'I'll be ready': Brady Ellingson poised for success in larger Hawkeye role
WATERLOO, Ia. — For a couple weeks this summer, Brady Ellingson was back home in the Milwaukee suburbs, putting up shots in his old gym at Hamilton High School. He graduated from Hamilton as its all-time scoring leader with 1,763 career points.
Now, four years later, Iowa faces a season without Peter Jok and his 19.9 points per game, his clutch 3-balls, his jaw-dropping scoring frenzies. And Ellingson will be looked to for a chunk of that void, at least from beyond the arc.
He won’t need to score 1,763 points. But some big nights — the kind he enjoyed practically every week at Hamilton — wouldn’t hurt.
"(Head) coach (Fran McCaffery) has said, obviously, there’s going to be some more minutes available," Ellingson said Thursday at the Prime Time League, "but you’ve got to work for it and you’ve got to be aggressive, confident.
"I'll be ready."
Ellingson said he focused on four elements of his game this offseason: mobility, strength, off-the-dribble offense and overall playmaking. The latter two were on display Thursday, when he spent about half the game at point guard.
His PTL team, Vinton Merchants, lost 130-92 to Nicholas Baer and Isaiah Moss’ buzzsaw of a team, Culver’s. But Ellingson’s numbers were solid: 15 points, six rebounds and six assists. His best shots came off the dribble — slipping past screens for mid-range jumpers and rising up for quick floaters in the lane. He went 3-for-5 on 2-pointers and 3-for-10 on 3-balls.
"Just working on coming off pick-and-rolls, looking at my reads and just doing stuff that I’ve got to get comfortable doing," Ellingson said of his game.
If last year is any indication, the redshirt junior seems ready for a bigger role with the Hawkeyes.
Ellingson led Iowa in 3-point shooting (47.1 percent, 32-for-68). He didn't start a game, but he played in all 34 and gradually earned more minutes as the season wore on. He averaged 12.7 minutes during nonconference competition; that number jumped to 15.7 in Big Ten Conference play.
His best performances came during four games in the middle of conference play, against Ohio State, Rutgers, Nebraska and Minnesota (Jok missed the first two with a bad back). Ellingson scored 39 points, recorded 15 assists and turned it over just twice in those four contests. And he was 11-for-16 from long range.
If Ellingson can improve his off-the-dribble, one-on-one game, that's icing on the cake. But he'll immediately be able to help from long range, where Jok scored nearly 10 percent of Iowa's total points last year.
"I think he’s up for the challenge, for sure," Jordan Bohannon said of Ellingson. "Obviously, he can really shoot the ball. He’s going to get his shots. And it’s going to help when me and him are on the court at the same (time) — when me, (Moss) and him are together. Just because we’re all shooters, we’re all going to open up each other’s games.
"(Ellingson's) mechanics are some of the best in the country. He has that shooter’s mentality where the last shot doesn't matter. He’s going to keep shooting, he’s going to keep filling it up."
The Hawkeyes will also need more guys to handle the ball without Jok, and Ellingson has shown the chops to run point. He finished last season with 37 assists to 14 turnovers — the best assist-to-turnover ratio on the team.
"He’s just a smart player," Bohannon said. "He’s not going to turn the ball over. He’s not going to rush or anything. He’s going to make the right read at the right time. And his defense is improving. He's one of the best defenders now on the team. He’s able to move laterally.
"You’re really going to be able to see that this season. That’s going to help him play a lot more this upcoming season."
Iowa's potential Nos. 1 and 2 point guards, Bohannon and Ellingson, will go head to head in the PTL June 29 in Waterloo.
Matthew Bain covers preps, recruiting and the Hawkeyes for the Iowa City Press-Citizen, The Des Moines Register and HawkCentral. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter at @MatthewBain_.