Skyler Ellis, the son of former Jets defensive lineman Shaun Ellis, is looking to make an impact on the basketball team at Half Hollow Hills East. NewsdayTV's Carissa Kellman reports.  Credit: Newsday/Steve Pfost

Skyler Ellis is the son of two-time Pro Bowl defensive end and 11-year Jet Shaun Ellis, but the Half Hollow Hills East sophomore is forging his own path.

In basketball.

Shaun recalls a 2-year-old Skyler playing on a mini basketball hoop in the family's kitchen. The younger Ellis was a “pretty good” distance from the hoop, but he kept making shot after shot. Shaun turned to his wife, Cecile, in awe as Skyler kept backing up and kept drilling shots.

“Maybe 20 more shots later, he hadn’t missed,” Shaun said. “And so I’m like, ‘Oh, yeah, he wants to play basketball.’ ”

Fast-forward more than a decade later, and Skyler has played an integral role in Hills East’s 12-3 start as it battles for the Suffolk League III title and more glory in the postseason. Skyler, a 6-foot guard, hopes to be a future Division I basketball player. Shaun has been a massive part of his journey as both a coach and a father.

Shaun currently coaches Skyler’s AAU team, LI Elite. He has coached Skyler for years, dating to the Riverside Hawks 8U team.

“I liked making him proud,” Skyler said. “I like how he’s supporting me every step of the way. So [to] see him [as] a coach, tell us what to do and stuff, it just makes me proud.”

Despite being a sophomore, Ellis is a second-year varsity contributor for Hills East. He is averaging 8.1 points per game this season and has hit 25 three-pointers in 14 games.

“Skyler’s a humble kid, man,” Hills East coach Mike Marcelin said. “He’s very humble, but he works his behind off. He’s always in the gym, he always wants to get better.”

Skyler is “greatly inspired” by Shaun’s career, watching his highlights on YouTube and taking note of the things he did on the field. Skyler also learned a lot watching his older brother, Jordan McRae, Shaun’s stepson, who also played for Hills East and appeared in 28 games for Binghamton from 2015-18.

“With his older brother, he used to watch me train him,” Shaun said. “He would try to mimic the things we would do, like the ladder drills, and he would get out there and do it.”

Shaun and Cecile show up at every Hills East game with a video camera, ensuring that Skyler does not miss an extra film session.

“I don’t miss a game,” Shaun said. “I just try to show my support in any way possible. I grew up without having a father, so for me it’s extra important to make sure I’m there at all his sporting events, anything from school, everything.”

Shaun instilled the values of putting God first and “keeping the main thing the main thing” with Skyler. Whether it’s coaching Skyler or just being his dad, Shaun knows the value of their time spent together.

“My oldest son, I wasn’t able to give him that time,” Shaun said. “This one, I’m able to give him that time. My youngest son [Bryson], I’m gonna be able to give him that time as well.”

Shaun’s 588 tackles, 73.5 sacks, 13 forced fumbles and 184 NFL games played over 12 years create some massive — 6-5, to be exact — footsteps to follow. But that does not add any stress for Skyler.

“Well, I wouldn’t really feel pressure. I feel motivation because I know he’s always pushing me to do my best,” Skyler said. “And I just feel like I need to maintain what he’s teaching me and perform and do that when I’m on the court.”

The kid with the mini hoop has big dreams — and the guidance and ambition to chase them.

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