There’s a quote that says, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then, it not an act, but a habit.”
There may not be another player on the Colorado State men’s basketball team that has taken that to heart this year more than junior guard Jon Octeus. After averaging 17.2 points, 4.8 rebounds, and 1.6 assists over his last five games, Octeus is our Collegian Player of the Week.
But the work didn’t begin for Octeus when the Rams opened practice on Sept. 27. His work began as soon last season ended when CSU fell to eventual national champion Louisville 82-56 in the third round of the NCAA Tournament. And for the native of Miramar, Fla. that meant shooting … a lot.
Octeus was the Rams’ second player off the bench last season, averaging 4.7 points and 2.6 assists while playing 19.6 minutes per game. He was CSU’s best on-ball defender and also their most athletic player at the guard position. But despite his success in those areas, Octeus lacked confidence in his jump shot and often passed up open looks because of it. Ultimately, teams watched enough film to realize they could sag off Octeus which allowed them to double team All-American center Colton Iverson without the threat of Octeus beating them with his jump shot.
What a difference an off-season in the gym makes.
Between last spring and the beginning of team practices this fall, Octeus spent countless hours in the gym shooting more than 500 shots per day in preparation of improving his offensive game.
Through 24 games this year Octeus is the Rams’ third-leading scorer at 12.5 points per game and is shooting 38 percent from the field and 36 percent from the 3-point line. Compare that to just 35 percent from the field and 20 percent from the 3-point line last season. But likely the biggest change for Octeus has been an intangible not measurable by any statistic or percentage — confidence.
“It’s just about trusting the work you’ve put in and that’s been the key to my success individually,” Octeus said. “I know if I want to keep getting better then I have to keep putting in work after practice and coming in to put up more shots. During the year it can be tough to get in the gym because we’re pretty banged up and tired with the conditioning, but if I want to keep improving that just means putting in more and more time outside of practice to work on my game.”
Octeus’ improvement has been key for a Rams team who lost 77 percent of their scoring from a season ago with the graduation of five senior starters. Along with standouts J.J. Avila and Daniel Bejarano, his emergence as well as the continued development of sophomore forward Joe De Ciman has proven paramount for a team who sits at 14-10 overall but has been within ten points in nine of their ten losses. However, no one understands the importance of Octeus’ progression more than head coach Larry Eustachy.
“We have to have performances like the one Jon had against Air Force or you don’t win those games,” Eustachy said. “Certain guys are capable of stepping up and leading this team and Jon is one of those guys.”
And as the Rams head into the homestretch of conference play, they’ll need contributions from Octeus, as well as De Ciman, Dwight Smith, and the rest of their young roster if they want to end up ahead of their projected sixth-place finish.
“Anybody can beat anybody on a given night,” Octeus said. “The schedule doesn’t get any easier because every team in our league is still getting better so we just have to continue to handle our business and come every night ready to go.”
Collegian Reporter Keegan Pope can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @kpopecollegian.
Jon Octeus Bio
Year: Redshirt Junior
Hometown: Miramar, Fla.
Last School: Wabash Valley College