Tyler Ennis joins frosh in-crowd

Tyler, who scored 20 points when the Orange beat Villanova and brother Dylan, attributed his toughness to playing in those street games. It also was where he first learned that he had to find ways to score.

That lesson was punctuated when he played up in age on Dylan's AAU teams, and Ennis said it has helped him on the collegiate level.

"I've gotten a lot more athletic; I've gotten a lot faster," Ennis said. "But playing against guys who are some of the best athletes in the world, you've got to find other ways than just jumping over guys and being fast. You've got to kind of combine athleticism and a mental aspect to be effective."

Ennis looks like a player who has it all figured out. He has mastered the art of knowing how to change speeds during the course of a dribble. It has allowed him to get to the rim against just about everybody. But he's just as content distributing to others.

During three games of the Maui Invitational, Ennis had a combined 18 assists and only two turnovers as the Orange captured the tournament title.

"I've started four freshmen point guards since I've been the head coach at Syracuse," Boeheim said. "I'm as comfortable with [Ennis] as any of the point guards I've started. I've had some pretty good ones."

He's got another one.

They all recognize it, too. From Boeheim to assistant coach Gerry McNamara, who was a freshman point guard on the 2003 national championship team, to Ennis' teammates.

Senior forward C.J. Fair believes the Orange can make another Final Four run, and Ennis' ability to run the team is a major reason why.

"You don't really have to worry about Tyler; I don't think coach does, either," Fair said. "If he does make a mistake, he knows why there was a mistake and he'll learn from it."

He'll learn from it.

Like the two experiences that helped shape him the most for his current role with the Orange. Ennis left Brampton to play high school basketball in the United States for better competition and more exposure.

His first season, with St. Benedict's Prep in New Jersey as a sophomore, he played for former Duke standout Roshown McLeod and joined a team with a bunch of juniors and seniors who were already committed to schools.

Most of them -- having already secured scholarships -- weren't the most driven when it came to playing. Ennis didn't have any guarantees. He knew if he was to get any recognition, he had to make his team better.

"We ended up being one game over .500," Ennis said. "That helped me so much with my leadership and having to get guys who weren't motivated and motivate them."

Playing on Canada's under-19 national team last summer also helped Ennis learn about the preparation he'd need.

"We went through scouts [scouting reports] -- that was the first time I did it," Ennis said. "We were playing guys like Marcus Smart and Aaron Gordon, those guys every game and some other pros, like on Croatia and other teams. I was able to go up against the best in the world in my age group."

He's one of the best.

Kansas' Andrew Wiggins, a fellow Canadian and former AAU teammate of Ennis, Duke's Jabari Parker, Kentucky's Julius Randle and Arizona's Gordon have hogged the spotlight when it comes to standout freshmen this season. Ennis' name deserves to be in that conversation.

There's not much flash about him. In the open court, Ennis isn't going to be that guy who rises up for a posterizing dunk like the other four have done this season. But Ennis is the guy who will get them ball at just the right time in just the right spot in order to dunk.

"He's a special player," Fair said. "He's been exceeding a lot of expectations. He's amazing to watch because he's so crafty with the ball."

He's a special player. He's amazing to watch. He's Tyler Ennis.

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