By Zac Bellman
Henry Ellenson has hardly come out of nowhere this season.
His potential for success in his freshmen debut was well-documented by local and national media outlets. ESPN had him ranked #32 in their list of the top players in all of college basketball entering this season. Many experts also had Ellenson as a sure-fire lottery pick in the upcoming 2016 NBA Draft, before he had even set foot on the Bradley Center Floor.
It is one thing to come in with these expectations, it is another to deliver on them. The 6-11 power forward from Rice Lake was named a finalist for the Karl Malone Award earlier this month, which recognizes the best power forward in college basketball. Ellenson’s nomination puts him in elite company, as he is one of two underclassmen, and the only freshman to be considered for the award.
Among the other nominees were:
· Ryan Anderson, Arizona
· Taurean Prince, Baylor
· Kyle Wiltjer, Gonzaga
· Georges Niang, Iowa State
· Perry Ellis, Kansas
· Shawn Long, Louisiana
· Pascal Siakam, New Mexico State
· Brice Johnson, North Carolina
· Jameel Warney, Stony Brook
In this group, Ellenson ranks seventh in points per game (16.6), sixth in rebounds per game (10.1), fourth in blocks per game (1.7), ninth in field goal percentage (43.2%), and fourth in three pointers converted (22). Compensating for the quality of opponent doesn’t do Ellenson many favors either, as Marquette ranked 94 in ESPN’s latest RPI rankings, good for eighth best among the teams represented by the finalists.
However, even to be named among the ten best players at your position as a freshman is an impressive achievement for Ellenson. If he should choose to forgo the draft this year and return to Marquette next fall, he will undoubtedly find himself on the short-list of candidates for the 2017 Karl Malone Award.
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