, here’s a March Madness memory about a very precocious teenager. He became the hero of the championship game and earned one of the neatest and most appropriate nicknames in college sports history.
This piano, tuba and trombone-playing freshman probably gave his best performance ever, not with a musical instrument, but rather with a basketball in his hand.
He’s also my #8 in my book on all-time NCAA Basketball Favorites.
In the final minute of the 1986 NCAA Men’s Basketball National Championship Game against favored Duke, Pervis Ellison became a star. He earned the iconic nickname Never Nervous Pervis for doing what most shy teenagers still wearing braces on their teeth could never do. He excelled under immense pressure on national television.
The 6’9” freshman grabbed a missed shot and scored with 38 seconds left in the title game. Then, he calmly converted both ends of a one and one free throw opportunity with just 11 seconds to go in the championship contest.
Ellison’s heroic performance sealed the NCAA Men’s National Basketball Championship for the University of Louisville and got him named Most Outstanding Player of the tournament. He also finished the Duke game with 25 points and 11 rebounds.
While other teenagers would probably struggle under such pressure, the very calm and confident Never Nervous Pervis excelled.
Even Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski recognized Ellison’s fantastic game by citing that the freshman was truly magnificent.
Ellison remained at Louisville for another three years. He finished his career as the only player in school history to total more than 2,000 points and 1,000 rebounds. He was also Louisville’s all-time career shot blocker and had his #42 jersey retired in 1989.
Never Nervous Pervis Ellison graduated from Louisville and became the number one overall pick of the Sacramento Kings in the 1989 NBA Draft. Injuries unfortunately slowed Ellison’s NBA career. His best season was in 1991- 92 when he was voted the league’s Most Improved Player for posting averages of 20.0 points, 11.2 rebounds and 2.6 blocks per game.
This Louisville star will always be remembered for his surprising heroics in the 1986 NCAA title game against Duke.
That’s when this calm and collected 18-year-old rightfully earned his never-to-be-forgotten basketball nickname – Never Nervous Pervis.
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MIKE – thee ultimate talking head on sports!