Ellenson highlights Marquette's big freshman class
MILWAUKEE -- Coach Steve Wojciechowski looks around the practice court at Marquette and sees options, lots of them.
Six-foot-11 center Luke Fischer. A proven scorer on the perimeter in Duane Wilson. A five-man freshman class that should boost athleticism.
And the biggest addition among those newcomers is elite in-state recruit Henry Ellenson, a 6-foot-10 forward.
After a couple down years, the Golden Eagles appear to be back on the rise in the Big East.
"It should help a lot, gives us the opportunity to be more versatile, play different styles with the same team," Wojciechowski said about Marquette's deeper roster. "Also the depth hopefully will give us the opportunity to stay fresh."
Injuries and transfers contributed to a 13-19 record last season, Wojciechowski's rookie year as a head coach. He replaced Buzz Williams, who departed in March 2014 for Virginia Tech.
Wojciechowski has had a full recruiting year to target players for his system. He brought in an impressive haul with a class ranked among the top 15 in the nation by recruiting services.
It starts with Ellenson, a McDonald's All-American. His height and 245-pound frame could prove to be a tough matchup all over the court.
Pair Ellenson up front with Fischer (11.0 points, 4.8 rebounds), who is more of a back-to-the-basket player, and Marquette has the makings of dangerous frontcourt.
"Seven-footer throwing to 7-footer, can't ask for anything much better," Fischer said. "Yeah, that's going to be a huge advantage for us."
Some other notes and things to watch ahead of the season opener on Nov. 13 against Belmont:
OH HENRY: Ellenson moves from the small town of Rice Lake to the bright lights of the Bradley Center. He took in a bevy of awards as a high school senior as Wisconsin's top prep player. Expectations are high, too, in the Big East, where he was a tabbed a preseason all-conference second team selection. He is the first freshman to earn all-Big East first- or second-team honors since 1992-93.
"Henry is a guy who wants to have a lot of responsibility," Wojciechowski said. "He doesn't look at responsibility as pressure. He looks at it as opportunity."
ONE AND DONE?: Ellenson also made the watch list for the Karl Malone Award given by the Basketball Hall of Fame to the game's top power forward. He may not be at Marquette long if he lives up to the lofty expectations. Wojciechowski is a former Duke assistant who has experience with coaching one-and-done prospects from his time with the Blue Devils. He has encouraged Ellenson to "put blinders on," especially since any potential decision about the future is still months away.
WILSON'S WAY: Wilson (11.9 points) appears as if he will start the season at point guard, though he might be more suited playing off the ball. Marquette added two ball-handlers in freshmen Traci Carter and Haanif Cheatham. A pure point guard, the 6-foot Carter shows signs of having the demeanor needed to run the team under Wojciechowski, a former point guard himself. Carter could eventually become a starter, allowing Wilson to slide over to shooting guard.
BIG AND TALL: Ellenson and Fischer can give Marquette a "Twin Towers" look. Another freshman, 6-foot-10 Matt Heldt will back up Fischer at center but is more of a project in the middle. Then there's a dropoff in height on the roster to a pair of 6-foot-6 players in Sandy Cohen and Wally Ellenson, Henry's brother. The Golden Eagles will have to scramble with a smaller lineup if Henry Ellenson or Fischer are out for extended stretches with foul trouble. Besides Heldt, 6-foot-5 freshman Sacar Anim, would be another top option up front off the bench.
JUST JUNIORS: The Golden Eagles don't have a scholarship senior on the roster, meaning Fischer and Wilson will be counted on to provide on-court leadership. Junior Jujuan Johnson (7.3 points) or Cohen (3.8 points), a sophomore, could start to begin the season as the rest of the freshman class outside of Ellenson get acclimated. Wally Ellenson, a junior and transfer from Minnesota, should provide athleticism. He has also participated in track and field, where he is an All-American in the high jump.