To say that Perry Ellis is quiet is a little like saying Allen Fieldhouse is loud or replay monitor reviews are boring.
Perry Ellis is quiet.
Has been his whole life, really, and even after three-plus seasons at Kansas, this has not changed much.
It is accepted fact.
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And yet, in the days after the Jayhawks’ 74-63 loss at West Virginia, it was still interesting to hear junior guard Frank Mason discuss Ellis, his teammate of three seasons. In 38 minutes at West Virginia, Ellis had 21 points on 14 shots, a performance so efficient it was easy to wonder if he should have received more touches and taken more shots.
Mason was asked if Ellis, in moments like Tuesday, will ever demand or ask for the basketball? His answer came quickly.
“Not really,” Mason said. “Sometimes he’ll reach out and say that. But Perry is a quiet guy and it kind of takes a lot for him to get talking.”
By now, of course, coach Bill Self has come to understand that this is who Ellis is. He will never possess the brash outward exterior of a classic alpha dog. He will never take over a game by the sheer will of personality. But as the Jayhawks return to the floor Saturday against TCU, 9-7, Self would like to see his team make a more concerted effort to feed Ellis in the post.
The case for more Ellis is an easy one. In four Big 12 games, he has averaged 20 points and nine rebounds, shooting 46 percent from the floor while increasing his scoring average to a career-high 16.3 points per game. On a team with limited low-post scoring, Ellis, a senior, is proving himself as more than just a versatile scorer. He’s also filling a glaring need in the paint.
Two weeks ago, Self was lamenting his team’s scarcity of easy baskets at the rim. Six of the Jayhawks’ top seven scorers are in the backcourt. Freshman forward Carlton Bragg is the second-leading scorer among the KU frontcourt — and averaging just 3.8 points per game.
Self, of course, would welcome a secondary scorer in the paint. But for the moment, Ellis’ play has eased those concerns.
“I thought early in the season he would not grade out well at all (as a low-post scorer),” Self said of Ellis. “And I really feel like since Big 12 started, he’s graded out very well.”
A slew of advanced statistics back up the eye test. A recent study from Sports Illustrated writer Luke Winn found that, at least during Big 12 play, Ellis has been a more efficient player on post-ups than isolation plays or drives from the elbow or perimeter. Looking at all of Ellis’ half-court baskets during Big 12 play, the study found that Ellis had scored 46.9 percent of his baskets on post-up moves.
Ellis, of course, is not a perfect back-to-the-basket big man. He is shooting 49.4 percent from inside the arc, a modest increase from last season. At 6 feet 8, he has often struggled to score over bigger opponents. But coupled with his three-point shooting (13 of 26 for the season), Ellis has scored enough inside to make up for some of Kansas’ low-post deficiencies.
Which is one reason Self was disappointed after Tuesday’s loss. Ellis finished eight of 14 from the floor. The Jayhawks, Self said, could have leaned on Ellis even more. Ellis’ teammates agreed, and Mason took a share of the blame.
“We had a lot of trouble with getting Perry the ball and putting him in position to score,” Mason said. “Even though he scored a lot of points, I think we could have gotten him the ball more. He could have got more angles and things like that.”
As Kansas moves forward, the Jayhawks will remember West Virginia. If Ellis is rolling, it’s in their best interest to keep him well-fed.
“That’s on me and Devonte’ (Graham), but mainly me,” Mason said. “I gotta do a better job of getting him the ball and putting him in positions to score on the block.”