20 Questions: Which Returning Player Makes The Leap?Posted by Bennet Hayes on November 8th, 2013
There has never been a more opportune time for the player waiting in the wings. With transfers more prevalent than ever, the one-and-done era in full swing, and each new college basketball season bringing a brand new landscape with it, we have become accustomed to seeing fresh faces starring in old places. Needless to say, that leaves a pretty sizable group of candidates to choose from when answering the question of which returning player will make the leap this year. LaQuinton Ross looks ready to shoulder the scoring load at Ohio State. Talented sophomore T.J. Warren could develop into a leader in the absence of Leslie, Brown and co. at NC State. A star turn seems in order for Sam Dekker at Wisconsin. The list could go on and on. But if we are taking just one crack at this, Kansas’ Perry Ellis very well could be the player who makes the most significant leap.
Rumor has it that Kansas has a freshman by the name of Andrew Wiggins who figures to be a pretty integral piece to the Jayhawk puzzle (and a preseason First Team All-American), but don’t be shocked if Ellis winds up being nearly as valuable to the KU cause as the prodigiously gifted freshman. Ellis, a consensus top-40 recruit coming out of high school, averaged just 13.6 minutes per contest as a freshman. He still managed to post averages of 5.8 PPG and 3.9 RPG in limited minutes, and the only Jayhawks with a higher offensive rating (per KenPom) than Ellis’ 114.1 were Ben McLemore and Travis Releford. It’s no secret that the past six months have seen the Kansas roster undergo quite the transformation. Ellis will undoubtedly see a significant increase in minutes as a result. A simple extrapolation of last season’s numbers (to his expected minutes this year) would qualify as a solid leap for the sophomore, but we can expect even more. As Bill Self’s best post scoring option this season, Ellis will see much more of the offense run through him than a year ago, when Jeff Withey dominated those touches. Wiggins will clearly claim the featured role in the Jayhawk offense, but we have already seen an expanded role for Ellis in Kansas’ two preseason games, where he averaged 14.5 points and 7.5 rebounds per game.
Need more reason to believe in an Ellis emergence? Take a look back at the trajectory of recent star power forwards under Self. After averaging 18 minutes per game as a freshman, Marcus Morris saw significant increases in scoring and rebounding in each of his final two seasons in Lawrence. His brother Markieff followed a similar path. Between his sophomore and junior seasons, Markieff saw jumps in minutes (17.6 to 24.4 MPG), points (6.8 to 13.6 PPG) and rebounds (5.3 to 8.3 PPG). Most recently, Thomas Robinson used a bit of the Self magic between his sophomore and junior campaigns, more than doubling his minutes (14.6 to 31.8 MPG) and points (7.6 to 17.7 PPG), while nearly doing the same with his boards (6.4 to 11.9 RPG). Ellis’ transformation may not be as radical as those of Robinson and the Morris twins, but the opportunity exists for a similar leap.
In terms of raw production, there will be a bounty of players across the country whose spike in output is more drastic than what Kansas will get from Ellis. But if the commodity we really value is meaningful contributions, you will be hard pressed to find a player increasing his yield as much as Ellis. If we could fast-forward to April and tell you that every Jayhawk fan’s wildest dreams did in fact come true, not only would it mean that Andrew Wiggins must have delivered on all of his immense promise, but it’d also be safe to believe that Perry Ellis made a most meaningful leap.