Ellington's Redemption

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – Wayne Ellington's goal in attending the NBA's Pre-Draft Camp was to solidify a first-round selection, but those dreams seemed distant following Wednesday's initial poor performance. But the sharpshooter rebounded on Thursday, making a strong case that he belongs here in Orlando.

Ellington's first impression for the NBA scouts on Wednesday evening at The Milk House at Disney's Wide World of Sports Complex could not have gone any worse. He took his first jumper of the night from just beyond the free throw line, and the ball hit the backboard before clanging off the rim.

With bigger, stronger defenders like Alabama-Birmingham's Robert Vaden and Massachusetts' Gary Forbes guarding him, Ellington struggled to find room to get his shot off, and when he found a window, he was unable to connect. He needed two late baskets to improve what was a disastrous stat line – eight points on 3-of-10 shooting (1-of-5 on 3-pointers), two assists, one steal and a day-high six turnovers.

Various media outlets indicated that Ellington should return directly to Chapel Hill after Wednesday's showing, and while the Philadelphia native was admittedly disappointed with his performance, he knew there was more opportunities this week to claim a spot in the discussion as first-round material.

So when others were still writing him off Thursday morning, Ellington took the court as a different player than the one we watched the night before. Timid and hesitant in Game 1, the silky smooth two-guard was intense and attacking in Game 2. He connected on five of his first six field goal attempts, but even more telling was his defensive effort and work on the boards.

Ellington ended the game with a game-high 17 points on 7-of-13 shooting (0-of-3 on 3-pointers), three rebounds and just one turnover. "I knew I had a tough one yesterday, so I just wanted to get in here and get some shots up early and get in a groove before I even got out there," Ellington said.

He attributed the complete turnaround to simple adjustments – both on the court and in his head.

"It was just a mindset change," Ellington said. "Yesterday I came in, and I didn't really realize how it was going to be until we got on the court and got to experience it, so I just had to make a little change in my game to be able to do what I do best."

During postgame interviews following his first humbling performance, the only time Ellington let loose his signature smile was when he talked about North Carolina head coach Roy Williams being in town to support his players at the draft camp. The Hall of Fame coach joined Ellington, Danny Green and Ty Lawson for a late dinner on Wednesday, and that outing helped Wayne relax and become more comfortable heading into the second round of games.

"He was a little down [at dinner]," Lawson said. "I mean, he didn't play too well. His shot was a little bit off. But today, he came back strong and knocked down a bunch of shots in the beginning."

And while it's not an excuse for his turnover-plagued initial offering, Ellington indicated that just rolling the ball out with a new group of teammates is not the easiest adjustment to make as a basketball player steeped in the team concept.

"It's just tough playing with new guys like this," Ellington said. "I mean, it's camp, and everybody's showing what they can do. So everybody's out there trying to get theirs. It's not real easy to go out and do exactly what you can do when everybody else is trying to do the same thing."

The Pre-Draft Camp is not just a meat market for NBA executives and scouts. The players are here to learn and get better, and the scouts running the camp provide plenty of coaching and encouragement for the 60-plus players in attendance.

"My [camp team] coach today helped me out a lot," Ellington said. "He said that he had seen me yesterday and he saw that I hadn't shot the ball that well, and he wanted me to come in today and just let it go. Be confident, and he wanted me to come off some screens to get open and it started out good."

With matchups looming on Friday morning against D-League prospect Mike Taylor and Nevada's Marcelus Kemp, Ellington is down to one more shot at erasing Wednesday's memory with another strong showing in Orlando.

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