Henry Ellenson Scouting Report: January 2016

Dec 12, 2015; Madison, WI, USA; Marquette Golden Eagles forward Henry Ellenson (13) looks to pass as Wisconsin Badgers guard Bronson Koenig (24) defends at the Kohl Center. Marquette defeated Wisconsin 57-55. Mandatory Credit: Mary Langenfeld-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 12, 2015; Madison, WI, USA; Marquette Golden Eagles forward Henry Ellenson (13) looks to pass as Wisconsin Badgers guard Bronson Koenig (24) defends at the Kohl Center. Marquette defeated Wisconsin 57-55. Mandatory Credit: Mary Langenfeld-USA TODAY Sports /
Mandatory Credit: Mary Langenfeld-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Mary Langenfeld-USA TODAY Sports /

Henry Ellenson exists in a strange bubble in the 2016 NBA Draft pool.

Currently seventh in the Draft Express top 100 rankings, Ellenson is clearly a step below the major players at the top of the list, such as Brandon Ingram and Ben Simmons. However, playing as a No. 1 option at Marquette, we’ve also gotten chances to see him do far more than the likes of Cheick Diallo and Ivan Rabb in the tier immediately below him. This makes him an interesting case, as it’s more difficult to evaluate him directly along side his piers because of his role.

Ellenson’s fit with his team is also slightly odd — the 12-4 Golden Eagles have team-wide strengths and weaknesses that are directly opposed to Ellenson’s as a prospect. Marquette’s been a very average offense this year in terms of efficiency (ranking 190th in opponent-adjusted offensive efficiency, per KenPom) and has a solid defense (94.3 Defensive Rating, per Sports-Reference, good for 47th in the nation). The way they play is somewhat of a counter to Ellenson, an offense-first big who struggles on defense, and results have been inconsistent.  Ellenson is posting numbers despite poor shooting percentages, and Marquette sits at a healthy 12-4 with wins over Providence and LSU to counteract getting upset by Belmont and a curious blowout loss at home to Seton Hall.

Ellenson sits somewhere between a slight disappointment and a slight surprise this year. He hasn’t shown to be as effective as a stretch big as it was assumed he’d be heading into the year, and there are some aspects of his offensive game that no longer look like strengths. His production has been incredibly consistent since the beginning of the year, though, as he’s scored at least 13 points in all but one contest to go along with 10 double-doubles. Ellenson looks confident on the floor, which is more than can be said for many freshmen, and he’s consistently found ways to impact the game.


The biggest question mark surrounding Ellenson’s offense has been his efficiency and rhythm. Ellenson’s averaging 15.9 points per game to lead the Golden Eagles, but he’s shooting just 42.8 percent from the field and a lot of that scoring average is aided by a 27.3 usage rate. Ellenson gets a lot of possessions to work with in Marquette’s offense, but he doesn’t really have the feel for the game to know how to optimally use them. A lot of times you will see Ellenson bog down the offense by catching the ball for a post-up, feeling around for an advantage on the defender and then passing out of it, only to reset and immediately call for the ball back.

A lot of this indecisiveness is rooted in his post-up play, where he still is mechanical and needs to develop more go-to moves. The one move Ellenson does have, the turnaround jumper, may be the best in college basketball — he’s decisive with it, the shot is fluid and quick, and he gets great elevation on it to counteract contests from defenders. But outside of that, Ellenson lacks a consistent spin move or jump hook, and that’s limited his effectiveness. He’s also not the most effective passer and can try to force the issue at times, leading to a sky-high 18.6 turnover rate in conference play so far.

Ellenson’s jumper also hasn’t been as reliable as expected. He’s hitting just 25 percent from 3-point range this year on 3.3 attempts per game. While his mechanics are very good, he isn’t consistent enough with the shot yet. That’ll come with time, but so far Ellenson isn’t able to help Marquette space the floor as well as you’d expect, as defenders are yet to acknowledge Ellenson as a consistent outside threat when he doesn’t have the ball.

Despite this, Ellenson’s still been a productive offensive player for the Golden Eagles. He’s been great attacking off the dribble, even against smaller and more athletic defenders, and he is getting to the line a good amount, posting a 35.8 free throw rate. Defenses respect his dribble-drive and post-up games, and he’s been able to create for teammates, even if his game lacks the polish to be a truly dominant college forward to this point.


Ellenson is still incredibly raw defensively, and he benefits greatly from Marquette having several solid perimeter defenders to surround him. Ellenson’s lack of understanding positioning is still a major problem, and he can get burnt on occasion in the post and on the perimeter because he’s not in the right spot. Ellenson has the mobility and length to be able to do well here, but he’s just not to the point in his development where he has the awareness to really take advantage of it.

The one area Ellenson has improved in since the beginning of the season has been pick-and-roll defense. Marquette attempted to ice pick-and-rolls early on, with Ellenson sagging back and trying to contain penetration while the guard recovered. However, Ellenson had a lot of trouble reading guards coming off the screen, and lately, coach Steve Wojciechowski has shifted things so that Ellenson plays the P&R tighter. Against Wisconsin and Providence, in particular, Ellenson had more success this way and he’s getting better at reacting to how guards attack off the screen, as well as communicating with teammates in these situations.

Ellenson’s biggest contribution on the defensive end has been rebounding, where his instincts and positioning have translated well to the college game and should do so again in the NBA. Ellenson’s 12th in the nation in defensive rebounds and has a defensive rebound rate of 23.5. Only Ben Simmons and Brice Johnson have been better in terms of rebounding in the DX top 100. But Ellenson’s rebounding penchant has negatively affected his defense at times, as he has been prone to eschew contesting shots in order to focus on rebounding position. Ellenson’s shown flashes of being a strong shot-blocker, so this is a disappointing, but hopefully correctable habit for Ellenson.

Overall Impression

Ellenson’s talented, and this is certain. A big his size with the ability to vacuum up rebounds and attack off the dribble is a valuable NBA player, and many of the things he has struggled with this season (defensive positioning, 3-point shooting, decisiveness) will improve as he matures.

Ellenson just turned 19-years-old on Wednesday and is displaying fairly typical freshman traits that will likely improve with time. However, enough of Ellenson’s game is lacking polish that he may actually benefit from staying in school for another season to work on his weaknesses, such as outside shooting and offensive polish, which could make him a more enticing prospect for NBA teams.

Ellenson would be able to contribute more immediately offensively this way, which will be important for his ability to get minutes because defensive development is likely a multi-year project for him. As the season continues on, it will be interesting to see how much more comfortable Ellenson gets on the offensive end, because that could pay large dividends for him regarding his draft position.