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 ESPN.com 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.