The Syracuse men's basketball team will feature several new faces all eager to make an impact in their first season on campus.
Tyler Ennis, B.J. Johnson, Chinonso Obokoh, Tyler Roberson and Ron Patterson all arrived in central New York looking to help Jim Boeheim and company transition to the ACC and make a return trip to the Final Four. However, there's only so many minutes to go around, so some players may see the court more than others. The question, then, is which newcomer will have the biggest role on the team?
To start, Obokoh will redshirt this season, so his presence will only be felt in practice. Roberson and Johnson are both forwards, so there won't be many meaningful minutes to be had with C.J. Fair, Jerami Grant, Rakeem Christmas, Baye Keita and DaJuan Coleman ahead of them. That just leaves Ennis and Patterson.
Ennis is the clear answer here.
After losing Michael Carter-Williams to the NBA lottery and Brandon Triche, the program's leader in games played, to graduation, Syracuse has a clear void in the backcourt. Trevor Cooney is the only returning guard who played major minutes last year, and he is not a point guard. Ennis will therefore step in as the likely starter at the 1.
The 6'2" Brampton, Ontario native started every game for the Orange in the team's four-game tour of Canada in late August. His 10 points a game were good for second on the squad, and he was applauded by his coach and teammates for his performance. Per Donna Ditota of syracuse.com, Grant said that Ennis is "a pass-first point guard, a point guard that controls the tempo. That's really what we need."
Grant couldn't be more right.
Fair is the only player on the roster who has proved he can get his own shot consistently. Since Syracuse will rely on its stifling 2-3 zone, the offense will be at its best when the defense is forcing turnovers and the team can get out and run. It will be Ennis' responsibility to run the break and get guys like Christmas, Coleman and Keita quality looks at the bucket.
According to Scout.com, Ennis' strengths are ball-handling, basketball IQ and court vision. He is described as a "true floor general" and someone who "makes every one of his teammates better." This is exactly what Boeheim will ask his young point guard to do. Ennis doesn't need to drop 15 points a game to help the team win. He just needs to lead the offense and make quality passes to his teammates.
Ennis has proven, however, that he can do his fair share of scoring. In the FIBA U19 World Championship, Ennis led all scorers with 20.8 points per game including a tournament-high 42 in a triple-overtime win over China. Even though Ennis is a pass-first guard, he can pour it in once in a while if his team needs it.
Just ask Eastern, a team Ennis abused at the Scholastic Play by Play Classic in February.
After learning that he had been left out of the McDonald's All-American Game, Ennis took his frustrations out on Eastern to the tune of 52 points, which was the most in the history of the tournament. The fact that he was able to channel that anger and use it to elevate his game is a commendable quality. Syracuse fans will appreciate that competitive fire as they trudge through mountains of snow to the Carrier Dome this winter.
Outside of Ennis, Syracuse will trot out a lot of experienced players. They will help ease the young point guard's transition to the college game, but he will still be a key cog in the Orange machine. His performance, good or bad, will have a tremendous effect on how the team performs in its first year in the ACC.