Five-star 2015 forward Henry Ellenson working to become a more versatile player

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LAS VEGAS — One of the best individual matchups of the first day of action at the LeBron James Skills Academy was the one consisting of five-star 2015 prospects Henry Ellenson and Ivan Rabb. While both performed very well in the first half of the contest, the fact of the matter is that neither was on the court at the same time. That changed in the second half, as they were faced with the challenge of defending each other.

With the resistance having increased, both had to work harder for their offensive opportunities. But that’s what the point of camps such as these should be, with the saying of “iron sharpens iron” being the one that applies. For Ellenson, the opportunity to compete with and against his peers is something he can use to his benefit as he works to improve his skill set.

“I’m just trying to take in everything that these coaches are teaching us,” Ellenson told NBCSports.com. “I worked with the bigs yesterday and tried to take some lessons from that, and I worked with the wings today. Just trying to soak it all in.”

The 6-foot-10 forward has been the object of attention for many high-major programs, and he’s part of a family that doesn’t lack for athleticism. Henry’s the third of four children, with two (Wally, who recently transferred to Marquette, and Ellwood) having already landed college scholarships. The tallest of the bunch, Henry’s next in line due to his wide array of skills.

While there’s been the need to go into the post to battle with some of the bigger prospects at the LeBron camp, Henry’s also shown off the ability to step out onto the perimeter and get things done offensively. And on the defensive end he’s performed well, both in the paint and defending in the pick and roll games that tend to dominate such camps. The goal for Ellenson is to be able to help a college program in a variety of ways, as opposed to being pigeonholed into a particular position.

“Being a ‘mismatch’ guy who can take a big man out on the wing and go by him, or take a smaller guy into the post. A guy who just really picks his spots on offense,” Ellenson said.

As a junior at Rice Lake (Wisconsin) High School, Ellenson posted averages of 27.5 points and 13.1 rebounds per game and was a unanimous first team Division 2 all-state selection as a result. And with that ability on full display, programs such as Duke, Marquette, UCLA and Michigan State were among those mentioned by Ellenson as being the most active in his recruitment at present time.

“I’ve taken visits to Marquette, Northwestern, Duke, Michigan State, UCLA, Iowa State and Michigan are some of the other schools that have contacted me,” noted Ellenson.

Of course, with the presence of Marquette the question of how much his older brother’s decision to join Steve Wojciechowski’s program will impact Henry’s decision comes up. And while it is something Henry has considered, according to him that won’t be the biggest factor when he decides on which school to attend.

“It’s a bonus, but overall I’m going to make the decision that’s best for me,” Ellenson said. “[Wally’s transferring to Marquette] is just another positive for that school.”

Among the factors Ellenson mentioned when asked what he’s looking for in a school were his relationship with the coaching staff, the style of play and the program’s ability to develop its players into pro prospects.

Taking the style of play into consideration, the goal of avoiding being placed into one particular “box” is something that’s important to Ellenson. But it’s clear that he also understands the need to work hard enough at his skill set to make sure the positional options remain available. Because without the skill needed to handle multiple responsibilities on the court, it becomes tougher for the coach to place the player in a position where versatility is required.

“I’m looking to improve everything,” said Ellenson. “A lot of ball-handling, because I do want to be able to play all over the court and ball-handling is a huge part of that. Also, I’m working on developing strength and quickness.”

Creighton lands 2016 combo guard

Greg McDermott
Associated Press
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Sunday evening Creighton got on the board in the Class of 2016, as 6-foor-4 combo guard Davion Mintz made his pledge to Greg McDermott’s program. Mintz made the decision on the tail end of his official visit to Creighton, picking the Bluejays over Georgia Tech, Kansas State, Tulsa and Wichita State.

News of Mintz’s commitment was first reported by Rick Lewis of the Phenom Hoop Report, with Mintz confirming the news via Twitter shortly thereafter.

Creighton has just two seniors on its current roster in guard Jams Milliken and forward Geoffrey Groselle, but that doesn’t mean they lack for experience. Among the guards on the roster who will be around when Mintz arrives on campus are redshirt juniors Maurice Watson Jr., Malik Albert, and Isaiah Zierden, and Kansas State transfer Marcus Foster will be eligible in 2016-17.

Mintz, who attends North Mecklenberg HS just outside of Charlotte, can play either on or off the basketball. Creighton’s veteran guards should help Mintz with his transition to the college game when he arrives in Omaha in 2016. Mintz played for the Charlotte Nets grassroots program this summer.

Three-star power forward commits to WVU

Bob Huggins
Associated Press
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Three days after landing one power forward in Sagaba Konate, West Virginia received a verbal commitment from another big man Sunday evening.

6-foot-11 Mountain Mission School (Gurndy, Virginia) power forward Maciej Bender became the Mountaineers’ fourth commitment in the Class of 2016 on Sunday, with the Mountain Mission program announcing the news via Twitter. Bender is a native of Poland, and in addition to Konate he joins guards Brandon Knapper and Chase Harler in West Virginia’s 2016 recruiting class.

West Virginia will lose two forwards in TyQuane Goard and Jonathan Holton at the end of the 2015-16 season, and the additions of Konate and Bender will help the Mountaineers account for those departures from a depth standpoint. Bender can score around the basket, but he’s also capable of facing up and scoring in pick-and-pop situations out beyond the three-point line.

Bender officially visited West Virginia last weekend, and he was a player the WVU coaching staff wanted to get in the fold. Other programs to offer Bender included Arizona State (teammate Jethro Tshisumpa is an ASU commit), Georgia, Georgia Tech, Ole Miss and Providence. Bender played his grassroots basketball for the West Virginia Wildcats program this summer.