We are a long way from this aren't we?
Inside Carolina has a nice piece on the fairly unacknowledged rise of Wayne Ellington during the most important games of the season. Ellington, who struggled earlier this season with his shot, has taken the bull by the horns and is on pace to turn in one of the more incredible tournament performances in UNC history should he and the Heels continue. Over the past three games dating back to the loss vs FSU in the ACC Seminfinals, Ellington has scored 24, 25 and 23 points. He is shooting 57% from the floor and 50% from three point range. Yes all the attention is on Ty Lawson and Tyler Hansbrough which is probably how Ellington wants it. The junior shooting gaurd lit up LSU's Garrett Temple on Saturday night despite Temple's reputation as the guy who shut down J.J. Redick in 2006.
Even beyond the shooting, Ellington looks like a more complete player on offense. Once relegated to simply being a shooter, Ellington has morphed more into a scorer over the past few games. There has been an aggressive nature that was previously absent as well as an ability to not only drive the basket but finish once he gets there. Ellington also has become a rather reliable rebounder averaging 4.8 rpg for the season. Perhaps the biggest one so far was the tip out to Danny Green against LSU that led to a three pointer which broke the Tigers' back. With the loss of Marcus Ginyard's knack for doing the same thing, that part of Ellington's game has been indispensable.
As the IC article points out, no one in the media is really talking about Ellington's play. In fact the local and national media alike has been ga-ga over Ellington's high school teammate Gerald Henderson at Duke despite the fact Ellington might actually be playing better basketball right now. Since the beginning of ACC play on January 4th, this is how the two former high school buddies match up:
Wayne Ellington: 17.7 ppg, 50% FG, 42% 3P, 5.5 rpg, 2.8 apg, 1.4 A/TO
Gerald Henderson: 19.0 ppg, 45% FG, 33% 3P, 4.2 rpg, 2.9 apg, 1.1 A/TO
Starting with ACC play, Ellington has been statistically better than Henderson in ever category except points per game and slight behind in assists per game. Ellington shoots better, rebounds better and takes slight better care of the basketball. Henderson is a better defender averaging more steals and blocks per game but on the offensive end Ellington is better. A brief look at the Pomeroy stats for both sheds more light on the issue. Ellington has a season offensive rating of 124.0(one of four Tar Heels with 120.0 or better) Henderson's offensive rating is 111.7. Interestingly enough, Henderson is a larger part of Duke's offense according to possession and shot percentages than Ellington is for UNC yet Ellington is more efficient.
The point is Henderson is given a great deal of attention by the media. Some of that has to do with the fact he is one of the "Big Three" on Duke's team which ironically he rates as the least of that trio in ORtg behind both Jon Scheyer(124.6) and Kyle Singler(112.3) Henderson was named to first team All-ACC while Ellington was put on the 3rd team. Not much we can complain about there in the THF community since most of us voted the same way here. However looking at the numbers now(which includes data not available at the time) there is a clearer picture. Do not misunderstand me. Henderson has been a great player this season and possibly will end up being a better NBA player. Quite frankly he is a freak of nature as an athlete and deserves many of the accolades thrown his way. Ellington got off to a slow start and does not exhibit the same kind of athleticism as Henderson though I think that part of his game is underrated. Looking at these numbers it is clear that Ellington may actually be a better player and certainly has been a huge factor in UNC's two NCAA Tournament wins. The problem Ellington faces is UNC has two ACC Player of the Year recipients on the roster so in many respect they absorb most of the attention. Ellington, meanwhile, just toils away playing the best basketball of his career at UNC.
As I said, a far cry from all the questions we were asking on this blog two years ago.