Rich Barnes/Getty Images Sport
A pass-first point guard, Ennis looks to lead
By Adam Fluck | 06.09.2014
As a freshman point guard, Tyler Ennis led Syracuse to a 25-0 start last season.
And though Ennis didn’t close out his collegiate career as he would have liked—the Orangemen lost six of their last nine games—the 6-3, 182-pound Canadian native believes it is his time to move on to the NBA.
“I think I’m ready for the next level,” said Ennis, 19, at last month’s NBA Draft Combine in Chicago. “I wouldn’t have made the jump if I didn’t think I was ready. Along with us playing so well at Syracuse, I think I opened a lot of eyes. I just want to get to the next level, develop, and play as well as possible.”
Ennis averaged 12.9 points, 5.5 assists and 3.4 rebounds in 34 collegiate contests. He was named to the USA Today All-America Second Team and one of 10 semifinalists for the Naismith Trophy for Men’s College Player of the Year.
Projected to be a mid-first round pick, Ennis could be available when the Bulls make their selections. He feels he could fit right in should Chicago decide to add to its point guard depth.
“That’s a team that has so much chemistry,” said Ennis of the Bulls. “They have a bunch of guys who have been through it all and as a young point guard it would be good to go there. I’d be able to learn from Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah and those types of guys. But also to get a chance to play against Derrick Rose every day in practice, I don’t think you can get much better than that.”
As Ennis, who describes himself as a “pass-first point guard,” transitions to the professional ranks and visits with teams leading up to the draft, he acknowledges that questions about his defensive abilities are common. Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim employs a zone defense, thus players like Ennis don’t play a lot of 1-on-1 defense, which is common in the NBA.
“A few of them kind of see that I can defend and through workouts I think I’ll be able to prove that I can defend point guards,” said Ennis, citing the success enjoyed by 2013-14 NBA Rookie of the Year Michael Carter-Williams, a former standout for the Orangemen. “Syracuse kind of has a bad reputation in the defensive area so Mike going in and doing what he was asked to do helped turn that around. I’m hoping I’m the next in line to do that as well.”
A native of Brampton, Ontario, Ennis is one of a few young Canadian players who have made or are making their way to the NBA. It’s a group that includes fellow draft prospect Andrew Wiggins, last year’s first overall selection Anthony Bennett, and 2011 lottery pick Tristan Thompson.
Ennis said he’s talked with Thompson about the process he is currently enduring.
“He’s helped me out with workouts and told me a hard worker outplays everybody,” said Ennis of Thompson. “When he was going through it, he just focused on playing hard and that’s what people love to see. He said there are going to be some workouts where I won’t get as many shots as others and there will be times when you’re tired. But teams can tell when you’re working hard. As a point guard, I’ve got to be a leader as well.”
Every great leader needs confidence. Ennis says he’s got plenty of it, stemming from having basketball as a focal point of his life since he was young.
“I’ve been playing since I was a little kid, playing with older guys as well,” said Ennis. “There’s not one thing I can pinpoint; I just have confidence in myself. I’ve been in a lot of situations on the basketball floor and I’ve been able to handle it and get through it.
“It’s a whole different world from college to the NBA,” Ennis continued. “You’ve just got to go through the transition and work as hard as you can.”
Bulls.com was in attendance at the NBA Draft Combine May 15-16 in Chicago and this is the fourth in a series of looks at some of the projected first round picks. The Bulls currently own three selections in this summer’s June 26 draft—16th, 19th and 49th.