Third-year NBA pro Henry Ellenson was back in his high school gym last Tuesday to lead his pair of youth basketball camps.
At the same time, Ellenson learned that he has a new coach, only his fourth head coach in eight years of high school, college and pro hoops.
The Detroit Pistons named Dwane Casey to replace Stan Van Gundy, who the Pistons let go last month after Detroit missed the playoffs for the second straight season.
“Casey had a good year in Toronto. I’m real excited,” said Ellenson, the 2015 Rice Lake High School graduate.
Although the Toronto Raptors won a franchise-record 59 games, the club let Casey go after his team was swept in the second round of the playoffs.
The Pistons, winners of 39 games last season, signed Casey to a 5-year contract. Ellenson said that Casey’s style of play suits him fine.
“He likes to play a deep bench and get up and down the floor,” said Ellenson, who can play a wide-open game despite his 6-foot-11, 245-pound power forward size.
Under Van Gundy, Ellenson bounced between the Pistons and their developmental league team Grand Rapids during his first two seasons in the league after being drafted out of Marquette.
When the Pistons were eliminated from the playoffs late this season, Van Gundy gave the former Rice Lake Warrior increasing minutes over the final eight games.
“Van Gundy was great to me and my family,” Ellenson said. “He drafted me into the NBA.”
Over Ellenson’s final four games of the 38 he appeared in this season, he averaged 13.5 points and five rebounds per game.
“I felt like I showed what I can do in this league,” said Ellenson, whose motto has been to keep working hard and be prepared when his playing chances come up.
Ellenson said he won’t play in an NBA summer league this off-season but will continue working out in the Detroit area, where he lives.
Not only will Ellenson have a new head coach when NBA team workouts begin this fall, he will also have a fairly new teammate in Blake Griffin, whom the Pistons traded with the Los Angeles Clippers for late last season.
Like Ellenson, Griffin is a power forward who Ellenson has worked out with.
“Blake has been great to me, made me a better player,” Ellenson said. “He brings a lot of experience to our team.”
Ellenson has made Detroit his home. His boyish smile lights up even more when he talks about his roommate, his cat Ruth.
“Ruth goes with me everywhere, except team road trips,” said Ellenson, who has Ruth with him this week as he stays in Rice Lake with his family who helped out with the camps, including parents John and Holly, brothers Wally and Ellwood and sister Ella.
Ellenson and Ruth live between the Pistons’ practice facility in Auburn Hills and their downtown Little Caesars Arena, where the Pistons began playing games last season.
“It’s really nice having the arena downtown,” Ellenson said. “It’s special for fans coming to the game to see the downtown lights.”
Greschner is the sports editor for the Rice Lake Chronotype