Henry Ellenson stood there spinning a basketball on his finger at mid-court. As his fellow McDonald’s All-Americans went through drills to prepare for the showcase at the United Center in Chicago; Ellenson was just a spectator.
Weeks ago Ellenson broke a bone in his left hand during the Wisconsin State Playoffs. While nobody expected him to rush back to play in this game, there was some disappointment among the Marquette faithful that they would not be able to see “their guy” square up against the best recruits in the country. Even though getting a glimpse at the most-touted recruit in thirty years would be a treat, Ellenson’s long-term health is obviously the top priority.
After a season in which the Golden Eagles won a grand total of 13 games, there is a desire for next season to start as soon as possible. Being able to watch competitive Marquette basketball again will be a welcome change from what fans have had to watch the previous two seasons. Fans are not the only ones excited about Ellenson’s college debut.
“I’m really excited for next season. I’m really excited to hit the ground running and make an impact right away. I’m thrilled to be thrown into the fire and start playing” Ellenson stated after the conclusion of the game.
As the centerpiece of the greatest recruiting class in program history, many people believe that there is enormous pressure on Ellenson’s shoulders. Well, everybody but Ellenson himself.
“Not really (any pressure), it is just playing basketball. I wanted to be the guy right away. I’m ready for it” Ellenson preached.
Vander Blue was the last recruit that Marquette landed that drew any sort of national attention. Still, that was only a fraction of what has surrounded Ellenson.
“A Kentucky-type player” is the description a scout proclaimed about Ellenson. More immeasurable praise for someone who has been asked to put Marquette back on the map.
No matter who one talks to, the words spoken about Ellenson are similar to those said about the likes of past McDonald’s All-Americans. His ability to be a force down low as well as cause havoc from the perimeter will give defenses fits next season.
The job Steve Wojciechowski has done in recruiting Ellenson and essentially stealing him from marquee programs cannot be stated enough. Wojo needed to make an undeniable splash in his first recruiting class in order to show the college basketball landscape that he has Marquette headed in the right direction. The long-time assistant did just that with landing a gigantic fish in Ellenson.
Going up against the likes of John Calipari and Tom Izzo, Wojo was able to reel in one of the most NBA-ready prospects available.
Think about that for a second.
Wojo beat out two coaches that are currently in the Final Four. The rookie head coach was able to craft the perfect pitch; one that could not be beat my his more experienced competition.
“Coach Wojo knows what he is doing for sure. I feel that he can really (take) my game to the next level. That is why I am really excited to start working with him” Ellenson said while fighting smile.
Ellenson had a chance to experience what it is like to be sitting at the end of a bench for all 40 minutes of action; a change of pace from what his career has and will be made up of moving forward. Come October he will be called upon to play a majority of the minutes on a Marquette team that will once again be lacking big man depth.
“A program changer” is another description the scout used to describe Ellenson. For a school that has not had one of those in decades, having an McDonald’s All American means more to Marquette than a program like Kentucky or Duke. We all know that they can attract the elite talent in the country. Marquette on the other hand celebrates—and rightfully so—when they land that type of athlete.
Forgive Marquette fans for their optimism; it has been a trying two seasons. Let them hype Ellenson as one of the best players in program history, even though he has not played a single college game.
Wednesday was a night to celebrate the prosperous times ahead for the Golden Eagles, even if the man at the center of the madness was only on the floor for warm-ups.