Steve Wojciechowski

Jackson State's Chace Franklin (1) and Marquette's Wally Ellenson watch a loose ball during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Sunday, Nov. 29, 2015, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Jeffrey Phelps)
AP Photo/Jeffrey Phelps

Guard Wally Ellenson leaves Marquette program

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Normally when a player who averaged 1.9 points and 2.2 rebounds in just under nine minutes per game leaves a program, his name simply goes onto the “available transfers” lists on the internet without much thought. But when that player is the older brother of a freshman expected to be selected in the NBA Draft lottery, not to mention also has a great deal of potential in another sport, it grabs attention.

That’s the case of Marquette redshirt junior guard Wally Ellenson, who on Thursday left the program according to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. A two-sport athlete who began his college career in basketball and the high jump at Minnesota, Wally’s departure comes just over two weeks after younger brother Henry announced his intentions to forego his final three years of eligibility and enter the 2016 NBA Draft.

So why is this situation a head-scratcher? Ellenson’s mother quoted a report from on Twitter, adding the words “smoke and mirrors” to the post. And earlier this week the Paint Touches website did some looking into the situation before it had been learned that Wally would be leaving the program.

With the late additions of USC grad transfer Katin Reinhardt and reclassified freshman guard Markus Howard (he was in the class of 2017 before moving to 2016), Marquette had used all 13 of its scholarships for the 2016-17 campaign. With the additions and departures, Marquette has just two players taller than 6-foot-7 on the (at this time) roster for next season: Luke Fischer and Matt Heldt.

Ellenson’s departure opens up a scholarship for Marquette to use, in all likelihood on a player who can add depth in the post. The Journal-Sentinel reported that Ellenson can remain on scholarship should he decide to stay at Marquette, with the four-time All-American in the high jump receiving that grant-in-aid for track as opposed to basketball.

However, it should be noted that as an “equivalency” sport, men’s track and field gets a total of 12.6 scholarships that can be handed out at the coach’s discretion (full or partial scholarships). Would Ellenson receive a full scholarship despite the fact that he’d be competing in just one event? For that reason, along with the questions as to how this situation came to be, this is something worth monitoring moving forward.

No. 5 Xavier advances to Big East semis with a 90-72 win

Actor Bill Murray, right, makes an X with his arms while watching the big screen during a timeout of an NCAA college basketball game between Xavier and Marquette during the Big East men's tournament, Thursday, March 10, 2016, in New York. Murray's son, Luke Murray, is an assistant coach for Xavier. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)
AP Photo/Julie Jacobson
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NEW YORK (AP) Trevon Bluiett matched his career high with 24 points and No. 5 Xavier dominated from start to finish in a 90-72 victory over Marquette on Thursday night in the quarterfinals of the Big East Tournament at Madison Square Garden.

The Musketeers took advantage of foul trouble by Marquette star center Henry Ellenson to have a big advantage in points in the paint early and finished with a 42-32 difference.

Xavier (27-4) advanced to Friday’s semifinals to face the winner of third-seeded Seton Hall and sixth-seeded Creighton.

It will be the Musketeers second straight trip to the semifinals. They lost to Villanova in last season’s championship game.

JaJuan Johnson had 19 points to lead the Golden Eagles (20-13), who have reached the semifinals twice (2008, 2010) but they have never made it to the championship game. They beat St. John’s 101-93 in the opening round.

This was the third time Xavier beat Marquette this season with the first two both decided by eight points.

Xavier opened on an 11-2 run with Ellenson, the conference’s freshman of the year and its leading rebounder, picking up his second foul just 3 minutes into the game. He was taken out of the game but when Xavier started having its way inside and took a 15-4 lead, he was back with 14:20 left in the half. The Golden Eagles went to a 2-3 zone to try and keep him from picking up another foul but it didn’t work.

Ellenson, who finished with 14 points and three rebounds, scored eight straight points for Marquette as the Golden Eagles drew within 26-21. With 2:44 left in the half Ellenson and Bluiett got tangled up near midcourt and both went down to the court. An official review found that Ellenson tripped Bluiett and he was assessed a Flagrant 1 foul – his third.

Bluiett’s free throw and J.P. Macura’s 3 on the ensuing possession were part of a 13-0 run that gave the Musketeers a 43-25 lead and Macura hit a long 3 with 4 seconds left to give Xavier a 46-30 lead.

Xavier shot 59.4 percent (19 of 32) in the half while the Golden Eagles were 11 of 32 (34.4 percent).

The Musketeers opened the second half on a 10-3 run and the rout was on with Xavier leading by as many as 28 points. The closest Marquette got was 17 points.


Marquette: The Golden Eagles entered the game first in the conference in steals (7.8) and they are second in assists (16.3). … The 101 points against St. John’s in the opening round was the first time the Golden Eagles broke the century against a Big East opponent. They joined the Big East for the 2005-06 season.

Xavier: The Musketeers entered the game first in the conference in assists (16.4) and they are second in steals (7.2). … Myles Davis leads the Big East in free throw shooting percentage (85.9). … Seven players have led the Musketeers in scoring in at least two games this season. … Chris Mack was named national coach of the year by the U.S. Basketball Writers Association.


Marquette: good enough for an NIT bid.

Xavier: faces the winner of Creighton-Seton Hall in the semifinals on Friday.

Steve Wojciechowski and a basketball family led Henry Ellenson to Marquette

Henry Ellenson
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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

“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.”

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.

Marquette freshman guard Haanif Cheatham cleared for competition by NCAA

Steve Wojciechowski
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While Marquette managed to put together a five-member freshman class ranked among the best in the country by multiple scouting outlets, only four of those players were available for the team’s trip to Italy. Wednesday, following the Golden Eagles’ final game on the 4-0 trip, head coach Steve Wojciechowski provided the team with some good news regarding the status of that fifth freshman.

Guard Haanif Cheatham, who was allowed to travel but was not cleared by the NCAA to play in games during the trip, has now been cleared for competition. Marquette announced the news Wednesday, and they also sent along video of Wojciechowski telling Cheatham and his teammates.


Cheatham joins fellow freshmen Sacar Anim and Tracy Carter and transfer Andrew Rowsey (who will have to sit out this season) as scholarship newcomers in the Marquette backcourt rotation. On the perimeter the Golden Eagles return JaJuan Johnson, Duane Wilson and Sandy Cohen, with Wally Ellenson eligible after sitting out the 2014-15 season following his transfer in from Minnesota.

Ranked 76th in the Class of 2015 by, Cheatham averaged 24 points per game as a high school senior and has the perimeter shooting ability to help Marquette account for the loss of leading three-point shooter Matt Carlino.

Marquette freshman unable to play on team’s Italy trip as he awaits NCAA clearance

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Marquette is heading to Italy this week as part of a summer exhibition trip but they’ll have to play without freshman wing Haanif Cheatham, according to a report from Matt Velazquez of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. Cheatham has yet to be cleared by the NCAA and can’t participate in games on the trip after competing in practices.

The 6-foot-5 native of Florida was regarded as a consensus top-100 prospect in the Class of 2016 and this would have been a nice trip for him to get accustomed to playing a higher level of basketball with his new team. At least still Cheatham can still travel with the team when they are there from the 10th through the 19th of August.

Without Cheatham, the team will have to use some smaller guard packages that feature Duane Wilson and freshman Traci Carter. It would have been nice for Marquette to have Cheatham for the trip, but he’s played with the team for a bit in summer practices and he’ll find out his fate of the NCAA