It’s always tough to replace a star player, particularly one as productive as Michael Carter-Williams was at Syracuse on his way to becoming a lottery pick in the 2013 NBA Draft. It makes it even more difficult when you’re taking over the point guard position and immediately assuming a leadership role, but Tyler Ennis is not your typical college freshman.
A native of Canada who played his high school ball in New Jersey, the 6-foot-2 Ennis has had high expectations from both Syracuse fans and coaches for awhile now. It was pretty well known that Carter-Williams would be leaving school early, and that with no other true point guard on the Syracuse roster, the keys to Jim Boeheim‘s Ferrari would be handed to Ennis from day one. Recently, Boeheim mentioned that he expects Ennis to play more than 35 minutes per game, but thinks he’s more than up to the task, referring to his new point guard as the most college-ready floor general he’s ever brought in.
That’s why Ennis has as good a chance as anyone to lead the ACC in assists this season. Ennis is a pure point guard, possessing superb floor vision, a strong handle and outstanding passing ability. The major knock on Ennis is that he’s not lightning quick, but watching him play the game, you’ll notice he uses his handle and a deceptive first step to get into the lane to either score with a scoop shot or find an open teammate for an easy bucket. Plus, he almost always makes smart passes without trying to be too flashy.
Last season’s ACC assist leader Lorenzo Brown of North Carolina State went pro, leaving Duke‘s Quinn Cook and Notre Dame‘s Eric Atkins and Jerian Grant as the only returning players who dished out better than five assists per game. It will obviously be a tall order for Ennis to top that trio, but the difference is that unlike Cook, Atkins and Grant, Ennis won’t have anyone else racking up the assists on this Syracuse team. And after all, the preseason is the best possible time to make such bold predictions.
Plus, it’s his show, and the bulk of the assists will be coming from Ennis. Last year in a similar situation, Carter-Williams finished among the national leaders in assists and, while not as flashy as MCW, Ennis has a similar knack for finding the open man, will make fewer mistakes with the ball and complete just as many slick passes.
With his ability to create and his unselfish style, it is well within reason to expect Tyler Ennis to finish among the ACC leaders in assists this season.