Who’s the best freshman phenom in the land? Aaron Gordan? Jabari Parker? Andrew Wiggins? You could make a case for any one of them. But if you didn’t have Tyler Ennis’ name in that mix, you had better add it.
Ennis’ 35-foot buzzer-beater lifted the Syracuse Orange to a 58-56 win over the Pittsburgh Panthers, extending the Orange’s best start in school history to 24-0 and preserving a No. 1 ranking. Thanks to the eminent perpetual replay of that shot on ESPN in the coming days, America will know his name.
But as incredible as that games’ finish was, Ennis’ importance to this team is about so much more than just that one play. That shot has finally gained him some national recognition, but he’s been doing it all season.
C.J. Fair is the Orange’s marquee player – and rightfully so. He’s a senior and leads the team with 37.4 MPG, 16.7 PPG and is second on the team with 5.8 RPG. He’s backed up the hype after being voted the ACC’s Preseason Player of the Year. Nevertheless, there’s no way this team starts 24-0 without the cool hand of Ennis running the point.
Ennis is second on the team with 34.5 MPG, fourth with 11.9 PPG and leads Syracuse with 5.6 APG. Compare that to Michael Carter-Williams last year: 35.2 MPG, 11.9 PPG, 7.3 APG. MCW averaged close to two more assists per game, but other than that, Ennis’ play has been almost identical to his predecessor, who was taken 11th overall in last year’s draft. What sets Ennis apart, however, is his consistency and reliability.
MCW could be incredibly good at times, but could also be incredibly bad. Often, his games would be tales of two halves. His passing abilities were unmatched, but he wasn’t the best ball handler, averaging 3.5 TPG. Ennis averages just 1.5 TPG. He’s also shot 42.7 percent from the field and 38.0 percent from beyond the arc, compared to Carter-Williams’ 39.3 percent from the field and 29.2 percent on threes last year.
Furthermore, Ennis only gets better when the game is on the line. In one-possession games in the final five minutes of regulation and overtime, Ennis is 8-of-9 from the field with six assists and zero turnovers. He’s also 14-of-14 from the foul line, which is unheard of for a Syracuse basketball player. It seems growing up in Canada and living in the frozen tundra of Syracuse has turned his heart into a snowball that pumps ice through his veins.
Don’t get me wrong. MCW was an incredible player for Syracuse, but he was very up and down. Ennis is steadier than the snowfall that blankets his school in upstate New York, a school which is currently having its best start ever in men’s basketball due primarily to the play of its point guard.
Fair led the Orange with 14 points in their win over Pitt, but Ennis’ buzzer-beater stole the highlight. If Ennis continues to play this well, he might steal Fair’s ACC Player of the Year Award too.