Ellenson – still the youngest Pistons player – ‘made another jump this summer’
Gregory Shamus (NBAE/Getty)
AUBURN HILLS – He’ll be the youngest player on the Pistons roster for a third straight season, but Henry Ellenson knows his way around now.
He even felt a little familiarity with the USA Basketball World Cup qualifying team before suiting up for their two runaway wins over Uruguay and Panama last month.
“Playing for Jeff Van Gundy, I felt like I had a foot ahead of the rest of the crew just because I played for Stan,” Ellenson said. “Jeff wrote me a note: ‘One person shouldn’t have to play for one Van Gundy, let alone two.’ Just kind of shows how funny they are.”
Ellenson’s comfort level showed as he had an important hand in both victories, leading the United States in rebounding in both games while averaging eight points. It was one part of a multi-pronged summer that has Ellenson buoyant as he looks to fight his way into Dwane Casey’s rotation.
Ellenson started his work in May back home in Rice Lake, Wis., when the Pistons were without a coaching staff, where he initiated a minor tweak in his shooting form.
“I’ve just got my hand off to the side of the ball a little bit more,” he said. “I moved my hands to get the ball coming off cleaner with a better rotation. I feel like my spin’s a lot better. I’ve just got to make sure I get my legs underneath me and get a lot of lift and stay balanced.”
When Casey was hired in June and got his coaching staff in place, Ellenson spent a few weeks in Los Angeles working with them and finding ample scrimmage opportunities among the bevy of NBA players who make it their off-season base. Then he went to Las Vegas for Summer League, where he spent two sessions working out with Hall of Famer in waiting Kevin Garnett.
“After a game and one time after a practice, I went from our game right to another gym and was able to work out with K.G., so that was really cool,” Ellenson said. “A lot of attention to detail, a lot of intensity in those workouts and a lot of mindset things, too.”
After a week break, Ellenson was back in Los Angeles for more work with Casey’s staffers followed by a return trip to Las Vegas for a week at Tim Grgurich’s annual camp. Grgurich, hired by Casey to head up his team of development coaches, has held the camp for about 20 years and helped spur the careers of scores of NBA players.
“That was great,” he said. “That was probably one of my favorite things I did all summer from a learning standpoint. A bunch of drills and the one-on-one games we did and then the scrimmages at night, I felt like that was huge for me. I thought I played really well out there.”
Ellenson spent the rest of August back in Los Angeles, then took a third trip to Las Vegas for Jeff Van Gundy’s Team USA camp.
“It was huge,” Ellenson said of the off-season. “I felt like I improved on a lot of things, got stronger, shot got better, ballhandling, finishing. I felt like I made another jump this summer.”