How will Wally Ellenson leaving affect Marquette?


It was possibly the poorest kept secret in in recent #mubb history but Wally Ellenson is no longer a part of the Marquette basketball program. There was a lot of evidence leading up to today’s announcement, most of which was detailed yesterday here at Paint Touches. The 6”6 redshirt junior will stay at Marquette on a full track scholarship, where he is a standout athlete and Olympic hopeful. The departure brings Marquette down to 12 scholarship players for the 16-17 season.  The Marquette faithful are understandably split about how to feel about this departure. I’ll try my best to break down the pros and cons of this recent roster move.

Why this is bad for Marquette:

The main issue with this departure is a matter of perception. While we are unlikely to ever hear the unfiltered story from either side, there is certainly enough to speculate that Wally’s departure was not of his own choosing. Now this in and of itself is not a bad thing. Fans of the sport might be uncomfortable admitting this, but players get cut from athletic teams all the time. Scholarships for most schools are only 1 year and they are a limited resource. Coaches make cuts in order to strengthen their program. What makes the Wally situation unique is who he is related to.

Whether fair or not, there has been a belief amongst some fans…mostly of a certain program 90 miles west of Milwaukee…that Wally, a bottom of the rotation player for Minnesota, was only recruited as a transfer by Wojo and Co. in order to secure a commitment from Wally’s much more talented younger brother. While not accurate, this perception creates a story where Wally was brought in as a catspaw to attract Henry, and now that Henry has left for the NBA, is being discarded. This story has the potential to be used by other coaches when recruiting against Marquette in the future. There is also the possibility that this could damage Wojo’s relationship with high school basketball coaches in Wisconsin. Given that over half of last year’s roster was from the Cheesehead state, this could have a very negative impact on future recruiting. On the other hand, having all those players from the state might counter that possibility if all those players have positive Marquette experiences.

The most likely piece of fallout to occur is within the Ellenson family itself. We have already seen Mama Ellenson’s reaction to the announcement:


That, combined with the mass Ellenson unfollowing of Wojo and MUBB on twitter seems to indicate that the two sides are currently not on speaking terms. Now the Ellensons and Wojo would hardly be the first family and coach pair to not leave on the best of terms. But the youngest male Ellenson is no ordinary recruit. Henry will be Marquette’s first lottery pick in the modern era. Being on good terms with a budding NBA star who you helped develop can be a huge boon to a coach. If the two sides remain divided we might be unlikely to see Henry make any campus appearances while Wojo is coach. On another angle, this might prevent Ella Ellenson, a highly regarded women’s basketball recruit, from following her brothers’ path.

The last consideration is how this might affect the current players on the Marquette squad. Players tend to bond very closely and they could view this as a betrayal.

Why this is good for Marquette:

Marquette needs a PF on the roster next season. The coaches know it, the fans know it, and the players know it. The roster as it stands currently contains exactly two bigs, Luke Fischer and Matt Heldt, neither of whom can play the PF position. Marquette had issues this season with rebounding and interior defense, and that was with Henry roaming the paint. With 13 scholarship players in tow, someone had to be let go in order to address this pressing need. Big East Coast Bias did a good job breaking down the candidate in this article a few days ago. From a program perspective, Wally is by far the best option to be “pole-axed.” He only has one year of eligibility left, and was likely to be a back of the rotation player at best. Wally’s departure allows Wojo to pick up a player at a position they desperately need. They can fill it either by bringing in a grad transfer like LG Gill, who could make a huge impact in his one year. Or they could get a four year player like Kalif Young who might not make an immediate impact, but would still play more than Wally, and address the need for a big in 2017-2018. Fans might not like the idea of a player getting cut for another, but assuming Marquette is able to land either Gill, Young, or another PF, than the Marquette program is in a lot better place than it was before. Gill or Young combined with all the experience returning for Marquette is likely to be enough for a return to the NCAA tournament.

Where do we go from here?

All the potential for negatives are based in perception and assumptions. The potential for positives are realities. Marquette needed a scholarship for a PF, it now has that. The media might pick up the story of Wally being used as bait and then cut, but without statements from the Ellensons or Marquette the story won’t last. Coaches could use it to negatively recruit but any experienced recruiter could deflect that easily. It’s also possible that this could rub certain coaches associated with the Ellensons the wrong way, but it would be very specific coaches from programs that honestly don’t produce a ton of talent. The Ellensons and Wojo may keep their relationship or may not, only time will tell. But most fans, players, and stakeholders would trade that relationship if it means securing a piece that can get Marquette back to the NCAA tournament.

It certainly seems like that the final piece is on its way. Both LG Gill and Kalif Young are set to visit the last weekend in April. Young is especially promising, given that he has cancelled his official visits to Providence and Alabama, but has kept it with Marquette. Trading Wally Ellenson for Kalif Young would be a win for the program.

It also helps, in my mind, that Wally has been given a full scholarship in track. This allows Marquette to make this move without disrupting Wally’s academic career. He can earn his Marquette degree without having to pay a cent for it. He just won’t be playing basketball. Which to be perfectly honest, isn’t much different from what he was going to be doing with a basketball scholarship.

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Categories: Analysis, General News, Home, Offseason

Author:Ryan Jackson

Texas A&M Professional, Marquette Fantatic


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6 Comments on “How will Wally Ellenson leaving affect Marquette?”

  1. Karl
    April 22, 2016 at 8:30 am #

    The harsh reality is that for these kids they are part of a big business and if you are not productive then your out. Coach Wojo has to upgrade this team or he will be out. No one will talk about this if they are a top 25 team next yr.

  2. Matt
    April 22, 2016 at 8:58 am #

    Let’s be honest with ourselves here: Henry Ellenson did nothing to strengthen Marquette basketball long term. On top of that, Wally should have never been on basketball scholarship in the first place. On the roster, sure, but on scholarship when he is an All-American high jumper? Please. Henry wasn’t going to help future recruiting for Wojo unless he stayed one more year, but instead he decided to take his talents to the NBA where he will sit comfortably on a bench for the next few years. Let’s look past a kid who set all the Marquette records to someone who desperately needed another year in college. His post moves are below average, his three point shooting is WELL below average for someone who doesn’t want to play in the post, and don’t even get me started on his defense. In short: he’s soft. I think I’m in the minority when I say, I was never a big fan of Henry Ellenson as a one year player anyway. He could have shown a lot of maturity had he stayed that extra year and truly improved his game.

    If the Ellensons could not see that Wally was most likely bait, then they are blind. Let’s not forget that scorched earth follows the Ellenson Family. Wojo should have known better when bringing Wally in as a basketball recruit over track. Hopefully it’s a learning experience for both sides.

  3. Charlie
    April 22, 2016 at 9:37 am #

    In direct response the the previous comment.


    That is all

  4. Bill
    April 22, 2016 at 12:05 pm #

    Great article. I think you are point on. A part of me is disgusted by “big time collage sports”, but the competitive part of me is oh so happy Marquette basketball is part of big time college basketball. It brings back memories of Buzz Williams cutting D.J. Newbill when a better option came around.

    At the end of the day what’s done is done I hope whoever this spot is used for proves to be worth it.

  5. CB
    April 22, 2016 at 4:09 pm #

    The truth in such situations usually falls somewhere in the middle. The best move for all is to avoid making suggestive yet passive tweets, etc. Neither party should be suprised here.
    Also notable is a pattern within the Ellenson family. Wally (& thus family) switched high schools after just over one year then switched colleges after just over one year. Ellwood switched colleges after one year. Henry leaving college after one year. Evan the dad started at one college and finished at another.
    It does seem Wally is an incredible high jumper and this is where his scholarship in college should have been from day 1 at both universities. Best to him as he pursues this.

  6. JOE
    April 23, 2016 at 8:24 am #

    ” . Henry will be Marquette’s first lottery pick in the modern era ”

    Is Dwyane Wade considered part of the modern era? No way Henry gets picked 5th or better.

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