You could have blinked and missed it, but Eliel Nsoseme played in 29 games for the Cincinnati Bearcats as a freshman. Considering there were four frontcourt players above him on the depth chart, getting playing time of any consequence was an accomplishment and illustrates the belief Mick Cronin has in him. Now with Gary Clark and Kyle Washington gone, Nsoseme is going to team up with Nysier Brooks and Tre Scott as the top three big men on the roster.
Now, let’s break into those 29 games played. Nsoseme still didn’t play a ton, as he averaged only 5.7 minutes per game, but he got to test himself in the fire of the NCAA Tournament against Nevada for seven minutes, and even played in the American Athletic Conference Tournament.
In reality, Nsoseme was really just a guy who ate some minutes when the Bearcats were in foul trouble or needed to give one of their four guys up front a breather. In those limited minutes, his skill set didn’t entirely shine through, but there were flashes of what to expect.
As an offensive contributor, Nsoseme was not asked to do much of anything except make easy buckets when teams collapsed on the legitimate scoring options. He shot 52.4 percent from the floor, but is really going to need to up the ante with his efficiency to earn and maintain his spot in the rotation. He projects as a reserve, but you still need your back-up big men to have an effective field goal percentage above the .426 mark he had last season, especially when he’s not going to take shots from beyond the arc or even in the mid-range.
Where Nsoseme did earn his keep was on defense and the boards, which, as you might have noticed, is a lot of what Cronin asks of his frontcourt guys. There is no question that the scoring left behind by Clark and Washington needs to be filled by somebody, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be up front. Where there should be less confusion is on defense where guys like Nsoseme are expected to come in right away and be effective. Considering the 6’9” center from the Congo had a defensive rating of 85.7 and a block percentage of 7.8, that shouldn’t be a problem. Nsoseme was also a fairly strong rebounder, averaging 17.8 per 100 possessions with a rebound percentage of 16.7. Only Clark averaged more rebounds per 100 possessions.
Nsoseme has already gained a great deal of experience, even if it was as a background character to the plot of the 2017-18 season. For the upcoming campaign, his name will now be featured on the opening credits, and the hope is that the experience he had last year will mix with his natural talents to create a player that can really help win games.