It's one thing to say a player has improved. That could be mean anything. Maybe he couldn't walk and chew gum, and now he can, or maybe that means a top-25 prospect is climbing his way toward the top five.
Although it would be premature to state clearly, Henry Ellenson resembles example two far more than he does example one. A skilled 6-10 performer is going to obtain high-major scholarship offers, so that never loomed as a pressing question for the Playground Elite product.
But last weekend on the EYBL circuit, Ellenson took that extra step. On Sunday afternoon, matched against top-10 peers Ivan Rabb and Stephen Zimmerman, Ellenson maneuvered into a commanding role. His team, though outmatched at nearly every position, survived a dogfight and defeated a very talented Oakland Soldiers squad 58-54.
Ellenson drove the train the victory. Thanks primarily to a stirring second half in which he outhustled and outfought his opponents, he finished with 24 points on 11-19 shooting along with 12 rebounds.
He isn't your typical 6-10 performer. Some fans sitting near me compared Ellenson to former Chicago Bull Brad Sellers — and they did not intend that to be a compliment — due to his numerous jump shot attempts. And I agree that he's far too reliant on jumpers, given his height, interior scoring touch and mobility.
Down the road Ellenson is likely to become a successful face-up four, particularly if he advances to the NBA, but at present he's more effective playing inside-out than outside-in.
Still, there's no doubt his ability to stretch defenses helps. Over the course of the Soldiers game, he forced Zimmerman to step out farther than he wanted on defense. And the one three Ellenson converted in the game occurred with Zimmerman smothering him — without effect.
Meanwhile, Ellenson handles well enough to beat opponents off the dribble and, as long as he doesn't attempt to handle in traffic, can utilize that talent as an asset in transition as well. And while not a great run/jump athlete, he's at least adequate.
Going forward, I'd love to see him become more physical as a rebounder (the Soldiers game wasn't typical) and more active on defense. He's roughly 90/10 in terms of offense/defense, a common ratio for talented young players but one he'll certainly need to smooth out prior to college.
His father played at Wisconsin and thus Henry gets linked closely to the Badgers as well — and being in-state also doesn't hurt Bo Ryan's chances — but others such as Kentucky and North Carolina are trying to invade the borders.
Assessing the remainder of summer, Ellenson projects as a must-see as we retool our rankings and begin to create a mental hierarchy of players who will compete for postseason honors next spring.