Wally Ellenson will leave the Gophers men’s basketball to focus on track and field, the school announced Tuesday.
The sophomore was a first-team All America track and field athlete a year ago after placing eighth in the high jump in the NCAA Outdoor Championships with a mark of 7-feet, 2½ inches. On the court, however, he hadn’t played a minute this season in a Big Ten game. Ellenson averaged 1.8 points and 1.3 rebounds in 6.9 minutes a game through nine nonconference games.
Last year the 6-6 wing also played sparingly under former coach Tubby Smith after the decision was made not to redshirt him after a broken bone in his left hand kept him out the first 11 games.
The Gophers have been recruiting Ellenson’s younger brother, Henry, a junior at Rice Lake, Wis.
“I think the timing, more than anything, was a little surprising,” Gophers coach Richard Pitino said. “But he wasn’t playing a lot. I know that was frustrating for him, and that’s always frustrating for anybody. I think he felt like he could really help the track them. So he made the decision. … We wish him nothing but the best in anything that he decides to do in the future.”
The family could not be reached for comment.
Ellenson’s leaving opens up scholarship for next season, meaning the Gophers still have two more they could use in the late signing period.
Despite the abrupt timing, Austin Hollins said the departure wouldn’t be a distraction to the team.
“Wally is a great young man,” Hollins said. “He just wants to focus more on track and field and I hope for the best for Wally.”