High School Basketball

U of L rewards Justice's loyalty with scholarship

Shelby Valley hoops star Elisha Justice picked up a lot of honors this season, including Sweet Sixteen and All "A" championships, the title of Mr. Basketball, and a nickname from Louisville Coach Rick Pitino.

Pitino gave the 5-foot-10 point guard the nickname "The Bullet" last fall. Pitino gave him something even better this week: a scholarship.

Justice committed to U of L last fall as a walk-on, but was told if a scholarship became available he would get it.

When Cardinals sophomore big man Samardo Samuels decided this week to stay in the NBA Draft, Pitino called Justice and told him he had a scholarship.

Justice signed his letter of intent Wednesday morning.

"It makes me feel a whole lot better knowing everybody will respect me more as a scholarship player than as a walk-on," Justice said. "It'll make me feel more part of the team.

"Louisville kept their word. I trusted them, and everything worked out great."

Pitino praised Justice for sticking to his commitment after his stock rose and other schools started recruiting him during and after the season.

Justice even declined an overture from Kentucky Coach John Calipari.

"He didn't take any of those (offers), which speaks volumes of his loyalty to what he wants in his life," Pitino said.

"He is as dedicated a young man as I've seen since the likes of Billy Donovan (who played for Pitino at Providence). "I haven't seen someone with his work ethic in a long time."

Justice got his nickname last fall when Pitino first visited Shelby Valley to watch him in practice. Pitino returned home and thereafter always referred to Justice as "The Bullet" because of his speed on the court.

Justice didn't know it, however, until he and Shelby Valley Coach Jason Booher visited a U of L practice during the season.

"As soon as I walked in even the assistant coaches were all calling me 'The Bullet,'" Justice recalled.

Pitino talked Wednesday as if Justice could earn playing time next season.

"In the final two or three minutes, if he has the ball in his hands, he's gonna win games for you because he's an excellent free throw shooter and an excellent ball handler," Pitino said.

"There's a reason why (Shelby Valley) won the state championship this year. It's because 'The Bullet' was leading that attack."

Justice averaged 20.1 points, 5.9 assists, 3.9 steals and 3.9 rebounds this season. He finished his career with a school-record 2,086 points and a state-record 540 steals.