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NBA Draft Preview: Ellenson marks return to first round for MUBB

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Marquette basketball graduate Henry Ellenson is making his presence felt in NBA Summer League action.

Marquette basketball graduate Henry Ellenson is making his presence felt in NBA Summer League action.

Photo by Mike Carpenter

Photo by Mike Carpenter

Marquette basketball graduate Henry Ellenson is making his presence felt in NBA Summer League action.

Tonight, Henry Ellenson will accomplish something that a Marquette player has not done since Jimmy Butler in 2011: get drafted in the first round of the NBA Draft.

Ellenson will be one of many players to hear his name called at the 2016 NBA Draft starting at 7 p.m. Central tonight at the Barclays Center.

Ellenson averaged 17 points, 9.5 rebounds and 1.5 blocks in 33 games with Marquette this season. He set eight freshman program records in his only season in Milwaukee, including points (561) and rebounds (321). He was named the BIG EAST Freshman of the Year and was named to the conference’s first-team, the first Golden Eagle to earn that honor since Dominic James in 2005-’06.

“Henry was one of not only the top freshmen in the country this season, he was one of the best players regardless of class,” head coach Steve Wojciechowski said in a statement after Ellenson announced his intention to go to the NBA. “As great as he was all season long for our program, his best basketball is still ahead of him and we wish him nothing but the best as he begins the next phase of his career.”

Most mock drafts have Ellenson going somewhere in the top 15 picks of the draft. He fits the mold of an NBA stretch-four very well, having the size and outside shooting ability to excel. The biggest question mark in Ellenson’s game is his defense, something that he struggled with this season.

“He’s not quick enough,” a scout told NBA.com’s David Aldridge. “Laterally, he’ll struggle, like (Boston Celtics big man) Kelly Olynyk. Same body type, same kind of bone structure. What is Olynyk? Well, sometimes he plays power forward because he wants to face up and shoot, which is what this kid wants to do. But defensively, a lot of times, (Celtics coach Brad) Stevens has to play him at five. So, to me, I know what the kid wants to do, but can he do it physically? Can he guard Draymond Green? I don’t think so.”

He has a chance to become the highest-drafted Marquette player since Dwyane Wade was taken fourth overall by the Miami Heat in the 2003 draft. No Golden Eagle has been taken in the top 20 picks of the draft since.

Ellenson isn’t the only former BIG EAST player on draft boards. Providence’s star guard Kris Dunn is projected as a top 10 pick, while his teammate Ben Bentil and Seton Hall’s Isaiah Whitehead will likely fall into the second round.

Dunn and Ellenson would be the first BIG EAST players to be taken in the first round since Doug McDermott in 2014 and their selections would mark the first time the conference had two first-round picks since restructuring in 2013.

The draft can be viewed live on ESPN.

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