It is difficult to imagine Henry Ellenson being described as “little.”
Any basketball fan who has watched the 6-foot-10 Ellenson, one of the state’s class of 2015 top recruits, would find that description somewhat silly.
But in the Ellenson family, that once was an accurate description. After all, Henry’s two older brothers earned college basketball scholarships, which helps explain why the Rice Lake junior once stood in the shadows of his older siblings.
“I was a point guard until eighth grade,” said Ellenson, who will lead Rice Lake (22-2) against Greendale (19-8) in a WIAA Division 2 state semifinal at 3:15 p.m. today at the Kohl Center.
Wally Ellenson is a 6-6 sophomore who left the Minnesota basketball team last month to concentrate on the high jump for the Golden Gophers’ track and field program. Elwood is a 6-9 freshman at Bemidji (Minn.) State.
Henry also has a younger sister, Ella, a freshman on the Rice Lake girls team that has advanced to sectional play.
“I was always playing with my brothers and I had to score somehow, because I wasn’t taller than them. I had to score from the perimeter,” Henry said. “But I’m not the little one anymore.”
Ellenson is averaging 27.7 points and 12.8 rebounds per game for the Warriors, who will make their eighth appearance at state but their first since 2002.
Senior guard Eric Butler said it didn’t take Ellenson long to adjust to the high school game when he joined the varsity as a freshman.
“Henry was always pretty big. Once he hit high school, he shot up to 6-8 as a freshman and a couple of inches since,” Butler said. “It’s nice being able to take care of the post. It’s a fun game with him.”
Ellenson admits he enjoys the spotlight and the pressure that goes with it. But he isn’t shy about sharing the basketball — or the credit for his team’s success.
“We have guys in the gym all the time. We work out together. It’s a team that really cares about each other and knows their role on the team. That’s why we’ve made it so far this year,” he said.
Rice Lake coach Kevin Orr said the Warriors start a veteran unit that has meshed well together since competing in the prestigious Wisconsin Basketball Yearbook Shootout in December. Rice Lake beat two-time defending Division 4 state champion Whitefish Bay Dominican 56-42 and lost to Division 1 state semifinalist Neenah 60-49.
The starting lineup also includes junior point guard Ben Widdes, senior swing man Shawn McGee and senior guards Brandyn Christman and Eric Butler.
Ellenson, though, is the acknowledged leader of the pack.
“Henry’s obviously a terrific player. He’s got great size and great athleticism. He does so many things well,” Greendale coach Ryan Johnsen said. “Our kids are excited for the opportunity.”
Ellenson is planning to take his five official visits in the fall before signing a National Letter of Intent during the early signing period in November.
“We’ve probably had every Big Ten coach either at a game or at practice,” Orr said. “(North Carolina coach) Roy Williams was there the day before our sectional game; Creighton was there (Monday). (University of Wisconsin coach) Bo Ryan and his coaching staff were there for our sectional game.
“Our kids are pretty used to it. When you have a kid like Henry who handles it so well, it makes my job and everybody’s job so much easier.’’
Ellenson says he doesn’t have any difficulty keeping his attention where it needs to be.
“I’m just trying to focus on the present and everything will figure itself out,” Ellenson said of the recruiting process.
“I like the big stage. I like the spotlight. I kind of enjoy it. I really like playing in big games like this, and I’m excited to go down to state and play in front of a huge crowd.”