Perry Ellis was a McDonald's All-American, Gatorade Kansas High School Player of the Year, and the National High School Player of the Year according to the NHSCA coming out of Wichita last year. Many Kansas fans, myself included, thought he had a great chance to play heavy minutes at the Power Forward position or at least would end up with a 50-50 split of the minutes with Kevin Young but ended up playing almost 9 fewer minutes per game over the course of the season. The situation was a reminder of the importance of system familiarity, physical condition, and experience even when the talent disparity between two players is vast.
Having heard so much praise of this recruiting class it'd be easy to think that success will come easily for the young guys, especially when Bill Self mentions things like Olajuwon-like footwork or 40-something inch verticals, but remember, for every Xavier Henry who comes in and takes over a starting spot with aplomb there's a Perry Ellis who needs a bit of time to grow into their position. We'll do without mentioning the Selby fiasco other than that it was a bad situation between the eligibility concerns and injury issues.
Luckily for Perry and for us fans, we were able to see a glimpse of what is to come for the sophomore PF in the conference tournament in which he still only played 19 minutes per game, but made 18 of his 23 shots, all of his free throws, had 19 boards, a smattering of assists and steals, and only a single turnover... more on that later. Ellis ended up with the third-highest Offensive Rating on the '12-'13 team with a slightly above average usage percentage (22.3%), as ever, if Ellis' usage increases, it becomes difficult to maintain that same efficiency, but with so many Freshmen on the '13-'14 team I would expect that his minutes and usage to increase dramatically.
Perhaps the most encouraging stat from the 2012-13 season for Ellis was his very low Turnover%, especially for a frontcourt player. I'd expect for that stat to normalize a bit as Ellis gets more minutes, but as you'd imagine based on my harping on it, his 9.1% was lowest on the team, 6% lower than Jeff Withey's. Limiting turnovers obviously means more shots/points for KU and fewer easy breakaway baskets for opponents, so it'll be interesting to see whether he can keep the turnovers down and efficiency up even as his minutes and usage increase in '13-'14.
When you look at Ellis you can see the embodiment of why Bill Self makes comments specifically about being dangerous around Tournament time, we may have to be a bit more patient with this group than we have been in years past, even if there are some slow starters it might only take a few Ellis-like tournament strides for this team to end the year in a very good place.
Addendum post-Pitt. State: Perry had a great game against Pittsburgh State. It's hard to glean much from a performance against Division II opposition, but in going 7-10 from the field and 2-2 from the line for 16 total points with 8 rebounds in 23 minutes he showed his touch around the basket as being a continuation of his end-of-season form rather than his abysmal touch in the early going last year. Perry also had a single turnover and two steals. With the Freshmen still teething, look for a steady diet of Ellis in the early going, especially with Tharpe out for the first game of the season because of draconian NCAA rules that mean Ellis will likely be the longest-tenured Jayhawk on the floor for that game. Thanks NCAA!