Parents send their kids to college so they can become — as the cliché goes — ""well-rounded individuals.""
The same goes for college basketball stars. Sort of.
Just as it took Joe Kegstand three semesters to understand what's meant by ""liberal arts curriculum"" it took Wayne Ellington three years to understand what's meant by non-shooting star.""
He started school with a scorer's reputation"" a scorer's attitude and a scorer's nickname — ""The Rain.""
When it rained (i.e." when his shot dropped in) it poured. But during droughts the rest of his game without the long-range shots often seemed like Britney Spears' vocals without the doctoring.
This year" Ellington transitioned from on-or-off scorer to all-around consistent player.
""At the beginning of this season we saw a big difference in Wayne's overall floor game"" said Dewey Burke, who played for UNC during Ellington's freshman year and stays close with his former teammate.
Others noticed as well — UNC coach Roy Williams has spoken after games about No. 22's non-shooting contributions this year.
And Gary Williams, Maryland's coach, called Ellington the most improved Tar Heel from last year.
What changed? He realized that basketball amounts to more than putting the ball in the basket.
When I was a freshman and a little bit of my sophomore year" I relied on my shot a little bit" Ellington said in a press conference, and now I'm just getting to the basket some more" getting to the free throw line" rebounding a lot better and just doing other things.""
When Ellington struggled with his shot during non-conference play this season" he still logged serious minutes as Burke said" ""because he was positively affecting the game in every other aspect.""
But in ACC play"" he busted out like Janet Jackson at the Super Bowl. People look to his performance against Miami — when he hit eight shots in a row (seven from deep) — as his ""breakout game.""
But not me. One game before that" against Virginia Ellington shot OK but he also hit five foul shots snatched eight rebounds and had five assists with zero turnovers.
Since then he's averaged 18.3 points six rebounds and three assists per game. Well-rounded? You betcha.
Ellington's current season averages for rebounds" steals and assist-to-turnover ratio surpass his previous career bests.
But he elevated his play the most by crashing the offensive glass — filling the o-rebounding void caused by Marcus Ginyard's season-ending foot injury.
Wayne ""The Pane"" had four offensive rebounds against Boston College. Three against Wake Forest and Clemson. Seven against Maryland. As a shooting guard.
""There's not really much to it"" you know?"" Ellington said. ""I'm not 6-5"350 anything like that" I'm just giving that little bit of extra effort to go get those loose balls and go get those offensive rebounds.""
UNC needs that ""extra" given its unanticipated lack of depth.
And as for Ellington's much-maligned defense? If you know where coach Williams wants players to be you see that Wayne has really improved at being in the right place" Burke said.
Ellington said he feels more well-rounded now, and Burke backed him up.
The maturation process that you can see in Wayne on the floor has been impressive"" he said. His ability to impact the game in ways other than scoring has really made him a complete player.""
And for that" Mama and Papa Ellington must be proud — in his third year of college their Lil' Wayne is coming into his own.
Contact Sam Rosenthal at email@example.com.
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