With the 2020-21 season long since in the books, let’s take a few moments to look back at the performance of each member of YOUR Marquette Golden Eagles this year. While we’re at it, we’ll also take a look back at our player previews and see how our preseason prognostications stack up with how things actually played out. We’ll run through the roster in order of total minutes played going from lowest to highest, and today we’ll start off our run of reviews with the guy on the roster that saw the least amount of court time this season.......
Freshman - #2 - Guard - 6’5” - 185 pounds - Davenport, Iowa
Emarion Ellis Traditional Stats
Emarion Ellis Fancy Stats
We have to take two things into account when trying to figure out how Emarion Ellis fits into this year’s Marquette team. #1, he’s a freshman, and #2, Marquette is woefully thin in terms of experience at guard and wing.
Let’s start with the lack of experience part because that might play the biggest part here. Yes, Greg Elliott is back with Marquette, but there are reasonable questions to be asked about Elliott’s health and physical fitness to play major Division 1 basketball minutes as a result of his series of injuries. That’s it in terms of returning guards or wings, but we do have two transfers that will help. Darryl Morsell is clearly going to get all the minutes he wants because that’s what you do for a guy who elected to spend his bonus year of eligibility with you, and Tyler Kolek has a year of quality experience at George Mason... but it’s at least reasonable to wonder how well he fits into a Big East squad.
That’s it for experienced college guards. Quite honestly, just to get through the season, at least one and probably at least two of Marquette’s freshman guards are going to have to be contributors. Maybe not notable contributors, but they are probably not going to be allowed to just sit quietly on the bench and learn how the game is played at that level from over there.
Thus, the pathway is open for decent minutes for Ellis right out of the gate. T-Rank’s projection for him says about 12 minutes a game and 3.5 points, 2.3 rebounds, and 1.1 assists. I’m definitely not turning that down, and there’s definitely a possibility that he easily surpasses that. After all, he is a freshman, and the fact of the matter is that Marquette does not need major things from him.
Why You Should Get Excited
Of Marquette’s three freshman guards, Ellis is probably the best athlete. Shaka Smart has made repeated references to the conditioning levels needed to play with the pace and energy that he wants his first MU team to show on the court. Without saying anything negative about anyone else, if you’re already the most gifted athlete, then you’ve got a little bit of an extra advantage when it comes to getting yourself to the point that Smart wants his players to be at to contribute.
I mean, look at that picture at the top of the page. Sure, I don’t know anything about the guy he’s blocking or the team that Assumption was playing or how much Ellis’ high school coach let him freelance. The fact of the matter is that Ellis is still capable of making a play like that. Sure, there’s a question about whether or not he can pull that off at the high major level, but you can’t teach the mental and athletic instinct that gets a guy to the point where he realizes he can do that and then does it. That’s the kind of thing that can be the difference in order to get you minutes on the court.
I also want to point out the “good hands” and “opportunistic defender” part of that scouting report from Jerry Meyer. Smart has publicly stated he wants his teams to create at least 32 deflections per game. Having good hands and taking advantage of opportunities are two things that are very important when it comes to creating deflections on defense, and if Ellis can make that happen, then that’s going to get him on the court more and more.
We have to swing back to item #1 way back in the Expectations department: Ellis is a freshman. As the old saying goes, the best thing about freshmen that they become sophomores. Maybe Ellis takes a minute to figure how how things work the best at this level. Maybe the core talents of the other freshmen are more important to what the Golden Eagles need on the floor and that leaves Ellis sixth in line for backcourt/wing minutes.
None of these are a bad thing, of course. These kinds of things happen to freshmen all along. However, Ellis is on a team that is probably going to struggle to win games at times this season. If he himself is struggling to make a positive impact on the court, it’s very easy to see how the coaching staff is going to look in a direction that gets them the best possible team and the best possible opportunity to win. If Ellis is the best athlete but more of a raw talent than an immediately ready to contribute high major guard, that could easily lead to a season of very little on the court action for him.
Well, nothing against Emarion Ellis here, but this player review is not going to take very long. That’s what happens when the coaching staff puts you on the floor for a grand total of 85 minutes in 14 games. When Ellis got on the floor for the final five minutes of the North Carolina game in the NCAA tournament, that was his first time in action since playing for two minutes in MU’s home win over Georgetown on February 16th, just barely more than a month earlier. The game against the Hoyas was the first action Ellis saw since MU’s home win over DePaul back on January 11th.
None of this should be surprising to you at this point, and quite honestly, looking back at the whole season, it shouldn’t have been a surprise as it happened, either. As Marquette didn’t have an easy time of it while getting the win against SIU Edwardsville in the season opener, Ellis didn’t play a single minute. Against New Hampshire three days later as MU had roughly the same level of difficulty? Just six total minutes as I imagine the coaching staff attempted to find a lineup that would crack the Wildcats’ code.
All alone, with no context, this painted a pretty strong picture of exactly where Ellis slotted in amongst the guards for the rest of the season. Add in the context of Ellis playing six total minutes in the first two games of the season against teams that, in theory, Marquette should be overwhelming and the coaching staff should be playing mix and match all while Greg Elliott served a four game suspension to start the year? Yeah, that did not bode well for how much Ellis was going to contribute all season long, and as the season wore on, that proved to be accurate.
That’s a little bit of a bummer because you’d like to see everyone contributing, of course, but also because of the flickers of potential that we did see. I would have liked to see Ellis get a chance to show how real his three-point shooting was. In a stretch of nine games that he played in this season between the St. Bonaventure game in Charleston and the road game against Georgetown on January 7th, Ellis went 5-for-7 from long range. He finished the year 5-for-9. Quite obviously, these are unsustainable numbers. No one is shooting 71% on threes for a season, and it’s very unusual for someone to knock down 55% of their attempts. But, if he could hit his first attempt of the game in four different contests after popping off the bench and never playing more than 10 minutes in any of those four games..... well, that certainly sounds like a skill that deserved a little bit more attention.
It seems Ellis rebounded his position pretty well from a glance at his rebounding rate numbers, but it’s easy to forget that he’s 6’5” after not seeing him on the court all that much. 6’5” guards should be able to get a decent number of rebounds. In limited action, Ellis showed a knack for getting to the free throw line, finishing the year with a better fouls drawn per 40 minutes number per KenPom.com than anyone else on the roster. Ellis played just 85 minutes this year, but he still finished the season with more free throws attempted than Kam Jones. We can have a long conversation about Ellis only shooting 50% on his 20 free throw attempts, sure, and that can definitely factor into the discussion of how real that three-point shooting percentage is as well.
It was a blowout for the Golden Eagles as a team, but Ellis’ nine minutes against Georgetown on January 7th were pretty great. Four points, four rebounds, and an assist, 1-for-2 from long range, no turnovers.
I refuse to grade 85 minutes as a real season worth grading, particularly with just two appearances since classes started for the spring semester. I’m giving Emarion Ellis an Incomplete on the year, and hoping that we see a lot more of him in 2022-23.