CARTHAGE, Ill. -- Justin Ellison wasn't sure what to expect when he applied for the Illini West boys basketball coaching position.
"I heard about the job opening through the grapevine and gave it a shot," Ellison said. "I figured, ‘What's the worst that could happen?'"
The result is he's moving across the Mississippi River.
Ellison, who spent the last two seasons as the Marion County boys basketball coach, was hired guide Illini West. The hiring was approved at Wednesday night's school board meeting. He replaces Bill Rasmussen, who resigned last week after compiling a record of 66-50 in four seasons with the Chargers. Illini West went 15-14 last winter, losing to West Hancock in the regional championship game.
Ellison will also become the physical education teacher at the school.
"I've always envied the way Illinois basketball works and how important it is to people," Ellison said. "Growing up on the Missouri side (of the river) and playing at Canton, we had a stretch whwere we played Illinois schools and those seemed to be the hardest schools we played all year.
"When I coached at Highland, we'd play Payson, and I loved the environment. I wanted to be apart of that."
Now he gets to guide a program as it transitions into a new conference. Illini West has transitioned from the West Central Conference to the Prairieland Conference the last couple of years. The football team has played the last two seasons in the Prairieland, and all sports will move there next school year.
"I've known about the successes Illini West has had in basketball and football, and I felt like it'd be a good fit for me," Ellison said. "Even when it was just Carthage High School. I'm looking forward to it a lot."
Ellison said he's already met with Illini West girls basketball coach Grant Surprenant, and is eager to bounce ideas off one another.
"I'm really excited about meeting the kids and meeting everyone," Ellison said.
But it was equally difficult to leave Marion County. Ellison will continue to coach the school's baseball team this spring.
"The administrators and students at Marion County in two year made me feel at home," Ellison said. The decision to move away from that was not an easy one. It took a lot of back-and-forth deciding if I was doing the right thing."
However, he's eager to get started at Illini West.