One of the most important skills that a college basketball player can have is the ability to jump, so, theoretically, it would make sense guys that there would be some college hoopers that also happen to excel in the high jump.
Wilt Chamberlain was a dominant high-jumper in his day, but off the top of my head, I can’t think of another player that excelled in both sports at the college level.
That’s what’s so intriguing about Minnesota sophomore Wally Ellenson.
Ellenson didn’t play much for Tubby Smith last season, averaging just 2.0 points while seeing action in just nine games. And while his athleticism on the perimeter would seem to fit in better with Rick Pitino’s system, the Gophers are much deeper in the back court than they are in the front court, which could once against limit the minutes that he plays.
It’s different in track, however, where the all-american Ellenson won a gold medal in the high-jump in the Pan-Americans Games on Sunday in Medellin, CO. Ellenson cleared the bar at 7-feet, 1-inch.
“It’s surreal,” Ellenson told Minnesota’s athletics website. “(Winning a gold medal) was the goal throughout the whole competition, and I’m just thankful I was able to do it.”
Ellenson clearly has the talent to be an elite high-jumper, but he has a ways to go if he wants to set any kind of world record. Currently, 8-feet and 1/2-inch, which was cleared by Javier Sotomayor of Cuba in 1993, is the world record.
Playing basketball cuts into his training. His goal is to make it to the Olympics in 2016, which means that the part of his life that could end up taking a backseat is on the hardwood.