When Andrew Wiggins pulled out of the FIBA under 19 championship, it created a huge hole on Canada’s roster that was not expected to be filled. However it seems like people underestimated incoming Syracuse Orange freshman, Tyler Ennis. The young point guard out of St Benedict’s Prep saw that his team would need a scorer, and he delivered. Once the tournament was done, Canada finished a very respectable 6th and Tyler Ennis was the tournament’s leading scorer.
Being Canadian and sharing a name with a hockey player must confuse a lot of people. With the way Ennis has been playing basketball lately, he may dis-spell all that confusion extremely quickly.
Out of high school, Ennis had a multitude of different options to choose from. Among the candidates were Louisville, Memphis and Illinois. Ultimately, Ennis chose Syracuse as other Canadians like Kris Joseph and Andy Rautins have done in the past. The smooth point guard is expected to accomplish big things while on Orange campus.
Here is a highlight video of Ennis.
In a class that has a few top end point guards at the top, like Andrew Harrison and Kasey Hill, Ennis more than holds his own. As a ball handler, he is terrific and is comfortable dribbling the ball in high traffic areas. He is more than capable of driving at the rim and keeping his dribble alive in order to come back out and kick the ball out for the easy pass. Ennis is also great coming off the pick and roll with his dribble and knows when to pick it up and when to keep it going.
As a passer, Ennis has great vision and unselfishness. He is the type of player who makes his teammates better and is always looking to set up his guys for easy buckets. At the moment, he is at his deadliest as a passer off the pick and roll with a big man rolling to the basket. He also has a great touch on the fast break and can really thread the needle when it becomes necessary.
The biggest question about his offensive game was whether or not Ennis could be a big time scorer. After his performance at the under 19 championship, which included a 42 point performance in their last victory against China, most of those questions have been put to bed. Ennis’ shooting stroke is a thing of beauty and he can score from deep or from the paint. He is creative and unpredictable and is just as comfortable driving to the paint as he is taking a step back mid range jumper. As an added advantage, being a good scorer opens up the floor for his ability to create for others.
The biggest thing coaches want from point guards is for them to play within themselves. Often times, guards get a little flashy in an effort to entertain the crowd and that leads to stupid mistakes. Ennis is not one of those guards. He makes the right decisions, keeps his mistakes to a minimum and will rarely go for the high risk play if he doesn’t think he can get it to work. Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim will love what he brings to the table as an offensive player.
Where Ennis will have some considerable work to do is on the defensive end. While he is a polished offensive player, his defense sometimes leaves much to be desired. Ennis has good size for a guard, at 6″2, and the potential to be a good defender but he will need to be helped along by coaches. Too often he gets beat on the perimeter or caught on the pick and roll and he often looks like he does not know how to make adjustments to stop it from happening.
Another factor that is working against him, especially as a defender, is that Ennis is not really all that athletic. This is especially true for his lateral movement which is why he gets beat at the top of the three point arc with regularity. Quicker guards give Ennis fits and he struggles to stay in front of them. With practice and coaching, that is an issue that can be mitigated or at least hidden in a clever defensive system. One thing that should help Ennis is that Syracuse loves to play zone defense which is a great way to hide individual struggles on defense.
Offensively, his lack of athleticism sometimes makes it a little harder for Ennis to finish at the rim. This is definitely the case if he feels a lot of pressure from the defense. His lack of explosiveness gives him a little less lift than other guards off the floor and makes it harder to get good angles at the rim. This could become more of an issue at the NCAA level where defenses and defenders will be more sophisticated than what Ennis has been facing in high school.
What to expect at Syracuse:
With Michael Carter Williams declaring for the NBA draft, a hole has been left at the point guard position. While Ennis is not nearly as flashy as Carter Williams, he will be just as steady stepping in and will probably commit a lot less turnovers. The starting spot should be Ennis’ to lose from the get-go as he appears ready to play in division one right away.
Point guard is the toughest position to play in basketball, it is essentially the extension of the coach on the floor. One needs great knowledge of the game and maturity to excel at it. It’s the same reason really naturally talented players like Monta Ellis can’t be effective point guards. Ennis has the basketball IQ and talent level to be one of the best lead guards in the NCAA from his first day at Syracuse.
Of course that doesn’t mean that he won’t have bad games. It just means that he should be a very consistent contributor to a Syracuse team that is looking to build on their final four appearance from last year. With Ennis taking over for Carter-Williams, they shouldn’t miss a beat and should be expected to contend for a championship yet again.