Photo via Bill Streicher-USA TODAY SportsIt is time for old school basketball fans to realize this concept. The days of big men like Shaquille O’Neal, Hakeem Olajuwon, Wilt Chamberlain, and others dominating the game from the paint are becoming extinct. The game of basketball throughout the years has grown into a jump shooter’s paradise. Teams on both the collegiate and professional levels, are now looking for talent the likes of Chris Bosh, Dirk Nowitzki, and Pau Gasol; stretch 4s who face up, beat you off the dribble, and shoot from the perimeter. Now a days, the three point shot is more exciting to watch than a flashy dunk. In his commercial with Stephen Curry, Jamie Foxx said it best;
“The step back three, is the new dunk. The follow through, is the new poster. Range, is the new hang time. From the Elbow, to the rim, the threat now comes from EVERYWHERE.”
Henry Ellenson is a mild mannered 6’10 245lb PF/C from Rice Lake, Wisconsin (attended Rice Lake High School). Ellenson dominated at the high school level, posting season averages of 27.4 points, 12 rebounds, and 2.4 blocks. During Ellenson’s senior year of high school, he was selected to play in the McDonald’s All-American game. Afterwards, Ellenson decided to commit to Marquette becoming the first player to be selected for the McDonald’s all American game and commit to Marquette since 1982. He was also selected to participate in the Jordan Brand Classic, as well as the Nike Hoops Summit however, injuries prohibited him from playing in both. Ellenson led Rice Lake to the state championship both his junior and senior year and finished his career as Rice Lake’s all-time leading scorer with 2,275 points.
Ellenson is far from your normal ordinary prototypical PF/C. He’s far from the type that lives in the paint (which is boring to watch anyway but that’s beside the point). His playing style is similar to the likes of a Chris Bosh. Ellenson has a full arsenal of offensive skills that allow him to attack in a variety of different ways. He has ball handling skills that most 6’10” players dream of. So much so that he often catches the ball of the rim and brings the ball up court in fast break scenarios. Ellenson’s ball handling abilities allow him to catch the ball anywhere on the court and create his own shot. He is also a strong/volume shooter. Ellenson has the ability to shoot from just about wherever he wants on the court and still be efficient. Without the ball, his threat as a shooter helps spread the floor and allow the team’s guards to penetrate the paint without much resistance. With the ball, his shooting and ball handling talents give him the ability to face up and shoot over the top of defenders or drive past them and draw fouls (where he is also efficient 74%FT). Ellenson’s rebounding is a huge problem for defenses to handle. Even on a bad day, you can count on him for ten rebounds. His size and wingspan (7’2”) makes it easy for him to grab offensive and defensive rebounds over opposing teams. His size and wingspan really helps him on the defensive end as well. He creates havoc as a rim protector (1.5 blocks PG) and makes it hard for teams that play inside and out in a half court setting. Steve Wojciechowski (the team’s coach) has given him the “green light” and made him the clear leader of the team. This helps to explain why he plays loose and with lots of confidence.
Coming out of high school, Ellenson had a lot of expectations to live up to. However, Henry Ellenson has not only lived up to the expectations, he has surpassed them. Averaging 17pts, and 9.7rebs per game, Ellenson made it clear he was going to be a problem for opposing teams. He seemed to grow with every minute he played this year.
Now, in every star’s process to becoming great there are learning experiences they must go through and grow from. Luckily for Henry Ellenson, his biggest learning experience came just three games into the season. On November 19th, Ellenson and the Marquette Golden Eagles matched up against the Iowa Hawkeyes. Ellenson logged a season low three points and eight rebounds as his team fell to Iowa 89-61. Iowa’s team defense along with the play of Iowa’s star big man Jarrod Uthoff, seemed to frustrate Ellenson and take him out of his game early. He struggled finding his rhythm in the offense, going 1-8 (12%, also a season low) from the field missing all four of his three point attempts. That night, Ellenson couldn’t make a basket if it was placed in his lap.
Since the disaster against Iowa, Henry Ellenson put on a show almost every night making him a Big East Conference rookie of the year Candidate. Ellenson became a big man’s stat sheet stuffer, logging 18 double doubles on the season. Ellenson’s big games include games against Maine (23pts on 63%FG, 4rebs), 8th ranked Providence (26pts 45%FG, 16 rebs), St. John’s (27pts 50%FG, rebs 14) and a game great against LSU’s Ben Simmons (16pts 54%FG, 8rebs). Seeing as though each of those games resulted in a win, it was made clear the team goes and Ellenson goes. Ellenson’s most impressive game came against the Butler Bulldogs. Ellenson was able to do whatever he wanted on the court using his full arsenal of offensive basketball skills. The mid-range/3pt shot, post-game, and dribble drive all seemed to work to perfection. Ellenson played with so much energy that it carried over into the defensive end. He managed to register a whopping six blocks. Ellenson put up a season high in points (32 on 57%FG) and blocks (6) with 10 rebounds while helping his team get a well needed win.
Ellenson has his fair share of weaknesses. He’s does not possess a great deal of athleticism, his 3pt shooting comes and goes (28%), he lacks post moves, and awareness in defending the pick n roll and there are questions about his physicality. These are all major concerns for him moving forward into next season, especially if he decides to enter this year’s draft. These are also reasons why a lot of people believe Ellenson should stay for another year in college. There’s no doubt Marquette needs him, seeing as though they have missed the NCAA Tournament the last three years. However, Ellenson’s overall talent, size, and basketball I.Q screams he belongs in this year’s NBA draft.
At the end of the day, I believe Ellenson’s skills will translate well no matter where he decides to play because he is a prime example of what I like to call; The New Age Big Man.