IOWA CITY, Iowa – Asked this summer who impressed him among the current Iowa players with whom he worked out, former Hawkeyes standout Matt Gatens mentioned Brady Ellingson. In a radio interview around the same time, Orlando Magic guard Roy Devyn Marble, a first-team all-Big Ten pick at Iowa, said the same thing.
Ellingson (6-4, 189) isn’t mentioned during many discussions involving Iowa basketball and how it will do this season. The redshirt freshman guard from Sussex (WI) Hamilton High gets lost between a team with four seniors, four returning starters and a group of six newcomers.
The unassuming Ellingson finds comfort in his anonymity. It allows him to focus on improving his game.
Iowa Coach Fran McCaffery has talked about Ellingson, unsolicited, in interviews on multiple occasions this month. He understood the focus being on six newcomers (five freshmen) in the program but reminded people not to forget about a kid that spend last season working out with a Big Ten team.
"I kind of treated the practices like a game almost going up against the starters because I was on scout team. That was kind of fun for me. I enjoyed that, trying to push my teammates and push myself," Ellingson said.
Ellingson’s calling card has been his long-range shooting. He expanded his game last year while red shirting.
"Guarding Jarrod (Uthoff) and Pete (Jok) every practice, those are tough match-ups and that got me better defensively. Also being the other team’s best guard on the scout team got me to play out of my comfort zone a little bit. I think that helped," he said.
As a prep senior, Ellingson averaged 24.8 points, 4.3 rebounds and 2.7 assists a game. He earned first-team all-state honors after his final two seasons.
"You know, the two guys that everybody forgets are Nicholas Baer and Brady Ellingson," McCaffery said at last week’s Big Ten Media Day in Chicago. "Brady was injured last year. Nicholas is a walk-on that nobody pays attention to, but he’s really good."
Ellingson suffered a foot injury just before arriving at Iowa last summer. It kept him from playing in the Prime Time League and slowed him during the pre-season. He played in seven non-conference games, making 4 of 6 three-point tries, before realizing it would be better to red shirt and give himself more time to heal.
"There were a lot of ups and downs. I wasn’t used to not playing in basketball games like I was last year," he said.
On the positive side, Ellingson appreciate the extra time to adjust to the transition from high school to college.
"It helped just getting used to the speed of the game and how you have to take care of your body off the court and manage your time with school and everything," he said.
Ellingson has taken what he learned last year to assist the new players on the team.
"It’s just helping them through drills. If they don’t understand something, they can always come to us experienced guys off the court," he said. "We’re just trying to be leaders like the seniors are but also learn stuff from them."
The incoming players are competing with the returnees for limited minutes. Andrew Fleming, Brandon Hutton, Isaiah Moss and Christian Williams are vying for time with Ellingson.
"It will go well I think. We’ll just push each other hard in practice and that will make us better," he said.