Last week Elliott Eliason became the first freshman to commit to the Gophers for the 2010-2011 season. Con Marshall, a writer for The Chadron News, Elliason’s home town paper, has graciously agreed to answer a few questions about the future Gopher. For even more on the newest Gopher, check out Con’s great article about Elliot’s commitment.
FTB: Chadron Nebraska is obviously a place that not many people in Minneapolis have heard of. What can you tell us about your town, its people, and the role of basketball there?
CM: Chadron is a town of about 5,500 people located 100 miles south of Mount Rushmore. Most of the residents are middle class. Chadron is the home of Chadron State College, which has about 2,800 students and could be compared with Southwest Minnesota State, Minnesota State-Mankato, Bemidji State, etc. Since Chadron State plays basketball, youths growing up in Chadron have the opportunity to attend college games. Because of the college, the town has more than its share of quality gymnasiums.
FTB:What teams does Chadron play, what is the level of competition?
CM: Chadron is a member of the Western Conference, which includes schools such as Alliance, Gering, Scottsbluff, Sidney, Gordon-Rushville, etc. Like most towns our size, we have our ups and downs on the basketball court. Most of the athletes also play football and compete in golf or track and field in the spring.
Naturally, the Chadron High School coaches and athletic director knew that Elliott Eliason was on his way through the pipeline along with a couple of talented classmates so they scheduled some stronger competition than usual. The past two years, the Cardinals have played in the Energy Classic at Gillette, Wyo., during the holidays. Last season, Chadron won the tournament, beating teams from Casper, Wyo., Las Vegas and the host Campbell County High team from Gillette. Chadron was by far the smallest school in the tournament.
Elliott has been a member of the elite Nebraska Bison teams that barnstormed throughout the Midwest the past three years. This year, they also played in Los Angeles and Las Vegas. Those teams had some outstanding competition, the best their states or cities could muster.
I might add, that besides Elliott, Chadron High has two more outstanding players, both of whom should be capable of playing at least Division II basketball. They are Zac Bargen, son of the Chadron State College coach, and Alec Holmquist, son of the Chadron High girls’ basketball coach. Both are guards.
FTB: When did Eliason begin to gain attention as a basketball player, how much hype has surrounded him, and how has he handled any pressure associated with this?
CM: Any time a town our size has a kid who is about six foot in the sixth grade, people begin to watch him and his classmates after the word gets out that he’s a player. The Chadron Middle School team when Elliott was in the 7th and 8th grade was undefeated and played in a number of tournaments after the regular schedule was completed. Elliott loves to play basketball, but he is not a cocky, glory hound by any stretch of the imagination. He is a well-rounded, studious individual. I’m not sure there’s been much pressure on him to do anything great and wondrous. He’s has put some pressure on himself because he’s competitive, but there hasn’t been much from the outside as far as I know.
FTB:What insight can you give us as to why he chose Minnesota. He had plenty of options, so why will he be a Gopher?
CM: I think Tubby Smith was the big reason he chose Minnesota. He heard great things about the coach and how the players there like him. I think the fact that he’ll get to play in the Big 10 was another factor. He wants to be challenged and try to develop into the best player he can. I hope his dreams come true.
FTB:Describe how Elliot plays the game. What are his strenghts and weaknesses. What should Gopher fans expect when he takes the court?
CM: I’m probably not an expert in this area so you can take this with a grain of salt. Elliott runs the floor well and I think he’s solid in every aspect of the game. He is striving to get stronger all the time and when he matures some more that will help him. As a high school player, he’s an exceptional rebounder and shot blocker. I think he needs to “finish” his shots a bit better. Sometimes he tries to take everything to the basket. I think he might be better off shooting a 5 to 10-foot jumper once in a while. His coaches may disagree with me.
FTB:What else should we know about Elliott Eliason?
CM: He’s a great kid with great parents. His father, Jay, was an All-American offensive tackle at South Dakota State University and his mother was a tremendous basketball player there before she hurt her knee. Her name is Lorna. She’s about 6-1, I suspect. It was after she hurt the knee and was on crutches that she met Jay. She went to a basketball game and had to sit on the front row. That’s where the football players were seated so they could hassle the opposing basketball teams. Because of their background in athletics, they have realized that Elliott has lots of potential and have tried to help him develop on the basketball court.
Elliott has like a 26 ACT score and each of the past two years has take time away from basketball during the summers to go to the Future Business Leaders of America national convention to take tests after qualifying at the state level. This year, he was the only boy from Chadron to qualify and made the trip to Anaheim with about a dozen girls. He’s kind of quiet around adults, but he’s witty and is an excellent writer. Some of his stuff has been printed in the page from Chadron High that is carried in the local newspaper.