WALKER, Mich. (WOOD) — After being drafted 18th overall by the Pistons in June, Henry Ellenson thought he would be spending the entire season in Detroit. Instead, he has been shuttled back and forth between the Palace of Auburn Hills and the DeltaPlex in Walker, where he’s getting pro game experience with the Grand Rapids Drive.
“It hasn’t been easy, I’m not going to lie to you,” Ellenson told 24 Hour News 8. “When you get drafted, you think you’ll be at the big team the whole time. But you know, I’ve just got to be focused on what I want to do to be a great player.”
His coaches say he has been just that: focused.
“He’s a phenomenal kid,” Drive head coach Rex Walters said. “Brings his hard hat, comes to work every day, really wants to work on his game.”
“He’s got a really bright future,” Walter added.
Standing at nearly 7 feet tall and only 20 years old, Ellenson would have been a college sophomore this year if he had not been drafted. He set school records for scoring and rebounding during his freshman year at Marquette, when he was also named Big East Freshman of the Year.
“Being able to play down here in Grand Rapids, it’s help me get that in-game experience you don’t get during practices and it just helps me learn and get better,” Ellenson said.
While most believe his offensive game is NBA-ready, Ellenson’s attention has been improving his defensive game.
“Every time I come down here, (Pistons) coach Stan Van Gundy just tells me to focus on defense and so just being a better defender is something I worked on,” Ellenson said.
The effort is paying off.
“I have seen marked improvement defensively, I really have,” Walters said.
“I just got to be ready to go when the opportunity comes,” Ellenson said.
“I think he sees the light. It’s not a question of if, it’s a question of when,” Walters said.
Ellenson says he’ll do whatever he can to make it sooner than later.