Syracuse fans and head coach Jim Boeheim alike have been waiting for the moment when much-ballyhooed freshman Tyler Ennis would emerge as the future star that most peg him as, and they got their wish last night as the smooth point guard torched California for 28 points in the semifinals of the Maui Invitational.
The 6-foot-2 Canadian import has struggled to find his shot all season, but it finally started to fall last night as he hit 9-of-12 overall and 2-of-3 from long range. So far this season, his scoring touch had really been the only thing missing from his game, as he’s been strong with the ball, easily handling full-court pressure and distributing well to teammates for most of the year.
Ennis has a style similar to Deron Williams in that he’s deceptively quick in getting to the basket. He’s got good size and he can knock down the open jumper, but even though he’s been getting to the rim almost at will before last night, he’s struggled to put the ball in the hole.
Heading into the game against Cal, he was shooting under 29 percent from the field on the year. However, despite a poor shooting game in the tournament opener against Minnesota, he was outstanding in every other facet. With the breakout in the game against Cal, that’s two very good performances in a row for him to build on.
One of the keys to his success against the Golden Bears was the absence of shot blocker Richard Solomon, who missed the game with an eye injury. Without him to clog up the middle and deter drives to the hoop, it was almost too easy for Ennis to slice through the defense and get the ball up on the glass and in. Of course, it’s also a matter of him getting on lady luck’s good side as he did the same against Minnesota, only to see the ball roll around the iron and fall off.
Once he gets more consistency with his touch around the basket, he can become a force at the point guard position for Syracuse. He’s still learning how to play defense at the collegiate level and has had some bad lapses at the top of the 2-3 zone, but if last night’s 28-point outburst wasn’t an aberration, then he could be turning a corner and becoming the player Boeheim hyped him up as throughout the preseason.