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.”

POSTERIZED: Monmouth bench mob goes insane after huge dunk

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Monmouth has arguably been the most entertaining team in college basketball through the season’s first three weeks.

Let’s start with the obvious: They’re a mid-major outfit with a 5-foot-8 point guard that headlines a talented back court, one good enough to have notched upsets at UCLA and, this week, over No. 17 Notre Dame and USC at the Advocare Invitational in Orlando.

It’s pretty incredible, to be honest. They’ve managed to amass one of college basketball’s best resume despite being a MAAC program with a grand total of four NCAA appearances in their luxurious history.

But what makes this team so much fun isn’t just that they can’t seem to stop beating high-major competition, it’s that, in the process, their bench mob has become one of college basketball’s best.

Want some proof? Watch what happens after this Deon Jones poster dunk:

And here’s the wild part: that wasn’t even close to the best thing the bench did this week.

This was:


But there’s so much more.

Like, for example, the three arrows:

The touchdown pass:

The bench poster:

The heart attack:

They … caught a fish?

And, finally, the ‘OH SHHHHHHHHHHHH’:

Wichita State’s 0-3 week makes chances for at-large bid small

Fred VanVleet
AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki

We’ve reached the nightmare scenario for Wichita State.

Having entered the season as the overwhelming favorite in the Missouri Valley, a top 15 team and a legitimate threat to reach a Final Four, after two weeks, the Shockers are in serious danger of missing out on the NCAA tournament altogether.

That’s not hyperbole, either.

Wichita State fell to 2-4 on the year after getting mollywhopped by Iowa in the 7th-place game of the Advocare Invitational. They ended up in the 7th-place game because they lost to USC and Alabama in the opening two rounds. The Hawkeyes look like the might be able to eke out an at-large berth if things fall the right way for them, but USC and Alabama are projected to finish at or near the bottom of their respective conferences. Even Iowa would do well to finish in the top half of the Big Ten.

Individually, none of those three losses are particularly terrible, and that’s before you factor in that all-american point guard Fred VanVleet sat out the trip to Orlando with a bad hamstring. They were also without back up point guard Landry Shamet in the tournament and it’s unknown when they’ll actually get Anton Grady back to full stretch. That matters to the NCAA tournament selection committee. They’ll factor it in when they determine where the Shockers will be seeded, or if they will even get an invite.

But throw in the loss at Tulsa from the first week of the season, and the Shockers are now 2-4 on the season.

And unlike the rest of the preseason top 25 — unlike the rest of the nation’s high-major programs — Wichita State won’t have a chance to load up on quality wins during league play. The Valley is better than we probably realized (more on that in a second), but it’s not like there are going to be a myriad of top 50 wins for the taking.

Look at Georgetown, for example. They Hoyas went 1-3 in the first week of the season, a stretch that included a home loss to Radford. But they also play in a conference where they’ll get home-and-homes against the likes of Villanova, Butler and Xavier.

The Shockers need to do their damage during the non-conference. They need to get the bulk of their resume put together before Valley play starts. Assuming they do win the rest of their non-league games, we’re not exactly looking at a daunting profile, either. The Shockers still have to visit Saint Louis and Seton Hall and host UNLV, Utah, Nevada and New Mexico State. UNLV and Utah should look like quality wins on Selection Sunday, but the rest of them?

Wichita State is putting themselves in a position where they may end up needing to win the Missouri Valley tournament just to get into the Big Dance, and the problem is that the Valley looks like it is really going to be tough this season. Northern Iowa notched a win over North Carolina already this year. Illinois State gave Maryland a fight and entered the season as a favorite to upset the Shockers. Evansville has two of the league’s five best players in D.J. Balentine and Egidijus Mockevicius.

They’re not waltzing through that conference by any stretch of the imagination.

That’s not exactly what VanVleet and Ron Baker had in mind when they decided to return to Wichita for one final season.