Former Syracuse point guard Tyler Ennis knows there are plenty of questions about his ability to defend as he prepares for next month’s NBA Draft.
But the Canadian — who measured at 6-foot-2 1/2 with shoes and has a 6-7 1/4 wingspan — says people are sleeping on his defense.
“On the defensive end, I think I’m a lot better than people expect,” the former St. Benedict’s Prep star told ESPN’s Andy Katz at the NBA Draft Combine in Chicago, which is televised on ESPNU. “Coming from Syracuse there are a lot of questions on the defensive end, but I think through workouts and through the draft process I’ll be able to show that I have defense. I just try to improve on my speed and improve on my strength for the next level and just get ready to go up against the best PGs in the world.”
ESPN then proceeded to show several highlights intended to illustrate Ennis’ defensive weaknesses in rotation and in closing out on guards on the perimeter.
A month ago, Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim famously said Ennis could’ve used another year in college.
“I think he’s a great college player,” Boeheim said. “I think physically he probably could’ve used another year. A little bit different than Dion Waiters who I had a couple of years ago who left. I think Dion was physically better, more physically ready.
“I think when you go to the NBA you need to be as physically ready as you can be. So I think Tyler could’ve benefitted from another year, but certainly he’s a tremendous player and a very, very smart point guard. And I think the one thing I think is point guard is probably the hardest position to break into in the NBA, it’s a very difficult position, but he’s got the skillset to do that. It’s just a question of him landing in the right place.”
ESPN analyst Fran Fraschilla said Ennis made a “brilliant” decision to come out after his freshman season “because I think his stock will never be higher.”
DraftExpress.com has Ennis going No. 12 overall to the Orlando Magic via the Knicks, who desperately could use an injection of youth at the point guard spot.
Ennis — who averaged 12.9 points, 5.5 assists and 3.4 rebounds — is projected as the No. 3 point guard behind Dante Exum and Marcus Smart.
Ennis has met with the Charlotte Bobcats, Sacramento Kings, Phoenix Suns, Oklahoma City Thunder and Denver Nuggets, according to Alex Kennedy.
While there may be questions about his defense, Ennis showed he’s more than capable of running a team on the offensive end and scoring the basketball when his team needed.
He also took — and made — several huge shots, including the buzzer-beater against Pitt.
“The main thing is confidence,” Ennis said. “First of all, you gotta want to take the shot. A lot of people can score 30 points and that last shot they don’t want to take it. So growing up I always wanted to take the last shot…Being a point guard I always want the ball in my hands and I want to be able to either win or lose the game for my team and having the last-second shot is a way to do that.”
Ennis is one of three Canadians who are expected to go in the top half of the first round.
Former CIA Bounce teammate Andrew Wiggins of Kansas could go No. 1 overall — a year after fellow Canadian Anthony Bennett went No. 1 — and Michigan shooting guard Nik Stauskas is also projected as a first-rounder.
“Canadian kids are just starting to believe in themselves,” Ennis said. “Growing up there wasn’t many Canadian players in the league and not many playing on the Division 1 level and with such success we’ve had in the past years you can see all the talent and people starting to believe in Canadian players and I think it will only go up from here.”
Ennis said he will cheer for the other Canadians to do well.
“On the point guard side, there’s no other Canadians so I can cheer for all of them,” he said. “I know how hard all of them work, I’ve had a chance to play with most of them and they all deserve it. So as long as we call get drafted and end up in the right situation, I’ll be happy for all of them.”