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Minnesota Basketball: Gopher Forward Wally Ellenson Leaves Basektball Team to Focus on Track and Field

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Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

A move that is really only surprising because of the timing, Wally Ellenson is leaving the Gopher Basketball program.  He will be focusing his time and energy on Track and Field where he is an elite high-jumper.

The official University of Minnesota Press Release

"We respect Wally's decision, and wish him, Coach Steve Plasencia and the Gophers track & field team nothing but the best this season," said head men's basketball coach Richard Pitino.

Last year, Ellenson excelled for the Gophers as a high jumper, advancing to the NCAA Outdoor Championships and placing eighth with a mark of 2.20 meters which earned him All-America First Team honors. He was a USTFCCCA All-Academic honoree as well.

On the court, Ellenson appeared in nine games this season, totaling 16 points, 12 rebounds, two assists and a steal. During his freshman season, Ellenson overcame an early hand injury to play nine games in a reserve role.

Ellenson last appeared on the floor on December 28th against Texas A&M Corpus Christi.  The fact that the sophomore was choosing to end his collegiate basketball career is not surprising in the slightest.  I think many believed this move was inevitable and would likely occur in the offseason.

For the Gophers this really only impacts recruiting.  Ellenson was not contributing and it did not appear as though he were on pace to earn more playing time.  He has good size, great leaping ability and was billed as a good shooter; but for whatever reason was never able to turn those skills into productive minutes.  The exit by Ellenson opens up another scholarship for the coaching staff to use.  They now have two available to them as the 2014 recruiting cycle is getting close to the Spring Signing Period.  Our current scholarship matrix looks something like this...

2013-14 2014-15 2015-16 2015-16
SR Austin Hollins SG YES X X X
SR Maverick Ahanmisi PG YES X X X
SR Malik Smith SG YES X X X
JR Andre Hollins G YES YES X X
JR Dre Mathieu PG YES YES X X
JR Maurice Walker C YES YES X X
JR Elliot Eliason C YES YES X X
JR Oto Osenieks F YES YES X X
SO Joey King PF YES YES YES X
FR Charles Buggs PF YES YES YES YES
FR Daquein McNeil G YES YES YES YES
OPEN OPEN OPEN
OPEN OPEN OPEN
JUCO Carlos Morris SG YES YES
HS Josh Martin F YES YES YES
HS Nate Mason G YES YES YES
11 11 6 4
Scholarships Available 2 2 7 9

Purely from a balancing perspective, I wouldn't mind seeing another JUCO added to this current class but taking talented players who can help us is obviously more important.