High jumper transfers to Marquette

Former Gophers basketball player, Wally Ellenson, will be a two-sport athlete at Marquette.

Gophers sophomore Wally Ellenson poses for a portrait on the Bierman Track on June 5.

Holly Peterson, Daily File Photo

Gophers sophomore Wally Ellenson poses for a portrait on the Bierman Track on June 5.

Joe Perovich

Sophomore forward Wally Ellenson left the Gophers basketball team in February to focus on high jumping.

On July 2, just months after Ellenson left Minnesota’s basketball team, he announced on Twitter his decision to transfer to Marquette University, where he will play basketball.

Ellenson was a two-sport athlete for a year and a half at Minnesota before leaving the basketball program.

Two days before Ellenson transferred, Gophers head track and field coach Steve Plasencia said he thought Ellenson “still has basketball aspirations.”

“I think at this point in time he’s kind of assessing what he’s going to do with his future here,” Plasencia said June 30.

Five days after Ellenson announced his transfer, Plasencia said he still hadn’t heard from him regarding his decision.

“I haven’t talked with him. Nobody from our track office has heard anything from those guys at all,” Plasencia said Monday. “We just are ready to sign the release forms that he needs. …  I’m sure we’ll hear from him at some point, but we haven’t heard anything yet.”

Ellenson didn’t respond to multiple calls from a Minnesota Daily reporter seeking comment.

Bert Rogers, Marquette’s head track and field coach, said Ellenson visited the school in June and it went well.

“There’s always whispers here and there about what’s going to happen, but on our end of things, it’s [been developing] in the last couple weeks,” Rogers said. “Once the ball got rolling, it went pretty quick.”

Plasencia said the track staff knew of Ellenson’s visit to Marquette as well as a couple of other schools. Due to NCAA transfer rules, Ellenson won’t be eligible to play basketball for Marquette head coach Steve Wojciechowski during the upcoming season.

Still, Wojciechowski said in a statement that Marquette was “thrilled” to welcome Ellenson to the Marquette basketball team.

“Wally is a young man of outstanding character. He is an elite-level athlete and adds talent, athleticism, and competitive spirit to our basketball team,” Wojciechowski said in the statement.

Rogers said Ellenson’s track and field eligibility has yet to be determined, adding that he realizes it’s a “basketball-first” situation at Marquette.

“I just finished my 10th year at Marquette. This is a first as for sharing with men’s basketball,” Rogers said.

It will also be the first time that Marquette’s track and field program has had a high jumper of Ellenson’s caliber. His clearing of 7 feet 4 ½ inches last month surpassed what Rogers said is Marquette’s school record.

As a freshman, Ellenson placed eighth overall in the high jump at the 2013 NCAA outdoor championships. At the same event last month, he placed second.

On the hardwood, Ellenson played in nine games for the Gophers last season and averaged 1.8 points per game.

Ellenson’s younger brother, Henry, is the fifth-ranked high school basketball player on ESPN’s Top 100 list for the class of 2015. Henry hasn’t decided where he will attend school yet, but he has a scholarship offer from Marquette.

Whether his brother joins him or not, Wally Ellenson’s passion for the game of basketball is apparent.

“All along, Wally has told us that he wanted to play basketball,” Plasencia said. “I think implicitly the decision that he’s made is to have basketball in the mix and track and field be secondary in his pursuits. … We understand that, and we wish him well.”