Tag: Henry Ellenson

Henry Ellenson
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Steve Wojciechowski and a basketball family led Henry Ellenson to Marquette

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Basketball is the driving force of the Ellenson family. John and Holly Ellenson were both college basketball players. They now have four kids: three sons playing college basketball and a daughter, Ella, who is junior in high school and is drawing high-major college interest in their hometown of Rice Lake, Wisconsin.

Monday night was special for the Ellenson family as Wally, a junior transfer from Minnesota, and Henry, a highly-regarded freshman, made their debut at Marquette against middle brother, Ellwood, and NAIA Valley City State.

The 98-57 exhibition win for the Golden Eagles will, in all likelihood, be the last time all three Ellenson brothers share the court at the same time.

“With all the brothers playing here tonight,” Henry told reporters after the game, “it’s definitely a day I’ll never forget.”

Henry is Marquette’s first McDonald’s All-American since 1982. Head coach Steve Wojciechowski knew that family mattered to the Ellensons when he started recruiting him. Wally’s addition, and Monday’s exhibition, were all a part of his plan to accelerate the Golden Eagles’ return to relevance.


After a long and successful stint as an assistant coach at Duke, Wojciechowski took the head coaching job at Marquette on April 1, 2014. The first-time head coach almost immediately set his sights north to in-state big man Henry Ellenson.

Traveling 300-plus miles from Milwaukee to Rice Lake, Wisconsin, Wojciechowski first watched Henry Ellenson play in an open gym at Rice Lake High School that spring. As a consensus top-100 national prospect and the younger brother of two college basketball players, Wojciechowski knew Ellenson was talented and had the bloodlines but what he saw in the open gym still caught him off-guard.

“I watched Henry work out at 5:30 in the morning before school started. And he’s in there at 6-foot-11, doing ball-handling drills, and working himself out with the help of his sister. That kind of drive for a young player is not normal,” Wojciechowski recalled to NBCSports.com.

“Coach got to see me work out and he got to see my sister (Ella) work out that day,” Ellenson said with a laugh. “I think he got a sense of how my family is.”

Watching the open gym, the man commonly known in basketball circles as Coach Wojo, knew that he would be handling everything Ellenson on his own. Most head coaches delegate recruiting calls and responsibilities to assistant coaches. Wojciechowski made it a point to be the lead recruiter of Henry and his tight-knit family.

Henry describes his family as a “big basketball family” and the four Ellenson children come from parents who both played college hoops. John Ellenson played at Marquette and Wisconsin before playing for one year overseas while Holly Ellenson played college basketball at Wisconsin-Eau Claire.

Holly eventually became the girls basketball coach and a physical education teacher at Rice Lake High School. Four days after Henry was born, he was brought to his first basketball game, as Holly coached a road game 48 hours after leaving the hospital.

With a spare set of keys to the local high school gym, the three Ellenson boys were constantly playing basketball while growing up. As the youngest of the three brothers, Henry had to use his skill to match up with his more physically imposing older brothers until he hit his growth spurt. The 6-foot-6 Wally started his career at Minnesota as a dual-sport athlete also competing in high jump and 6-foot-8 Ellwood began his basketball career at Division II Bemidji State. As his older brothers left the house, Henry eventually grew to 6-foot-10 by the middle of high school.

With an ability to hit 3-pointers or handle the ball in the open floor like a guard, Henry elevated to a national recruit and he was eventually selected for the gold-medal winning USA Basketball U17 FIBA World Championship team last summer.

Blueblood college basketball programs like Duke, Kentucky, North Carolina and UCLA came calling, but Henry was most impressed that the head coach of the in-state school kept aggressively pursuing him without the aid of assistant coaches.

“Coach [Wojo] was the only head coach that called me every time and that made a big impression on me,” Henry said.

The recruiting of the Ellenson family turned up another level once Wally transferred into the Marquette men’s basketball program from Minnesota.

Having his older brother commit to Marquette certainly helped in recruiting, but Henry was most sold on his future coach’s vision of how he would use the versatile big man. Henry sees himself as a basketball player and he doesn’t like to label his game by a position on the floor. UCLA tried to sell Henry on being the next Kevin Love and other schools also compared him to past elite big men. Wojciechowski just wanted Henry to be himself and play his game.

“The playing style was huge,” Henry said of his reasons for picking the Golden Eagles. “I get to play all over the floor. I can handle a bit and shoot. I get a lot of freedom that I wouldn’t get in some other places.”

Marquette fans are hoping that kind of freedom allows Henry to have a huge season in what could be his only campaign in college basketball. Ellenson enters the Big East program with a substantial amount of local buzz.

Henry is also anxious to show off his skills on a national level after missing the spring senior all-star game circuit. A broken fifth metacarpal in his left, non-shooting, hand suffered in a state semifinal win for Rice Lake caused Henry to miss the Wisconsin state championship game as well as prestigious events like the McDonald’s All-American Game, Jordan Brand Classic and Nike Hoop Summit.

Without its star big man, Rice Lake lost in the state championship game and Ellenson had to sit on the sidelines and watch the next few weeks while his five-star peers locked horns in front of national recruiting analysts and NBA scouts.

“It was tough to sit out and watch knowing what I can do out there,” Ellenson said.

Once he recovered from the hand injury towards the end of spring, Henry worked hard to prepare for the college basketball season. Marquette saw a glimpse of what Henry was capable of during their overseas exhibition trip to Italy this August. In the first three games of a 4-0 exhibition trip, Ellenson averaged 23.6 points and 8 rebounds per game. He was also dominant in the exhibition win over Ellwood and Valley City State, as Henry had a double-double by halftime and finished with 16 points, 17 rebounds, five assists and two blocks in 27 minutes of action.

Wojciechowski has also been pleasantly surprised to see how open his new star has been to coaching and taking criticism since Henry joined the program.

“Until you get a player on a day-to-day basis, you don’t know how they’ll respond to coaching. Can you tell him the truth, even if the truth is hard?” Wojciechowski said. “Henry embraces that. He’s a guy, like most great players, who wants to be told how he can get better. And I admire that about him.”

Marquette is certainly hoping Henry and a talented freshman class can be as good as advertised. The program is trying to make the NCAA tournament after last season’s injury-riddled campaign. Henry being paired with 6-foot-10 big man Luke Fischer will be a tough combination for any team to stop.

“We can feed off of each other,” Ellenson said of Fischer. “Most teams don’t have two guys that size, but if they do, I can step out and open up some space for him inside.”

It will also be a fun season at Marquette for Henry because he gets to play with Wally, who sat out last basketball season due to NCAA transfer restrictions.

Now back with Wally for the first time since high school, Henry gets to team up with the elbow-throwing older sibling who used to beat him up during games of one-on-one-on-one. Henry is the star basketball player now, but Wally has aspirations of being an Olympic athlete in the high jump after starting his outdoor track career as a three-time, first-team All-American at both Minnesota and Marquette.

Basketball has always been the bond between the Ellenson brothers and the Golden Eagles are hoping to use their competitive fire as a key ingredient for this season. Although only a true freshman, Henry is going to be the focus of attention for opponent’s scouting reports and he’ll be asked to be a team leader this season.

“We’re going to need him to set an example as the team’s best player,” Wojciechowski said. “When you’re that good, you have to be a leader and I think he’ll embrace those challenges.”

Big East Preview: Is there a real challenger to Villanova?

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Beginning in October and running up through November 13th, the first day of the regular season, College Basketball Talk will be unveiling the 2015-2016 NBCSports.com college hoops preview package.

Today, we are previewing the Big East Conference.

The Big East Conference landed six teams in the NCAA tournament last season. The Big East might not replicate that number come Selection Sunday, but the 10-league members should make for another unpredictable season.

Villanova should be the unanimous preseason pick, given what the Wildcats have accomplished over the past two years (two regular season titles and the 2015 Big East Tournament championship) and the key pieces they bring back, inclduding Ryan Arcidiacono, Daniel Ochefu and Josh Hart. Georgetown, Butler and Xavier should all pose as Villanova’s biggest competition, though the order in which they finish is up for debate.

The same could be said for the rest of the conference. St. John’s is likely out of the mix following a massive roster overhaul, but Nos. 5-9 could end up in a variety of ways.


1. Kris Dunn spurned NBA: Kris Dunn could have been a lottery pick in the 2015 NBA Draft, but choose to return to Providence for his junior season. This is a gamble on Dunn’s part, given the recurring shoulder injury that plagued his first two seasons. But with the return of Dunn, arguably the top player in college basketball, the Friars eye an NCAA tournament for the third time in as many seasons, instead of focusing on a rebuilding year.

MORE: How Kris Dunn attacked the weaknesses in his game

2. Villanova postseason cut short again: In 2014, Villanova, a No. 2 seed, was upset by eventual champion UConn in the Round 0f 32. This past March, the Wildcats validated critics who believed that they were unworthy of a No. 1 seed, exiting the tournament in the Round of 32 again, this time at the hands of No. 8 N.C. State. Jay Wright led the Wildcats to the Final Four in 2009. In five tournament appearances since, Villanova hasn’t gotten out of the first weekend. Villanova can prove its among the top programs in the country with non-conference matchups against Oklahoma and Virginia, but it won’t matter unless NCAA tournament success follows.

3. Chris Mullin returns: After five seasons, St. John’s and Steve Lavin decided to part ways. This paved the way for a Chris Mullin homecoming. The Brooklyn native led the Johnnies to the 1985 Final Four before enjoying a Hall of Fame career as a player. Since retiring, he’s worked as both a broadcaster and in NBA front office’s but he returns to his alma mater with zero coaching experience. He inherits a team that lost its entire rotation, but Mullin has made tremendous strides in his first few months as a head coach, surrounding himself with talented recruiters, who have overhauled the roster and helped land a pair of four-star recruits.

4. Impact freshmen: The two highest-rated recruits entering the league is Marquette’s Henry Ellenson and Villanova’s Jalen Brunson. Both five-star prospects are expected to make immediate impact. This summer offered a glimpse of what to expect this season, with Ellenson putting up big numbers on Marquette’s European tour and Brunson leading USA Basketball to a gold medal in the FIBA U19 World Championships in Greece. Brunson averaged 14.0 points and 5.6 assists per game, earning MVP honors.

5. NBA Draft: For the first time in Big East history (dating back to 1979, not 2013), no player was selected in the first round of the NBA Draft. In all likelihood, that will change this June, as Kris Dunn and Henry Ellenson are both projected as lottery picks.

MORE: 2015-16 Season Preview Coverage | Conference Previews | Preview Schedule


  • Favorite: “I’d say Villanova. They’ve dominated our league. They’ve been the standard the last two years. They have a lot of guys back, a lot of experience, very, very good guard play. They can all shoot and drive. They’re all very good defensively, too.”
  • Sleeper: “I think Marquette has a chance to be a sleeper. I think Woj has done a really good job of upgrading the talent in the last year. They return just enough guys and I think he has some really good freshmen to help elevate them to the upper part of the league.”
  • Best player
    • “You obviously have to start with Kris Dunn … Ryan Arcidiacono as well. Those two guys headline our league. [Dunn] impacts the game on both ends of the floor. He’s a two-way player. He’s a phenomenal defender. At the other end, he’s just really hard to keep out of the lane. Arcidiacono stays more within himself. He can really shoot the ball, makes the right play, tough guy. He does a great job.”
    • “I think Arcidiacono is the best player … He’s truly a quarterback in that system. He makes average players very, very good and he pulls that team together. He’s an extension of Jay [Wright]. I’m probably a rare guy, but I think Arch is the best player.”
  • Most underrated player
    • “I think Daniel Ochefu is very undervalued. Obviously, he’s 6-foot-11, but he’s so mobile and he’s an extremely good defender around the rim and in ball-screen defense. Then he can score on the other end.”
    • “Roosevelt Jones. I think people talk about him, but I don’t think he gets the credit he deserves. For not being able to shoot the ball, he’s extremely talented. He understands his role. He’s one of those guys that makes a team click.”
Kris Dunn (AP Photo)
Kris Dunn (AP Photo)


Dunn is a candidate for Preseason National Player of the Year honors, so it’s no surprise that he should be the runaway selection to repeat as Big East Player of the Year after he shared the honors last season. The 6-foot-3 Dunn, in his first full season, posted posted 15.6 points, 7.5 assists, 5.5 rebounds and 2.7 steals per game as a redshirt sophomore. As opposing coaches mentioned above, he impacts the game on both ends of the floor, probably more so than anyone else in the country.


  • Ryan Arcidiacono, Villanova: The experienced lead guard who shared Big East co-Player of the Year honors with Dunn last season, anchors the conference’s top perimeter attack, which includes Josh Hart, Jalen Brunson and Phil Booth. Arcidiacono averaged 10.1 points and 3.5 assists per game and shot a career-best 37 percent from three.
  • Henry Ellenson, Marquette: The five-star recruit, rated No. 11 player in the class by Rivals, is the highest-rated prospect entering the Big East. The projected lottery pick will make up one of the top front courts playing alongside Luke Fischer.
  • Roosevelt Jones, Butler: His old-school game helped the Bulldogs turnaround the program’s first losing season in nine years. The 6-foot-4 redshirt junior, who missed the 2013-14 season due to a wrist injury, led the team in assists at 3.7 per game and added another scoring option, putting up points using his arsenal of unorthodox runners.
  • D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera, Georgetown: The key piece on a team loaded with talented underclassmen, the 6-foot-3 Smith-Rivera did it all for the Hoyas last season. The first-team all-conference selection averaged 16.3 points, 4.2 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 1.6 steals per game.


  • Trevon Bluiett, Xavier
  • Kellen Dunham, Butler
  • Billy Garrett Jr., DePaul
  • Daniel Ochefu, Villanova
  • Isaiah Whitehead, Seton Hall

BREAKOUT STAR: Jalen Reynolds, Xavier

There are several players that could fit this category (Georgetown’s Isaac Copleand or Providence’s Ben Bentil ), but Jalen Reynolds has the ability to put up an all-Big East caliber season for the Musketeers. The 6-foot-10 forward, who plays with the attitude that he can dunk everything, may be the most athletically gifted player in the conference. He averaged 9.9 points and 6.1 boards per game as a sophomore and had two strong showings in Xavier’s Sweet 16 run.

COACH UNDER PRESSURE: Kevin Willard, Seton Hall

In five seasons, Willard is 30-60 in conference, taking the Pirates to only one postseason appearance (2012 NIT). Willard is also coming off a season of highs and lows. The highs being back-to-back wins over Villanova and St. John’s to propel the Pirates in to the top-25 rankings. The lows: a 1-9 finish and the departures of starters Sterling Gibbs and Jaren Sina.

ON SELECTION SUNDAY WE’LL BE SAYING … : Can someone make run in March?

Through the first two years of the Big East relaunch, only one team has made it past the first weekend of the NCAA tournament. That was Xavier this past March, reaching the Sweet 16 by defeating No. 11 Ole Miss and No. 14 Georgia State.

Questions of the league’s strength will continue as long as postseason struggles do.

I’M MOST EXCITED ABOUT : The Gavitt Tipoff Games

Named in honor of the Big East founder, Dave Gavitt, the Big East and Big Ten will play eight games throughout the first week of the season. Kicking off slate of non-conference matchups is Georgetown traveling College Park to take on Maryland. The two teams haven’t played locally since 1993. The Terrapins host the Hoyas on Nov. 17.


  • Nov. 17, Georgetown vs. Maryland
  • Nov. 20, Xavier vs. Michigan
  • Dec. 7, Oklahoma vs. Villanova (in Honolulu)
  • Dec. 5, Syracuse vs. Georgetown
  • Dec. 19, Villanova vs. Virginia



1. Villanova: The conference’s most efficient offense and defense, returns a core of last year’s team. With deep guard play and a big man in the middle, Jay Wright’s team should expect to be back to the top spot in the Big East standings.
2. Georgetown: John Thompson III will rely on up to seven freshmen and sophomores. Isaac Copeland, L.J. Peak, Paul White and Tre Campbell were all part of the rotation as freshmen. First-year big men Jessie Govan and Marcus Derrickson both had impressive outings in the Hoyas’ summer trip. The return of D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera will Georgetown as the underclassmen develop over the course of the season.
3. Butler: It seems odd: a former McDonald’s All-American needing to fill the shoes left behind by a walk-on. But that’s the position Tyler Lewis finds himself in, replacing beloved Alex Barlow. The N.C. State transfer joins the veteran perimeter of sharpshooter Kellen Dunham and wing Roosevelt Jones. Like Villanova, Butler lacks depth up front, but third-year starter Andrew Chrabascz is a solid piece to have on the interior.
4. Xavier: Trevon Blueitt and Jalen Reynolds are poised for breakout years, but the Musketeers must combat the loss of both point guards, Dee Davis and Matt Stainbrook (yes, 6-foot-10 Matt Stainbrook). That point guard duties will fall on the committee of Larry Austin Jr., Myles Davis and Edmond Sumner, a 6-foot-5 freshman who sat out last season. There is still enough talent on the roster for another NCAA tournament appearance for Chris Mack.
5. Providence: Kris Dunn’s return is what keeps the Friars in the top half of the league to begin the season, but players like Ben Bentil and Jalen Lindsey will need to take major steps forward in their sophomore seasons in order for PC to still be there in February/March.
6. Marquette: The trendy pick as the dark horse in the Big East, the Golden Eagles could be in for a big turnaround in the Wojo’s second year. Henry Ellenson and Luke Fischer make for a good tandem on the frontline, while Traci Carter and Haanif Cheatham are other freshman to watch, playing alongside Duane Wilson in the back court.
7. Seton Hall: The Pirates are a dangerous team despite a dismal end to last season. Isaiah Whitehead, Angel Delgado and Khadeen Carrington all gained valuable experience as freshmen. Seton Hall will need contributions from players like Desi Rodriguez, another sophomore, and graduate transfers Braeden Anderson and Derrick Gordon if it wants to do more than pull off a few upsets.
8. Creighton: Seven of Creighton’s 14 conference losses came by five points or less, helping contribute to a last-place finish a season ago. Transfers Maurice Watson Jr. and Cole Huff should make an immediate impact alongside cast of returnees that includes James Milliken, Toby Hegner and Geoffrey Groselle. The Bluejays certainly got better, but is it enough to climb into the middle of the pack?
9. DePaul: Although the Blue Demons are slotted second from the bottom, this could be the team to surprise many this season. They return Billy Garrett Jr., Myke Henry and Tommy Hamilton IV, three double-digit scorers from last season.
10. St. John’s: Chris Mullin has covered a lot of ground since March, but the loss of last year’s entire rotation puts the Red Storm in the cellar for Year 1.

Henry Ellenson wins Marquette Madness dunk contest

Steve Wojciechowski

Marquette freshman forward Henry Ellenson won the Marquette Madness slam dunk contest on Friday night with a between the legs dunk.

The 6-foot-10 Ellenson, the top recruit in Steve Wojciechowski’s freshmen class, defeated sophomore Sandy Cohen, fellow freshman Sacar Anim and Wally Ellenson, his older brother.

Ellenson joins the Golden Eagles as the No. 11 overall recruit in the Class of 2015.