One of the most intriguing signees of Mick Cronin's latest recruiting class has to be 6'10" big man, Octavious Ellis. Say what you will about the athletic forward, but one thing's absolutely certain: this guy wants to be a Bearcat. And that might be my favorite quality in a Cincinnati basketball player.
Well, that and how well he can defend and score. You know, the things that win basketball games. And with NBA blood in the family (his cousin is Monte Ellis who played for the Mavericks last year), I'm feeling good about Ellis' chances.
In fact, the good news for Bearcat fans is Ellis has a track record of defending and scoring. So much so that he was named a First Team JUCO All-American last year after averaging 14.8 points, 9.7 rebounds, and 3.2 blocked shots.
Name: Octavius Ellis
Weight: 230 lbs
Class: Junior (JUCO Transfer)
Hometown: Memphis, TN
Jersey Number: 2
It wouldn't be fair to write a player preview about Ellis, though, and not mention his first run in a Bearcat uniform. Back in 2011, Numero Dos suited up in 3 different games averaging 8 minutes in each before fracturing his hand. And after that, he wound up getting dismissed from the program in part for his role in the Crosstown Shootout brawl but also for his role in an incident at a Cincinnati nightclub.
After spending two years at a junior college in Texas reflecting on his missed Division 1 opportunities, Ellis is back and ready to prove he has what it takes to make it at this level. All reports indicate he's stayed out of trouble during his time away, and I'm willing to bet Cronin had a heart-to-heart prior to re-offering Ellis a scholarship.
So what can we expect this year?
For someone to come up with a really cool nickname. The Octopus, the Octagon, the Impervious Octavius - take your pick.
On the court, though, I think we'll see legitimate help on and around the glass - which will be huge considering the void left with Justin Jackson's departure. Ellis appears to have a natural instinct for blocking shots, and I can't wait to see him slide over from the weak side and put a couple balls in the lower section seating of Fifth Third Arena. Is he going to block 100 shots this year? Probably not. But he'll have enough of an impact that he'll erase a couple drives from opposing teams each game.
And I think he'll have an impact pulling down rebounds on both ends of the floor. In the Bahamas this past summer, he grabbed 15 rebounds in 17 minutes.
In fact, my not-so-bold prediction is that Ellis will start the year in Cronin's starting 5 as the Bearcats first take the court next month. And then he'll show Bearcat fans everywhere what they saw glimpses of 3 years ago - a tough 'Cat who enjoys wearing the red and black as much as anyone.