Tyler Ennis proved he is a worthy player during the Maui Invitational.
Coming into the year, Tyler Ennis was unknown. Jim Boeheim raved about the maturity of the freshman point guard. But in the first few games, Ennis caused some to worry about his play. Ennis erased any doubts with his play this week in Maui.
Against Minnesota, Ennis shot just 1-of-9 from the field, but he hit 10-of-11 from the free-throw line, totaling 12 points, while adding five assists and five steals. Ennis had a solid all-around game. He got the rest of the team involved in the offense and got the offense going in a 75-67 win over the Golden Gophers. Against Cal on Tuesday night, Ennis scored 28 points, by far the most he has scored in a college game. Ennis was on the floor for 37 of the 40-minute game versus the Golden Bears, and every one of his points was needed in a matchup that was much closer than the final score indicates. Then, last night, against 18th-ranked Baylor, Ennis had 11 points and nine rebounds, and played nearly the entire game, helping the offense run very smoothly.
So what is the difference between Ennis now and Ennis earlier in the year? Could Tyler Ennis simply be playing up to a higher level of competition? If so, that is good news for the Orange, because Syracuse will be playing many high-level teams the rest of the year.
Or, did the college game just take getting “used to” and Ennis turned a corner this week? If that is the answer, it is even better for the Orange, because it does not need to worry night-to-night about how well its point guard will play.
Maui showed what Ennis could be. Ennis has the potential to be a scorer and a facilitator. In the Cal game, Ennis shot 9-of-12 from the field and 8-of-8 from the free-throw line, leading to 28 points. In the Baylor game, Ennis shot just 4-of-11, leading to 11 points, but he handed out nine assists and did not commit a single turnover. Ennis played well in transition, something he bragged about at media day before the season. Ennis consistently brought the Orange down the court fast and it led to many quick points on open threes and dunks.
Before the year, Boeheim said how mature Ennis is on the court. He said how Ennis played well beyond his years and that he already has the respect of the team. Ennis showed this week in Maui that he can be the leader of the team this year. Ennis played 40 minutes against Baylor, 37 against Cal and 32 against Minnesota. Those are big-time minutes and Ennis took advantage, putting up three of his best games of the year. If Ennis can play well, and consistently, it will be huge for the Orange, who needs a guy to bring the ball up the court and get the ball into the hands of Trevor Cooney, C.J. Fair and Jerami Grant. Ennis will have games where his scoring spikes, like the 28 against Cal, but his main job is and will be to score about 12 points and hand out about 10 assists a game.
Whether he is more of a scorer or facilitator, one thing is certain: Ennis is much more confident following a successful week in Maui.
Posted by: Seth Goldberg
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