Brady Ellingson has been able to take down many foes in his spectacular four-year varsity career at Sussex Hamilton. Mononucleosis was just the latest.
Though the illness, characterized by an enlarged spleen and fatigue, usually knocks a player out for a month or more, Ellingson missed only two games when he came down with the ailment midway through the year. It turned out he'd already been playing with the illness and didn't need much longer to get clearance.
"Right after the Marquette win (Dec. 20), I felt fine on the bus ride back but started feeling out of it; I thought I had a cold," Ellingson said. "It was unusual because Christmas Eve, I went to my grandma's house on my mom's side and fell asleep at like 7 p.m. for two hours. That's unusual for me because I don't take naps often. I was so tired over Christmas break, but I thought I was just run down, and I kept sleeping."
He struggled in a win over Racine Horlick shortly after the holiday, then finally saw a doctor. But patients with the illness are usually given a green light after a month, when the danger to the spleen has passed. Consequently, Ellingson was only off the floor for his team's losses to West Allis Central and Wisconsin Lutheran.
"He never really got his legs back until probably the latter part of the season," Hamilton coach Andy Cerroni said. "I tried to get him more rest and time off the court, and he worked himself back into shape. You look at our last eight games, after we lost to Brookfield Central, we ended up winning 7 of our last 8."
In part, it was because Ellingson played as well as he ever has in the Chargers uniform. The end result was a second straight Greater Metro Conference Player of the Year award.
The all-time leading scorer at Hamilton (1,763 points) scored 39 and hit a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to knock off second-seeded Kettle Moraine in the regional final, one night after he led his team to an upset over third-seeded Homestead. He finished scoring 24.8 points per game, with 4.2 rebounds, a 92 percent free-throw shooting clip. He'll now take his game to the University of Iowa.
"I think the playoff run capped our season off," Ellingson said. "We had just a decent record coming in, but we thought we played tough teams and we were better than our record, and we got to show we could play with pretty much anyone."
Hamilton (17-8) ultimately lost to state champion Germantown in the sectional final. The surge called to mind Ellingson's sophomore year, when he had a similarly magical performance against Arrowhead in a last-second win at the regional final level.
"That was pretty incredible because we really weren't looked at as much of a threat to anyone and we kind of came out of nowhere," Ellingson said of the sophomore run. "Then, junior year we had a great season, a really good record and won conference for the first time in (33) years. That was definitely awesome. This past year, I'd say breaking the scoring record and the run we had in the playoffs also (was memorable)."
Cerroni said he liked the way the 6-4 sharpshooter Ellingson improved as a senior.
"As a junior, he only went to the free throw line 67 times," Cerroni said. "He just didn't get there. That was one of the areas he had to get better. He got there, attacking the rim and getting to the basket. What defenses were doing to him, we had to find different ways for him to score. With his jump shot from the perimeter and being able to take the contact — he was a great post player for us, too — it was almost impossible to stop him at times. As he matured and improved his game, he was tough to stop."
Grabbing the torch
Cerroni admits coaching Brady, the unquestioned focal point of the offense for four years, was easier than coaching his son, Kameron, the previous owner of the all-time scoring record and whose four-year run ended just before Ellingson arrived. The younger Cerroni, who set his record over three years before missing his senior year with a torn ACL, played in college for the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay and St. Norbert.
"Kam had a ton of big shots, but it's a lot easier for me to say, 'Hey, Brady needs the ball,' rather than, 'My son needs the ball,'" Andy admitted. "I just wanted to win, and I knew what it took to win, but it's an easier sell when it's somebody else. I couldn't have picked a better candidate or better player or person to pass Kam (on the scoring chart). He's earned it and it's certainly because of some hard work and dedication. He was so committed."
Andy also said it required a group of teammates willing to buy in with Ellingson at the center.
"Guys were competitors who wanted to win, and they'll do whatever it takes to make it happen," Cerroni said. "Last year, we had a really close team, and I didn't know if we could duplicate that, but I think we duplicated that and probably took it up a notch this year. We had a good locker room, good leadership, good camaraderie, they really like being around each other ... it makes it so much easier to coach. Brady will attest that it was quite a way to go out."
Now, he's off to the Big Ten, and though he's watching the NCAA Tournament from afar this month, he could very well be a participant at this time next year.
"Those kids don't come along all that often," Cerroni said. "You look at all the kids that have gone through the conference, and we've had some standouts and we've been fortunate to have a few in our program. To start as a freshman and do what he's done is remarkable, as humble as he is and as hard a worker as he is … he brought a lot of excitement to the program. He made a name for himself, and we are so fortunate."
Two others named
Seniors Drew Patterson and Brett Buehler were both named honorable mention in the Greater Metro Conference, while Ellingson also netted the Scholar Athlete Award.
Mark Adams of Brookfield Central was named the league's Coach of the Year. Other first-team choices were Riley LaChance, Elijah Goodman and Brad Newman of Central and West Allis Central duo Brandon Key and Ron Turkvan.
2014 Greater Metro boys basketball
|Elijah Goodman||Brookfield Central||Senior|
|Riley LaChance||Brookfield Central||Senior|
|Brad Newman||Brookfield Central||Senior|
|Ron Turkvan||West Allis Central||Senior|
|Brandon Key||West Allis Central||Junior|
West Allis Central
West Allis Central
Caleb Mortag, Sr., Brookfield Central; Christian Simon, Jr., Brookfield East; Jerry Murphy, Sr., Menomonee Falls; Jaquan Martin, Sr., West Allis Central; Joey Archer, Jr., West Allis Hale
Terry Wallen, Sr., Brookfield Central; Jimmy Engelhart, Jr., Brookfield East; Brett Buehler, Sr., Hamilton; Drew Patterson, Sr., Hamilton; Nick Klar, Sr., Marquette; Quin Rowan, Sr., Marquette; Jason Precia, Sr., Menomonee Falls; Sean Wheeler, Sr., Wauwatosa East; Jerome Cummings, Jr., West Allis Central; Noel Crabtree, Sr., West Allis Hale; Jason Palesse, Jr., West Allis Hale
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