Ellenson sheds redshirt just in time for Big Ten

  • Article by: AMELIA RAYNO , Star Tribune
  • Updated: January 5, 2013 - 12:13 AM

 Wally Ellenson says he's ready for one of the biggest stages in college basketball.

Wally Ellenson

Photo: Marlin Levison, Star Tribune

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Gophers wing Wally Ellenson was well aware of the cons when he fought for giving up his redshirt and playing this season.

After all, the freshman had already missed 11 games -- all but two games of the nonconference schedule -- because of a broken left hand. He would be tossed into the ring just as the Gophers started the gritty Big Ten schedule. And he would effectively lose his full four years of eligibility, which he could have had if he sat out this season.

No matter. In getting off to an exciting start, the Gophers had proven they could be something this season -- and Ellenson just wanted to be involved.

"I definitely just wanted to play," he said. "I want to play the game. I have bigger goals and dreams, like I want to go to the NBA and I just didn't want to be in college for five years."

He talked with coach Tubby Smith, who ultimately agreed to let the freshman play even though he couldn't guarantee how many minutes the wing would get with such a deep squad this season. In the Gophers' game against South Dakota State, Ellenson made his debut, playing four minutes and getting his first point on a free throw. In the second half of the Lafayette blowout, the native of Rice Lake, Wis., played 15 minutes, getting a dunk and a hitting a three-pointer.

But in the league opener against Michigan State, Ellenson didn't play at all. The freshman isn't worried, though.

"I feel like I can get those minutes, I can earn them," he said. "But it's really up to coach and my shot. I'm going to hit my shot, and it's just keep working on it every day in practice."

Smith seemed prepared to redshirt Ellenson at the beginning of the year, and he did make that decision with the team's other freshman, Charles Buggs. But it makes sense that the coach would take Ellenson's opinion into such heavy consideration since his brother, Henry, is at the top of the Gophers' wish list for 2015.

Ellenson might be getting a baptism by fire in league play, but so far he's not concerned, and is simply enjoying being a part of this team.

"I guess it will be good, because all I'll know will be Big Ten, so I'll just play up to that competition and feel that out," he said. "It's so fun. The guys are great. The locker room is just a great experience. Everyone is happy, excited. We know we have a great team."

Etc.

• Mo Walker, who had been dealing with a sore shoulder for a week or so, is mostly back to normal, Smith said on Friday. "He's been in contact, so I haven't had any ... problems," Smith said. "He's been getting treatment, so I think he's feeling a lot better."

• Smith indicated that the shorter bench he used against Michigan State in the second half could be typical going forward, with the starters playing more. "We're going to try to stick with those guys, and they're probably going to log those types of minutes."

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