It's time for the changing of the guard. After just one season at the helm, Orange point guard Michael Carter-Williams is taking his considerable, but raw, talents to the NBA.
Jim Boeheim won't be holding tryouts to replace MCW. As soon as Tyler Ennis arrives on campus, he'll be handed the keys to the Orange offense. Much like parents do with teenagers, Boeheim will do so with some trepidation.
Syracuse fans have been fortunate to have been able to enjoy outstanding point guards over the years. Dwayne "Pearl" Washington was as responsible as anyone for filling the Carrier Dome and taking the program up a notch.
Sherman Douglas left Syracuse as the NCAA career leader in assists and made alley-oops an art form. Adrian Autry and Jason Hart did something we may not see again. They each spent four years as the starting Orange point guard.
In 1996, local playground legend Lazarus Sims gave Orange fans one magical season that culminated in a valiant championship game loss to a great Kentucky team. That team gave us one of the most unforgettable visuals of any NCAA tournament.
So there is every reason to look forward to the Tyler Ennis era. Will that era be Autry/Hart-like and last four years? Probably not, but let's not worry about that now. Let's just enjoy.
Time to meet Tyler Ennis.
Ennis was born in Brampton, Ontario and has made his name in the States at St. Benedict’s Prep in Newark, NJ. The Gray Bees—what a great nickname—just finished second in the final USA Today Super 25 poll.
The 6’2”, 180-pound Ennis is a 4-star recruit and ranked 38th on the ESPN Top 100.
He is ranked as the eighth-best point guard in the country and chose the Orange over Illinois, Louisville, Memphis and UCLA, among others.
Ennis obviously had a great senior season at St. Benedict’s. He was the undisputed leader of the team on the court and that certainly came through on the stat sheet.
Ennis proved to be both a scorer and distributor. He averaged 21.1 points and 5.1 assists per game.
He didn’t stop there, filling up the stat sheet with 3.8 rebounds and 2.2 steals per game.
Should we expect the same kind of production in Syracuse?
It's safe to say Ennis won't score 21 points per game next year. He will score enough to keep defenses honest and that's okay, because the Orange will have lots of scoring options up front next year.
Ennis’ strengths are many and they should fit very well in the Orange’s system.
He excels on the break with an ability to operate in traffic and get to the rim.
As a distributor, he combines great court vision with a high basketball IQ. Add a great ability to pass and he is a true point guard who makes his teammates better.
But don’t think he can’t score.
He is a decent shooter and when challenged, he will take matters into his own hands. Just ask poor Eastern (NJ) High, who had the unfortunate timing to play St. Benedict’s the night that Ennis was passed over for the McDonald’s All-American team.
Tyler Ennis went for 53 in a 116-65 win. I was reminded of a night that I watched Syracuse’s Brandon Triche go for 21 as a Jamesville-Dewitt Red Ram.
In the first quarter.
I love Ennis’ reaction to being left off the McDonald’s All-American team. If I’m Jim Boeheim, I make sure that Ennis spends a lot of time with passive Rakeem Christmas next year.
Ennis' weaknesses aren't many.
While he is closer in build to Brandon Triche than he is to Michael Carter-Williams, he is slight and could use a little more strength. That should come with the better training resources and staff he will find at Syracuse.
He isn't a great scorer and could improve his outside shot a bit.
Oh, and if he could work on those four inches we lose at the top of the zone, that would be great.
Again, there will be no audition here. Tyler Ennis will be the Syracuse starting point guard for 2013-14.
He will be expected to lead this team and run the offense. After the half-court problems this year's team experienced, Ennis will have to do a good job of making sure the ball moves and the Orange get good shots next year.
He will be expected to knock down a jumper from time to time. Next year's team will rely heavily on the front line for points. Ennis has to make enough outside shots to keep the defense from packing into the lane.
It's a testament to today's college basketball game that a freshman can even be considered as a team leader, but I see that next year. The veterans on next year's team—C.J. Fair, Baye Moussa Keita, Rakeem Christmas—aren't very vocal leaders.
Ennis will have a forum to lead this team. He is a fiery player and would be well served sidling up to Christmas at the first practice and begin to transfer some fire and passion to big Rak. Combine those traits with Christmas' physical abilities and we could see a different player.
The Tyler Ennis era begins. It'll be a good one.
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