SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- Syracuse point guard Tyler Ennis' ascension from arguably the best freshman floor general to one of the best freshmen period has been both by design and by accident.
He'd attend practices while his brother, Dylan, who is a redshirt sophomore at Villanova, played and his dad coached. Dylan Ennis is nearly three years older, which meant Tyler Ennis was more or less the team mascot.
Growing up in Brampton, Ontario, located right outside of Toronto, Tyler Ennis was focused on hoops at an early age. Initially, Ennis tagged along out of convenience to be around his dad, his brother and basketball. Ennis had his own uniform and he'd participate in warmups with the team, too.
Tony McIntyre, his father who also coached the team, said during one game they were up 30 points when an official half-jokingly made a suggestion, "Why don't you put the young guy in?"
"It started as an accident, then it became a convenience thing," McIntyre said. "… Then the next season it was like, he can play here."
He can play here.
That phrase has been uttered a lot throughout the career of Tyler Ennis: during all the times he played up in competition in AAU; to the time he became one of a few Canadians playing high school basketball in the States; to now becoming one of the best freshman point guards in Syracuse history.
Ennis has been so steady so far, scouts on the highest level have noted, he'll have a future in the league too. Possibly as soon as he wants one, but Ennis isn't obsessed with talking about making it in the NBA.
He avoids social media, so his focus won't be on the latest scuttlebutt of his draft projections.
"We're going to continue to try to win games as a team, the further we go as a team the more personal accolades we will get," Ennis said. "I don't think I would have gotten the amount of attention I have got if we had five or six losses."
Tasked with replacing Michael Carter-Williams for the Orange, Ennis has exceeded expectations -- maybe not of his own, but those of outsiders. Ennis has averaged 11.6 points and 5.6 assists in helping the Orange climb to No. 2 in the polls and maintain a 17-0 record.
Remarkably, Ennis didn't have a major transition period to running a college team, nor has he hit the proverbial freshman wall. His four turnovers against North Carolina represents the only time he's had more than two turnovers in a game.
"He had more turnovers in the first half than he's ever had," Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said. "But he figured it out."
He figured it out.
That phrase is why Ennis has developed in the way that he has going back to two-on-two games with his brothers. They'd wheel their goal to the edge of the curb and play basketball on the street, stopping only when cars came by.
Brandon Ennis, who played collegiately for the District of Columbia, is five years older than Tyler. But when he'd invite his best friend over, they needed a fourth player. Tyler Ennis was tall enough to match up with his brother Dylan, but wasn't quick or strong enough to get his shot off.
"Dylan would just pretty much beat him up most of the time," said Brandon, who added that games would sometimes end with Tyler kicking the ball down the street. "Tyler would get frustrated and he used to cry, but later on he started to fight back and gave Dylan a run for his money."