Former North Carolina basketball star Wayne Ellington became a member of the Cleveland Cavaliers after GM Chris grant executed a swindling trade, allowing the Memphis Grizzlies to slice more than $6 million off of their payroll. Cleveland’s bench currently ranks 26th in the league in regards to scoring, as they average 15.2 points per game. After missing Kyrie Irving and Daniel Gibson for a portion of the season due to injuries and having Anderson Varejao gone the rest of the way, Cleveland has dug deep for bench minutes. Since Gibson hasn’t been able to get back into the swing of things, Ellington will provide a spark in the reserve unit in an attempt to revive his career. His 12 points on 3-of-4 shooting from beyond the arc – including a go-ahead three pointer with just under five minutes to go – is the kind of output that Cleveland is looking for in Ellington.
Since he is now an official part of the team and has now played two games in the Wine and Gold, it is only right that we give him his introductory player profile. With three years of NBA experience under his belt, we will outline his basketball life up until now.
The encapsulating long-range shooter began his high school career at Daniel Boone High School (Birdsboro, PA), where he racked up 455 points. In 2003 Ellington decided to transfer to Episcopal Academy, and it was there that Ellington and Gerald Henderson – his teammate at Episcopal for three seasons – turned the Churchmen into a national power. As part of the Inter-Academic League, the Churchmen do not compete in the state championship. With that said, Ellington was able to lead his team to a No. 1 ranking in the Philadelphia area during his junior and senior campaigns, collected two conference titles and compiled a team record of 52-7. He averaged 21.9 points, 8.3 rebounds and 3.2 assists in his final season as a member of Episcopal, shooting 39 percent from beyond the arc. He was able to total 2,211 points over his high school career.
While Henderson left for Duke after graduating high school, Ellington went the complete opposite direction (speaking in terms of team friendliness) and became a Tar Heel. Known for his three-point shooting abilities, he went into his freshman season at North Carolina as a three-point champion at the 2006 McDonald’s All-Star Game and recorded 31 points at the Nike Hoop Summit as a member of the United States’s squad.
Ellington saw action as a starter immediately, as he opened up 37 of the 38 games that North Carolina played during their 2006-07 season. The start of his career looked promising, as he averaged 11.7 points and shot 37.1 percent from three as a freshman. It if weren’t for a heartbreaking 96-84 loss at the hands of Georgetown in the regional finals – a game that Ellington had a chance to win in regulation – things would have been near perfect. An important development in Ellington’s game from his freshman to sophomore season was his transition from a shooter to a scorer. Still, fans were more interested in how his Duke counterpart Henderson was performing even though he wasn’t getting as much playing time as Ellington.
Ellington’s next season saw a bump in his offensive production, but the end-of-the-season results were similar. After receiving second-team All-Atlantic Coast Conference and first-team ACC All-Tournament honors, Ellington made it one step closer to the National Championship game. Unfortunately the Tar Heels fell in the Final Four to eventual champion Kansas, but Ellington did manage to average 16.6 points, 4.5 rebounds and 1.1 steals, while shooting 40.0 percent from three in his sophomore season. After another March Madness defeat, Ellington elected to enter the 2008 NBA Draft. Due to problems with finding an agent and not getting a first-round guarantee, Ellington, along with star teammates Ty Lawson and Danny Green, decided to withdraw from the draft and return for one final season.
While averaging 15.8 points, 4.9 rebounds and 2.7 assists and shooting 48.3 percent from the field and 41.7 percent from three, Ellington helped lead his team to the promised land. After playing in 38 games or more for the third straight season, the shooting guard found his niche in the Carolina offense. While he converted on a career-high 85 threes, he also managed to hit the boards more aggressively and took 62 less shots than the previous season. He was named Most Outstanding Player of the 2008 NCAA Basketball Tournament by averaging 19.5 points and 6.5 rebounds and shooting 14-of-26 from the field and 72.7 percent from three in two Final Four games. After winning it all against Michigan State, it was off to the NBA for Ellington.
The North Carolina sharp shooter was drafted 28th overall by the Minnesota Timberwolves, where he spent his first three NBA seasons. He saw mostly bench time while playing for the Timberwolves, averaging 6.5 points and 1.9 rebounds in 189 games. In the summer of 2012, Ellington was traded to the Memphis Grizzlies for Dante Cunnigham. After not making much of an impact off the bench in Memphis, the Grizzlies traded him to the Cavaliers with Marreese Speights and Josh Selby. The former Tar Heel hasn’t panned out the way that many thought he would, but Cleveland is a nice home for a player looking to revitalize his career. With Gibson’s expiring contract and diminishing role, we could see Ellington become a fixture in the rotation in no time.