Men's Basketball

Early decision: Top recruit Ennis fulfills lifelong dream with commitment to Syracuse

Courtesy of St. Benedict's Prep

Tyler Ennis is set to join Jim Boeheim's team in 2013. Ennis is a five-star recruit who will likely play significant minutes for the Orange as a freshman point guard.

Tyler Ennis blurted out his decision on the four-hour car ride home from the Carrier Dome. His first Amateur Athletic Union tournament was over, but the then-fifth-grader wanted Tony McIntyre, his father and coach, to know he was sold on Syracuse.

“At first I thought he was just star-struck from playing his first tournament there,” McIntyre said. “But when he said ‘I’m going to play for SU’ that day, he really, truly meant it.”

His decision became official seven years later. Ennis, a five-star point guard in the class of 2013, never wavered from his fifth-grade declaration and committed to Syracuse on Aug. 16.

With 21 other schools in the mix for Ennis’ services, SU head coach Jim Boeheim and the Orange should be glad the guard stayed true to his dream school after so long. With former guard Dion Waiters in the NBA, Syracuse will feature just three guards on its roster this season.

Brandon Triche, Michael Carter-Williams and Trevor Cooney are the only guards expected to receive significant playing time this season. And Syracuse will lose Triche to graduation before Ennis even makes his collegiate debut, leaving an opening for the Canadian to contribute early.

As it turned out, Syracuse’s need in the backcourt made it an even more attractive landing spot for Ennis.

“Not only was it my top choice,” said Ennis, “but it was the right fit. Coach Boeheim said he’s going to need me to play for him as soon as I get there, and I plan on doing that.”

When he makes that debut, though, Ennis can be much more than an answer to a soft spot on the depth chart, said Evan Daniels, a national recruiting analyst for Scout.com.

Daniels said the 6-foot-2-inch, 180-pound point guard “brings both size and playmaking ability” that the Orange could lack this season. SU has enough scorers, but following the graduation of Scoop Jardine, it doesn’t have a proven point guard required to make deep NCAA tournament runs.

Dave Telep, ESPN’s senior college basketball recruiting analyst, had higher praise for Ennis. To Telep, Ennis benefits from playing with Andrew Wiggins, the top-ranked recruit and star of Toronto’s star-studded AAU team, CIA Bounce.

Through that AAU experience, Ennis learned how to get his post players in position for easy baskets near the rim — a recipe for success against Atlantic Coast Conference opponents such as Duke and North Carolina in the future. That experience also pitted Ennis against the top recruits in the nation, which Telep said was a major factor in Ennis’ development.

“He really doesn’t have a weakness heading into this year,” said Telep. “He’s always been a floor general-type player who can dice up a defense with passing. He needs to be a more vocal leader, but that’s really about it.”

From the very start of his prep career at St. Benedict’s in Newark, N.J., Ennis showed he can lead a team on the court.

When St. Benedict’s head coach Mark Taylor was hired in April of 2011, nearly the entire basketball team transferred elsewhere.

McIntyre, his father, sent Ennis to school to play on the “big stage” of U.S. prep basketball. Ennis didn’t need much time with Taylor to be convinced to stay.

“I told him to come back and meet with me, workout and talk basketball,” said Taylor. “We hit it off from there and we agreed that he’d be the centerpiece of the team going forward.”

Building the team around Ennis translated to success for Taylor. In his first game under Taylor, Ennis seized the spotlight right off the bat with a 14-point, seven-assist game against St. Andrew’s (Rhode Island).

From there, Ennis became the go-to player that made him a coveted recruit. Down by double digits in a game against Satellite Academy (New York) last season, an opposing player taunted him, clapping in his face after scoring.

The gesture, intended to deter Ennis, ended up motivating him. He scored 11 straight points in just over a minute to put his team back on top.

“He would sink a shot, then get a steal,” said Taylor. “Shot, steal. Three-pointer, steal. I’m standing there in awe at this kid. It was incredible to watch, and if I had to put my hat on one moment that made me think he was ready for the college ranks, it’s that one.”

A similar performance against Patterson Public School sealed Taylor’s opinion. Ennis could play at any school he wanted to.

That school just happened to be the same one Ennis said he’d attend as a fifth-grader.

“When I step out there on the Carrier Dome floor for my first game at SU, it’s going to be one of the greatest moments of my life,” said Ennis. “I grew up wanting to be in this position, and when I think about it now — and how official it is — I can’t wait.”

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