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Friday / January 21.
  • Freshmen Focus: Ennis’ High School Coach Says He’s Ready for NBA Now

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    By BRIAN FITZSIMMONS

    Special to ZAGSBLOG

    UNION, N.J. – St. Benedict’s Prep coach Mark Taylor always knew Tyler Ennis would thrive at Syracuse.

    But after seeing his former point guard take the country by storm as a freshman, Taylor now wonders how long Ennis will stay with the second-ranked Orange before making a leap to the NBA.

    “We always talked about it, and we always said two years. We thought he’d stay for two, but it’s too big a contract; he’s a lottery pick,” he told SNY.tv. “I would tell him to go, but that’s his choice.”

    Even though the upcoming draft could include Andrew Wiggins, Julius Randle, Jabari Parker, Marcus Smart, Dante Exum, Joel Embiid and Aaron Gordon, among many other top-flight prospects, Taylor believes Ennis can contribute to an NBA team right away.

    “I don’t think [the draft’s potential depth] matters,” said Taylor, who also mentioned Ennis could be better than former Syracuse star and Philadelphia 76ers rookie Michael Carter-Williams. “He’s the best guard in the country. Somebody’s going to take him, I would think, in the top 10-12 picks.”

    DraftExpress.com predicts Ennis will be selected No. 21 overall in 2015, while NBADraft.net has him slated No. 15 in June’s draft.

    Stationed approximately 250 miles away from Syracuse, Taylor – who previously coachedJason Williams and Andrew Bynum at St. Joseph in Metuchen, N.J. — has kept a close eye on Ennis and isn’t surprised as his overwhelming success.

    “No, not at all,” Taylor said. “We said last year that he was the best guard in the country and everywhere we went, he proved it. We played everybody last year. There wasn’t a guard better when we were at the (Jordan Brand Classic). He was best guard in that game. He wasn’t getting the respect he was due, but everybody’s seeing it now.”

    While Ennis is pacing the Orange, national powerhouse St. Benedict’s has reloaded after losing several key players to graduation and transfers. The Gray Bees improved to 9-2 overall by cruising past Trenton Catholic and Syracuse commit Malachi Richardson, 69-53, in the SFIC Festival at Kean University on Sunday.

    “The biggest thing we’re missing is his ability to facilitate the game and control tempo; not only that, but control the players on his team to make sure everyone’s involved,” said Taylor, when asked what his team misses most about the Toronto native. “Another thing is, you can’t speed him up. He plays at his pace all the time and you cannot get him off that. That’s something you miss on any level.”

    In his senior season at St. Benedict’s, Ennis averaged a shade over 20 points, six assists and five rebounds for the Gray Bees, who finished No. 2 in the final USA Today poll after falling in the national championship game to Montverde Academy (Fla.).

    As a junior, he averaged 15.2 points, 7.1 assists, 4.6 rebounds and 2.5 steals en route to winning the New Jersey Gatorade Player of the Year award in 2011-12.

    Ennis has since made a smooth transition to the college game, and now is the catalyst for what could be a historical year.

    Duke and North Carolina appear to be the only teams standing in the way of Syracuse becoming just the second team ever to win a power conference during its first year in the league.

    Jim Boeheim’s club is currently 14-0 after edging Miami, 49-44, on Saturday and ranked No. 2 behind Arizona as it enters its first year in the ACC.

    As Mike Waters pointed out in this excellent piece, Arkansas won the Southeastern Conference regular season title in the 1991-2 season after moving over from the now-defunct Southwest Athletic Conference.

    “If you look at those teams, how many had been league champions in their old league in the past 10 years?” ESPN’s Jay Bilas told Waters. “Syracuse is a power. You don’t often see the power of a league switch leagues. It doesn’t happen that often. Usually, teams in a power position in a league remain in that league.”

    Syracuse joins Pittsburgh and Notre Dame in the new-look ACC, but among those schools Syracuse — led by Ennis — is the only one in danger of winning the ACC.

    ***

    With that in mind, here’s a brief breakdown of the five top freshmen and what they’ve been doing and what’s ahead. In future weeks, we will feature other top freshmen, including Kansas’ Wayne Selden, Kentucky’s James Young, Indiana’s Noah Vonleh, LSU’s Jordan Mickey and others:***

    **ANDREW WIGGINS, 6-8 SF, Kansas

    Stats: 15.8 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 1.4 apg

    Next 3 games: Wednesday at Oklahoma, Saturday vs. Kansas State, Jan. 13 at Iowa State

    Mock Drafts: Draft Express No. 1, The Big Lead No. 1.

    What to read: NBA still high on Wiggins despite lackluster play.

    A tale of two Canadians: Ennis succeeding at Syracuse, Wiggins adjusting at Kansas

     

    **JULIUS RANDLE, 6-9 PF, Kentucky

    Stats: 18.1 ppg, 10.6 rpg, 1.7 apg

    Next 3 games: Wednesday vs. Mississippi State, Jan. 11 at Vanderbilt, Jan. 14 at Arkansas

    Mock Drafts: Draft Express No. 2, The Big Lead No. 2.

    What to read: Magic, Jalen Say Randle Should be No. 1 Pick.

     

    **JABARI PARKER, 6-8 SF, Duke

    Stats: 20.4 ppg, 7.7 rpg, 1.7 apg

    Next 3 games: Tuesday vs. Georgia Tech, Saturday at Clemson, Monday vs. Virginia

    Mock Drafts: Draft Express No. 3, The Big Lead No. 3.

    What to read: NBA Assistant: Jabari Parker Would Help Multiple Playoff Teams This Year.

    Duke’s Parker Can Envision Playing with Okafor Next Year

     

    **AARON GORDON, 6-9 PF, Arizona

    Stats: 12.4 ppg, 7.6 rpg, 1.4 apg

    Next 3 games: Thursday at UCLA, Sunday at USC, Jan. 16 vs. Arizona State

    Mock Drafts: Draft Express No. 6, The Big Lead No. 7.

    What to read: Guard Play has Arizona Poised for Big March.

    Coach K: ESPN is Overhyping the Diaper Dandies

     

    **JOEL EMBIID 7-0 C, Kansas

    Stats: 10.9 ppg, 7.3 rpg, 1.3 apg

    Next 3 games: Wednesday at Oklahoma, Saturday vs. Kansas State, Jan. 13 at Iowa State

    Mock Drafts: Draft Express No. 4, The Big Lead No. 4.

    What to read: Tyshawn Taylor says Kansas had three one-and-dones

     Meet Kansas’ Joel Embiid

     

    **For more stories on Andrew Wiggins, click here.

    Follow Brian Fitzsimmons on Twitter here



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    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.