Northern Wisconsin doesn't often produce many prep standouts or highly touted recruits for traditional top collegiate sports. Our own Zach Barker managed to take in the performance of Henry Ellenson, a senior basketball commit to Marquette who was also recruited by the likes of Kentucky, Wisconsin and Michigan State, and he gave us some detail from the first-hand perspective of the latest, greatest from our neck of the woods.
by Zach Barker
It was pretty easy picking out Henry Ellenson from the rest of his Rice Lake Lakers ‘boys’ basketball team. The 6'10” Senior stood out immediately, winning the tip against his overmatched 6'3 Chippewa Falls Cardinals opponent. Ellenson, the Marquette signee, took an extended elbow jumper with the first possession, an open look that was well advised, but air balled. The Chippewa crowd was on him right away. Ellenson started the 1st quarter somewhat slow, but established his defensive presence in the post with a possession ending block and 5 defensive rebounds. 1 of his 2 FGs in the first was off of an offensive rebound, his other a high point in-bound pass that he shot in from 6 feet out. While on defense, he rarely left the paint, on offense, he floated and settled for three 3-point attempts, missing each shot, but luckily getting fouled on the last. He made all 3 FTs and ended the first quarter with 7 points.
What was promising was how he attacked the paint during the 1st quarter. While he was 0-1 while driving to his right, he was able to pick up 2 fouls, both called on the ground. He also got a close look on his sole left handed drive, but wasn't able to convert.
In the 2nd quarter, Rice Lake focused on feeding him in the right block. The weak side guard would collapse on his pin up of the defender, and if he did receive the ball, 2 or all 3 of the remaining defenders collapsed too. He missed a baseline hook shot, and then moved away from shooting in the post, passing out when Chippewa swarmed down, finding open teammates. To note, his teammates spotted up on the 3 point line almost exclusively. There were very few options to hit a cutting guard. After several passes out of the short corner and right block, Ellenson settled back into the elbow extended part of the floor to run his offense. While he shot 1-5, that sole basket being a hard dunk, he was able to draw 2 more fouls driving with his left. Overall, Ellenson kept a very balanced attack, attacking the hoop 6 times from his right, 4 times from his left.
Chippewa made their run in the 3rd, Ellenson's least productive stretch by far. Hitting his only 3 of the game, he shot 1-6 from the floor, missing 5 shots all within 5 feet of the hoop. 3 of the 5 were off balance lay ups, which didn't find their way down, although they were high percentage shots. He also drew 2 more fouls this quarter on the offensive boards, and while they were mostly due to his wingspan, he was in position and worked hard on the offensive boards. To end the 3rd, after taunts from the crowd, he gave a muffled gnarl, slapped his hands, and D'ed down on the ball hander, who drove. His block ended their position, and fired him up for the 4th quarter.
In the 4th, he started off attacking the post via a right handed drive that he made. After rushing a deep heat check 3 which he missed, he proceeded to dominate the paint and scored the next 9 points, while blocking 3 shots defensively, and retrieving 4 defensive rebounds as well. Chippewa got within 6, but after his steal on a wayward inbound pass, he gave it up to his sprinting guard, who gave it back to him for a dagger dunk to seal the game. Final stat line: 29 points, 17 rebounds, 5 blocks, 3 steals.
While the Big Rivers Conference is a far cry from the Big East, Ellenson showed tonight why he is considered a top prospect. Like many in their last year of high school, he looks prone to "senioritis," taking the 1st quarter off, as well as not being the most attentive weak side defender. He also showed how he can take over a game. When presented with a collapsing defense, he was able to kick out to teammates for open looks, and when the game was on the line, and he wanted the shot, he found space on the wing, and attacked the hole, while only allowing 2 defenders to track him instead of the whole team. His ability to create his own shot, and the ball handling skills to make it look sexy remind you that it’s not that often we get to see this polished of an offensive big man in high school.