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2015-16 Marquette Basketball Player Preview: #22 Wally Ellenson

We move out of the freshmen and onto the lone available transfer on the Marquette roster.

Mad hops, yo.
Mad hops, yo.

The 2015-16 college basketball season is right around the corner, so let's get into the Marquette basketball roster and take a look at what to expect from each player this season. We'll be going through the players one by one, starting with the freshmen, moving on to the lone available transfer, and then wrapping up with the four returning players, going in order of average minutes played per game last season.

Last year, we made a slight adjustment as to how we look at the players' upcoming season, and it seemed to work better, so we'll stick with the same three category headings this year:

What I Think We'll See
What I Want To See
What I Don't Want To See

With that out of the way, let's dig into the transfer on the roster that's eligible to play this season....

Wally Ellenson

Redshirt Junior - #22 - Guard - 6'6" - 200 lb.

How often is it when you have a player making his debut for a team and he's already a four time All-American?  Never?  Less than never?

Admittedly, I'm cheating when I say that.  Wally Ellenson is here to play basketball, high jump over things, and chew bubble gum, and he's all out of bubble gum.  It's the high jumping part that makes him a four time All-American at this point in his collegiate career.  After splitting time between basketball and track & field for two years at Minnesota, where he was an All-American in the outdoor high jump each year, Ellenson transferred to Marquette before the 2014-15 school year.  The NCAA doesn't require you to sit out a year for high jump like they do for basketball (because $$$), so Ellenson jumped in both the indoor and outdoor seasons, earning All-American honors in both sports. (Yes, the NCAA considers whether there's a roof to be a determining factor as to whether it's a different sport.)  He also won the Big East Indoor and Outdoor titles, setting a brand new league record along the way, which was really just a follow up to setting a brand new Marquette record in his very first meet in blue & gold.

As far as basketball goes, well, Wally's a bit less decorated in that regard.  A preseason injury set him back in his freshman year at Minnesota, and he ended up making only nine appearances for the Gophs.  He totaled just 48 minutes in his appearances and scored just 18 points.  Tubby Smith, the coach that had recruited Ellenson to Minnesota as a three star prospect, was relieved of his duties following that season.  That led to Richard Pitino being hired and after Wally made nine very minor appearances in the Gophers' first 12 games (only 62 total minutes, barely more than the season before), Ellenson left the team to focus on the high jump.

That's what led him to look to transfer, which led him to land at Marquette, which on some level led to his younger (but bigger) brother Henry to decide to play for the Golden Eagles as well.  Neat, huh?

What I Think We'll See

Ideally, this would be the part of the program where I tell you about Ellenson's advanced stats and offer insight into how he fits into Marquette's overall structure.  There's two problems with that: 1) He barely registered as a player in his first two seasons on KenPom due to his limited minutes and 2) I don't think we're seeing the same Marquette this year that we saw during head coach Steve Wojciechowski's first season.  I mean, is it fair to tell you that in his sophomore year, Wally put up similar defensive rebound rates to Steve Taylor last year?  That's a true statement (16.8% for Wally, 16.5% for Taylor), but Ellenson played fewer than 4% of Minnesota's minutes that season.  It's the very definition of Small Sample Size Theater.

What we're stuck with, then, is the same thing that we were stuck with for the freshmen: the four games in Europe and Marquette Madness.

The good news is that this gave us a pretty good idea of what to expect.  Wally's probably not going to score a lot for the Golden Eagles (averaged six points in Europe) and that's fine.  There's scorers on this team.  What this team does need is exactly what Ellenson showed over and over in Europe and at Madness: a glue guy.  Hustling for rebounds, diving after loose balls, putting in the extra effort to chase down the attacker getting out on the break, he can do all of this.

I know this maybe doesn't sound very fun for the viewer, but it really is.  This is why I spent all that time talking about his high jump exploits at the start: Marquette has an Olympic caliber high jumper as their glue guy.  Insane putback dunks where Ellenson flies in out of nowhere?  Seen it.  Chase down pin blocks on fast breaks?  Seen it.  Skying over dudes and grabbing rebounds that you're surprised a guy with his body type can haul in over and over and over?  Seen it.

Wally Ellenson is going to be a regular candidate for The 1 on Fox Sports Live every night that Marquette plays a game.  Get ready.

What I Want To See

I mean, I think that's pretty much it.  Wojo showed on the European trip that Wally's going to be playing a bench role on this team, and he can do all of that glue guy stuff from that role.  There's no pressure on him to carry this team on any level other than emotional and energy.

What I Don't Want To See

I really don't want to find out that Tubby Smith and Richard Pitino were right about what Ellenson can contribute to a basketball team.  There was that burst in the very first European game where Ellenson racked up fouls at an alarmingly quick rate.  Marquette only has 10 scholarship guys available this season, and if Wojo's going to be trying to run with this squad, it's going to be an "all hands on deck type" of situation.  While I firmly believe that Ellenson will be an important contributor to this team, it's going to be exactly the type of contributions that he can make that could - no, WILL be the difference for Marquette.