Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
ROSELLE, N.J. — Tyler Ennis returned from his unofficial visit to Syracuse to help key yet another St. Benedict’s Prep blowout.
One day after watching the No. 2 Orange handle UConn at the Carrier Dome, the junior point guard scored 16 points and dished nine assists as the Gray Bees crushed in-state rival St. Patrick, 81-53, in the PrimeTime Shootout at Roselle Catholic High School.
St. Benedict’s (26-1), No. 12 in the Five Star Power Rankings and No. 6 in USA Today, is just a one-point loss to St. Anthony away from being undefeated and in the conversation for a mythical national championship.
“Anytime it’s St. Pat’s, St. Anthony and St. Benedict’s, it’s a great rivalry,” Gray Bees coach Mark Taylor said. “All the players know each other. Our guys wanted to come out today and send a message, which I think they did a great job.”
Among the coaches in the building to watch Ennis and freshman sensation Isaiah Briscoe (17 points) were Jamie Dixon of Pittsburgh, Jay Wright of Villanova, Mike Rice of Rutgers, Phil Martelli of St. Joe’s, Book Richardson of Arizona and Mike Huger of Miami.
Miami-bound guard Melvin Johnson put on a show in front of his future coach by going for a game-high 26 points, including six 3-pointers.
St. Benedict’s put the game away by outscoring St. Pat’s, 24-6, in the third period to turn a 37-28 ballgame into a 61-34 rout.
When the two teams met in January 2011 at Kean University, the 6-foot-2 Ennis, playing in just his second game for St. Ben’s, tallied 13 points, 4 assists and 6 turnovers in a 73-65 loss to the Celtics. St. Pat’s was then No. 1 in the nation and featured current Kentucky freshman Michael Kidd-Gilchrist.
Now it is Ennis and Briscoe who are the big stars coaches flock to see.
Ennis visited Syracuse along with 6-10 shot-blocker Nerlens Noel, 2013 power forward Goodluck Okonoboh and 6-9 Syracuse signee DaJuan Coleman.
“It was great,” Ennis said. “We had 32,000 fans at the game so it was a great experience. The fans get crazy over there. It’s a good location, so it’s a good school.”
Ennis got a chance to hang out with Noel a little but said he has “no clue” where the big man will go. Noel is also considering Kentucky, Providence, North Carolina, Georegtown, Duke and UConn.
“I enjoyed my visit to Syracuse. Fans were great, showed alot of lov,” Noel Tweeted.
Of course, like any guard, Ennis would like to play with Noel.
“Yeah, definitely,” Ennis said. “He’s definitely one of the players you’d like to play with. Protects the rim, finds open players in the middle of that zone, but you never know if he’s going to be there in two years anyway.”
Regardless of where Noel is in the fall of 2013 (likely the NBA), Scoop Jardine and Brandon Triche will be gone from Syracuse and Dion Waiters likely will be departed.
“So if I do decide to go there, they’d have Michael-Carter Williams and Trevor Cooney there, so it’s not filled up at the guard spot,” Ennis said.
Carter-Williams, of course, is close with Noel and has expressed a desire in Noel joining him at Syracuse.
Ennis missed St. Benedict’s game Saturday against Lakewood for the Syracuse trip.
The Gray Bees trailed by one at the break in that game before breaking it open in the second half, but Taylor said he had no regrets about letting Ennis go on the trip.
“Everybody gets so caught up in these things, it’s about the kids,” Taylor said. “It’s about the kids going to the best college they can go to for free. That’s why I’m here to coach.
“When Tyler has to go visit, he asked permission, I gave him permission so that’s why he wasn’t penalized.”
Ennis’s father, Tony McIntyre, is also in the process of setting up visits to Arizona and Louisville, but no dates are set.
“I know my father is talking with Arizona about a visit, talking to Louisville about a visit, but all the other ones I’m not really sure about right now,” Ennis said.
As for Arizona, Ennis said: “They have a good history with guards. They have a lot of guards that went pro. They have a good 2012 class, so that would be a good team to come into, you know a lot of talent there.
“And right now they only have one point guard next year, Josiah Turner, and they’re not going to have any more point guards there, so they’re a good fit for me.”
Louisville is also in the mix.
“[Peyton] Siva is a junior now, so by the time I get there he’ll be gone,” Ennis said. “They have a lot of combos but they don’t really have a pure point so that’s what they’re interested in me about.”
In the meantime, Ennis and the Gray Bees want to continue piling up the victories in the hopes of challenging for a national title.
“We knew it was a rivalry game coming in so we had to take care of business,” Ennis said of St. Pat’s. “They beat us last year, we beat them the year before.
“So we had to keep beating them and show everyone we’re one of the best teams.”
Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.