Syracuse point guard Tyler Ennis is only nine games into his freshman season and he’s already being talked about as one of the best freshmen in the nation.
As the helmsman of the No. 2 Orange, Ennis is a major part of his team’s success. He’s played with a veteran’s poise and seems to play with the eerie calm of a Martin Brodeur.
But while fellow Canadian Brodeur has 21-plus years as a professional to be judged, Ennis has just a handful of minutes. What type of player can we ascertain as to what Ennis will be? So far the signs point to pretty fantastic.
With averages of 11.3 points per game and 4.9 assists per game, Ennis has taken on the role of point guard perfectly. He looks to pass first and takes enough shots to keep defenses honest.
His real beauty, however, is his 2.67 steals per game, which place him at No. 16 nationally. His predecessor, Michael Carter-Williams, was No. 6 in the nation last season with 2.74 steals per game, which is a minuscule difference.
Coming into the season, it was expected Ennis would experience some growing pains in learning the Syracuse 2-3 zone. Carter-Williams and Brandon Triche were a powerful tandem last season, but Ennis and his backcourt mate Trevor Cooney have Orange fans looking forward, rather than backward.
If being one of the nation’s leaders in steals is the icing, his handling of his point guard duties is the cake.
Ennis has dished out 44 assists and only turned the ball over nine times. At a near 5-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio, he has already earned the trust of his teammates and coaches.
He’s also exceeded their expectations.
Even with all the positives, Ennis has his flaws. His speed is average, he seems to be a streak shooter and he still needs to grow into his body, which at 6’2” and 180 pounds isn’t quite diminutive, but there is room for growth.
Ennis’ positives certainly outweigh his negatives, but what makes him worth the price of admission is his realization of his limitations from game to game.
Starting with the opening game of the season against Cornell, Ennis showed off his potential while grinding through a poor shooting night.
In that game back on Nov. 8, Ennis managed a grand total of one point scored. He missed all six of his shots from the field and had it not been for sinking one of his two free throw attempts, he would have thrown up a goose egg.
Ennis would not be discouraged, however. While his shot wouldn’t fall, possibly due to opening-game jitters, he contributed in every other way he could. He handed out seven assists, stole two balls, blocked one shot and came down with eight rebounds.
That’s eight rebounds for a 6’2” point guard.
Against Minnesota on Nov. 25 in the Maui Invitational, Ennis was having another bad shooting night, going 1-of-9 from the field. Undeterred, he made his way to the foul line for 11 shots and sunk 10 of them to contribute 12 points for the game. He also had five assists, five steals and grabbed four rebounds.
As far as a letter grade is concerned, Ennis has to get an A.
He came in already touted as one of the best point guards in the nation. He’s lived up to that hype and exceeded expectations in the other areas of his game, namely defensively.
He is active in every aspect of the game and his only flaw in terms of his on-court play seems to be that he gets cold from the field on occasion. For extra credit, he could work on is shot and hit the weights a bit, which would bring that grade up to an A+.
Just nine games in, Syracuse fans are elated at the performance of their team and any criticisms up to this point are minor, which is exactly how they feel about Ennis.