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Octavius Ellis: An Appreciation

There were some bumps and bruises (literally) during Ellis' run with UC, but there's no denying he was a valued Bearcat, dedicated to crashing the boards and lifting the team up on his shoulders defensively.

Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

The Career Numbers

  • 9.5 points, 15.5 per 40 minutes
  • 7.5 rebounds, 10.9 per 40 minutes
  • 1.7 blocks, 2.6 per 40 minutes
  • .550/.000/.664 shooting splits (Took one 3-pointer across 1,835 career minutes)
Over the last two years, Octavius Ellis has been in the thick of things (in more ways than one) for the Cincinnati Bearcats. Its where he thrives. Pounding in the paint, grabbing shots fresh off the rim and swatting feeble layup attempts into the Fifth Third crowd. The 6'10" forward fits exactly what you'd imagine when sculpting a player for the Bearcats. Long, athletic and eager to grind on the defensive end.

If his defensive work ethic went under appreciated, let us put an end to that. He accumulated 4.6 defensive win shares, a defensive rating of 89.9 and 119 blocks in essentially two full seasons for the Bearcats. No other Bearcats matched Ellis' in blocks during that time and only Gary Clark produced more DWS.

UC missed out on having a full four-year serving of Ellis, who was dismissed from the team following the brawl during the 2011 Crosstown Shootout and an incident at a nightclub in May of 2012. Ours is not to be the judge and jury for Ellis (who admittedly has made mistakes) but to appreciate his basketball skill, which is undeniable.

If you projected Ellis' numbers out even one more year, he would have finished at least fifth in school history in blocked shots and surpassed the 700-rebound mark. Even though his ascension to American Athletic Conference Player of the Year status never came around, he was frighteningly consistent during the last two seasons. He had 245 total rebounds in 2014-15 (7.2 pg) and followed that up with 248 (7.5 pg) this past season. He also led the Bearcats in blocked shots in 2014-15 (67) and threw away another 50 shots as a senior.

His scoring also held steady (9.9 ppg in 2014-15, 9.8 ppg in 2015-16), although his efficiency numbers did take a slight dip from junior to season year. However, a career PER of 22.2 and true shooting (.585) and effective shooting (.550) percentages far above the .500 mark made him a reliable scorer, even if that was never really his primary strength.

Puzzling enough, his playing time diminished a bit this past season, as he played nearly four minutes less per game, but that may have had more to do with Cincinnati's wealth of frontcourt players and less to do with a lack of belief or trust in Ellis' skills.

The Best of the Best

Wednesday December 14, 2014 vs. No. 19 San Diego State

Ellis played at least 30 minutes in 19 games as a junior, but it was in the Bearcats' 71-62 overtime win over the nationally ranked Aztecs that he hit 40 minutes. In that time he didn't pace the team offensively (eight points) but he put together nine rebounds, four blocks and a pair of steals. His work on the boards helped UC to a 35-33 edge in that department and he also contributed to a defensive effort that kept SDSU to below 40 percent shooting.

Saturday January 10, 2015 vs. UConn

The brutal slugfests between the Bearcats and Huskies are the type of games Ellis was built for. Although UC lost 62-56 this time around, Ellis had a block party, rejecting a career-high six would-be field goals.

Sunday Feburary 1, 2015 at East Carolina

Its one thing to have a double-double. Its another to match your point total with your rebounding output. Ellis did that in this disappointing loss to the Pirates, grabbing 14 boards to go with 14 points. Oh, and he blocked three shots.

Wednesday February 20,  2015 vs. UCF

Sometimes Ellis did explode on offense and this was one of those times, as he reached the 20-point plateau for the first and only time in his career. Add eight rebounds and you've got yourself a stellar effort.

Sunday March 8, 2015 vs. Memphis

Ellis really closed the 2015 campaign well, scoring in double figures in six of the final eight games of the regular season. His 19-point, 11-rebound double-double against Memphis was a high point.

Friday November 13, 2015 vs. Western Carolina

Ellis stuffed 17 points, 10 rebounds, four steals and two blocks into 24 minutes as the Bearcats rolled to a 97-72 victory.

Wednesday December 2, 2015 vs. Butler

A heartbreaking loss to Butler couldn't erase the fact that Ellis was the best player on the floor (16 points, 12 rebounds, three blocks).

Wednesday January 13, 2016 vs. Houston

Lucky No. 13 for Ellis in this one, as he scored 13 points and secured 13 rebounds on the 13th of the month.

A Final Goodbye

Its unfortunate that the lasting images of Ellis may be from his participation in the Crosstown brawl or his ejection from last year's NCAA Tournament, not to mention the fact that Ellis will be remembered for coming a fraction of a second short of tying things up and forcing overtime against St. Joseph's in the first round of the 2016 NCAA Tourney.

As we've covered here at DTD before, reducing Ellis' career and him as a person down to a few bad seconds is unfair and it ignores the complicated issues that lie beneath the surface. I am far too unqualified to analyze those, but what I can analyze is what Ellis did in terms of basketball at UC, and it that regard, he was one of the best players available to Mick Cronin during the last two years.