Tyler Ennis, the Underappreciated PhenomPosted by Chris Kehoe on January 2nd, 2014
What’s that, you say — a heady, patient, point guard on an undefeated team, sporting a 4.67:1 assist-to-turnover ratio, isn’t getting enough attention? Someone who happens to be a freshman valiantly filling the shoes of a lottery pick who has already notched an NBA triple-double? By now, you have probably figured out that we’re referring to none other than Syracuse’s Tyler Ennis, an extremely talented and poised freshman playing arguably the most demanding position in all of basketball. The precocious rookie is averaging 11.8 points, 3.5 rebounds, and 5.4 assists per game for a second-ranked Orange team that looks as dangerous as ever and ready for another deep run in March. He contributes 32 minutes per game on a team that lacks any real alternative at the position, but as Ennis has shown thus far, Jim Boeheim doesn’t need much of a substitute as the Canadian rarely gets in foul trouble or gets fatigued playing at the top of the vaunted 2-3 zone.
Ennis has proved himself a potent long-range shooter, launching three-pointers at a 40 percent clip, and is no slouch defensively either, averaging 2.7 steals per contest (10th in the nation). Speaking of national statistical rankings, Ennis also comes in second nationally behind ACC counterpart and Pittsburgh point guard James Robinson in assist-to-turnover ratio, a strong indicator of how effectively he runs the team. Yahoo Sports’ Jeff Eisenberg said it best: “He’s just a savvy point guard who changes pace masterfully, uses ball screens to his advantage, and has a knack for knowing when the Orange need a bucket.”Statistical supremacy aside, Ennis finds himself largely outside of the national limelight, even trailing behind star senior C.J. Fair and Sportscenter Top 10 favorite Jerami Grant, the acrobatic dunker and fan favorite, on his own team. Among freshmen nationally, Ennis trails behind the flashier and more athletic rookies like Andrew Wiggins, Aaron Gordon, Zach LaVine and Julius Randle. Within his own conference, Ennis has found it hard to carve out the top spot behind early Wooden Award favorite and Duke forward, Jabari Parker. Parker has won a majority of the ACC Freshman of the Week awards and has laid claim to the top freshman spot, if not the NPOY award, in the national narrative. Ennis however, has been gaining some traction in this regard, as ESPN’s Jeff Goodman has him ranked third in his most recent national freshman tracker. CBS Sports’ Matt Norlander, in an article solely dedicated to his tremendous play, said Ennis is “proving to be one of the most valuable players in the country. I think he’s more valuable than Fair.”
Superlatives and praise from media outlets aside, Ennis has shown himself capable of running the Syracuse offense and defense from day one. Perhaps the most impressive thing about the St. Benedict’s (NJ) Prep product is his ability to play within himself, an oft-cited flaw for highly-rated recruits coming out of high school. Credit his poise and basketball IQ for that, along with his AAU basketball experience with Wiggins on the Canadian CIA Bounce program. Heading into ACC play, as long as Ennis keeps impressing everyone with his steady play and Syracuse remains near the top of the polls, expect the national spotlight to find its way down to Jim Boeheim’s precocious and prized floor general.