When we last checked in, Elliott Eliason had committed to the Minnesota Gophers for the 2010-11 season, becoming one of two major recruits for the team going into next year. Con Marshall from the Chadron Record, a local newspaper in Eliason’s hometown, took the time to update From The Barn on how Eliason’s senior season is progressing.
FTB: With the high school season winding down, how has Eliason looked this year? Has he improved his game since committing to Minnesota?
CM: Elliott is doing well. He probably had his best game of the season Saturday night (2/6), when he scored 25 points, collected 23 rebounds, blocked four shots and handed out nine assists, several of them on back door cuts while he was surrounded by two or three defenders not far from the basket. His passes were quick and crisp. [Chadron] beat Red Cloud of South Dakota, which had a 15-2 record entering the game. Since Christmas he has been sporting a beard and has played well.
FTB: Eliason was the 2009 Player of the Year in Nebraska, is he in the running for back-to-back awards?
CM: Since we live about as far west in Nebraska as you can get, I don’t have a very broad view of the entire state, but I know the eastern Nebraska sportswriters are impressed with him. They always write favorable things about him and have Chadron High ranked No. 1 in Class C-1 (third largest) in the state. I’m sure he is being considered. There are other good players in the state, but as far as I know he is one of just two to receive a Division I scholarship. Smith is going to Colorado State, which also recruited Eliason heavily when he was a sophomore and junior. Elliott said “no thanks” after Minnesota, Creighton and Stanford came calling.
FTB: How has Eliason’s team been doing? Are they going to make a splash in Nebraska postseason play? How has Eliason contributed to their performance as a leader as well as in the statbook?
CM: The Cardinals are 16-2. They lost to Omaha Skutt Catholic, the top rated Class B team, 55-42 just before Christmas and to Wilson High of Portland, Ore., 69-63 between Christmas and New Years. I anticipate that Chadron will reach the State Tournament for the fourth year in row. The Cardinals were the state runners-up in 2006-07, finished fourth in 2007-08 and second again last year. The points are not coming as easy this year as they did last year, but the defense seems to be improved, due a great deal because of the tall guy guarding the basket. He’s mobile and gets his hands on a lot of passes and shots. Most teams have quit trying to attack the basket.
FTB: What would you say is the biggest hole in Eliason’s game as he heads to college ball? His biggest strength?
CM: I suspect that the physical nature of college basketball in the paint will be Elliott’s biggest challenge in the Big 10. He’s not very thick and will probably get pushed around some. But I don’t think he’ll ever back down from them and probably has enough moves and athleticism to get around many of the muscle men. I think he’ll be a good defender. He has a knack for blocking shots. A year of redshirting should help him. From what I have heard, he is expecting that. His biggest pluses, I believe, would include mobility, smarts and desire. He’s also handy with and without the ball. He’s certainly not awkward, lazy or slow.
FTB: Anything else you’d like to share?
CM: Since I am a “stat guy,” I will give you Elliott’s current stats. He has made 128 of 187 field goal attempts (68 percent) and 45 of 76 free throws (59 percent), is averaging 16.7 points and 10.1 rebounds, has blocked 77 shots and has 58 assists and just 28 turnovers. Shooting free throws has been a problem in the past three games, but he’s not a bad free throw shooter. He’ll get that straightened out. He sometimes plays only about two-thirds of a game. As one Chadron fan put it recently, “it’s unfair to have him in the game all the time.” The opponents often score nearly half of their points after he is taken out.