By JOSH NEWMAN
Special to ZAGSBLOG
NEW YORK — When St. Benedict’s senior point guard and Syracuse recruit Tyler Ennis was left off the roster for the McDonald’s All-American Game, he took his frustrations out by dropping a school-record 53 points on Eastern (N.J.) High School the next day in a 116-65 victory.
Ennis didn’t go that far on Saturday at the Jordan Brand Classic, but he certainly proved his worth on the national stage, scoring 14 points on 6-for-13 shooting to go along with six assists, five rebounds, four steals and just one turnover but his East squad lost to the West, 102-98, in the Jordan Brand Classic at Barclays Center.
“Ever since that game went on or that game was picked, I wanted to come out and prove that I’m one of the top players and that I should’ve been picked for that game,” the 6-foot-2 Toronto, Ontario native said. “It’s kind of like a wake-up call that I have to go out and play and prove to everybody what I can really do.”
“I thought Tyler played really big, I thought he was the MVP,” said fellow countryman and CIA Bounce teammate Andrew Wiggins, the projected No. 1 pick in the 2014 NBA Draft.
Ennis’ play even impressed former Syracuse star Carmelo Anthony, who sat courtside.
“I like the guy that’s going to Syracuse, Ennis,” Anthony told SNY.tv. “He’s good. A lot of the young kids, they wouldn’t be here if they didn’t do what they was doing.”
Told that Ennis projects to be the starting point guard next year for the Orange, Anthony said:
“I hope so. We’re gonna see what [Syracuse coach Jim] Boeheim does. You know how Boeheim do sometimes.”
In a contest that featured far more defensive intensity than your typical All-Star game, Ennis showed basketball IQ and maturity beyond his years, which has been the norm for him. Of course, it also helps to be playing with several guys projected to go inside the top 10 in the 2014 NBA Draft.
Among them is projected No. 2 pick Julius Randle, who was on the receiving end of several Ennis drives through traffic.
“Tyler’s a great point guard, he gets to the spots and he makes the game easier on you because he gets you in your spots,” said Randle, who will have East teammate Andrew Harrison as his point guard at Kentucky beginning next season. “He makes the game easier and it was fun playing with him.”
Ennis, along with Wiggins, are part of the current wave of Canadian talent sweeping through American high schools and in many cases, to high-major colleges. At this point, Ennis has younger Canadian players looking up to him for advice, one of whom being Jamal Murray.
The 6-foot-4 point guard from the Class of 2016 impressed in Saturday’s International Game at the Jordan Brand Classic, finishing with 24 points and seven rebounds to take home team MVP honors for the White team.
While Wiggins is obviously the big name from North of the border, the legacy that Ennis has left for the kids following him cannot be discounted.
“Kids like that, I just wanna show them they can get to this level and with him playing in this game, I think it gives him a lot of confidence, especially with the MVP performance he put on,” Ennis said of Murray, who he said he has worked out with back home. “A lot of people didn’t know his name, some people knew a little bit about him. I told him to be aggressive and I know the talent level he has. He’s going to be a real good player in a couple of years.”