Wayne Ellington has played for six NBA teams in seven seasons. Next week, when the Miami Heat open training camp in the Bahamas, the 6-4 shooting guard will begin playing for his seventh team in eight seasons.
At 28, he’s made more than $12 million in his professional career because he’s been pretty good at making long distance shots, ranking 42nd among active NBA three-point shooters with a career 37.6 shooting percentage.
But Ellington — who will compete among a handful of guards for the playing time that once belonged to 12-time All-Star Dwyane Wade — wants to be more than a basketball player these days. He wants to be a messenger of the NBA’s growing voice to end gun violence.
“It will be two years in November,” Ellington said Monday of his father’s murder. “Naturally, I was angry at first. I was angry that something like that happened to my father, someone who I was so close with.
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“But as time went on and I grieved with my family and talked about it, I realized I was in a position where I could really change things around and maybe make one person every time I do something, touch them and turn them in a more positive direction.”
That’s what Ellington was trying to doing again Monday morning.
He and Heat Hall of Famer Alonzo Mourning were among a handful of guest speakers at Ferguson High School in West Kendall attending the launch of a county-wide public school initiative to prevent gun violence.
Part of the movement, in conjunction with the Sandy Hook Promise program, is aimed at forming better relationships between students in schools.
On Nov. 9, 2014, shortly after he scored nine points in a Los Angeles Lakers victory over the Charlotte Hornets, Ellington returned to his locker, looked at his cell phone, and saw dozens of missed calls from family members.
That night his father, Wayne Ellington Sr., 57, had been shot in the head twice and found dead in the driver’s seat of his red Oldsmobile near the family’s Philadelphia neighborhood.
This past February, Carl White, 34, accepted a plea deal to third-degree murder and sentenced to 30 to 60 years in prison for killing Ellington.
The way Ellington says he’s honoring his father’s memory now is by promoting peace. He did so in the summer of 2015 when he joined Joakim Noah in Chicago for the city’s Peace Basketball Tournament for gang members and at-risk teens. This past August, Ellington returned to Philadelphia and hosted a similar basketball tournament in his hometown.
Monday’s event was Ellington’s first tied to South Florida. More, he says, is on the way.
“This is just the beginning for me,” said Ellington, last season’s recipient of J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award presented annually by the Professional Basketball Writers Association to the player, coach or athletic trainer who shows outstanding service and dedication to the community.
“We started the campaign the Power of W.E., which is obviously my initials and my father's initials, for the power of we as people. I feel like if we come together as people and unite we can make a change for the better. I just want to see a change in mindset of our youth, the younger generation. I want to see them do more positive things for each other and in the community. Like I said, today, seeing this young group of people take that initiative and already want to do that is unbelievable. And I'm honored to be a part of it.”
HAPPY IN MIAMI
Ellington is also honored to be a member of the Heat, a franchise he’s made more three-pointers against (29 of 59) than any other. He’s been working out with his new teammates since the first week of August, and is looking forward to providing some veteran leadership if needed.
“It's definitely the earliest I've been in a gym with a team and I've been on a few teams. That shows me right there how hungry they are as a group,” said Ellington, who signed to a two-year, $12 million contract with the Heat with the second year of the deal a team option.
“I feel like we have a young group of guys that have a lot to prove, and I feel like I fit right in in terms of style of play. It's crazy that I'm one of the veteran guys on the team. So I feel that naturally I'll be able to step into that role, show some of the guys and lead by example, speak up when I need to.”
The Heat, which brought in nine new faces this summer, will look and feel like a completely new roster to most. But Ellington said he and some of the new arrivals forged relationships on other teams prior to joining the Heat. He’s looking forward to building bonds with others.
“I know James Johnson, I played with Derrick Williams in Minnesota and I played with Dion Waiters in Cleveland,” Ellington said. “Dion’s a Philly guy and we have a personal relationship. I also played against Josh McRoberts in college. It’s a good group.”