Tyler Ennis’ play in U19s promising for Syracuse

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While much of the attention from the U19 World Championships over the last two weeks was heaped upon the Americans — Aaron Gordon, Montrezl Harrell, Jahlil Okafor, etc. — perhaps the most important player at the event suited up for our neighbors up north.

Tyler Ennis played his high school ball for St. Benedict’s in New Jersey and will be moving on to play for Jim Boeheim at Syracuse this coming season, but Ennis is one of the best players in a loaded class for Canadian hoopers.

He’s also a point guard, which Syracuse is in dire need of with Michael Carter-Williams turning pro the same year that Brandon Triche graduated. The Orange have a slew of talent once again — CJ Fair, Jerami Grant, Trevor Cooney and yet another loaded recruiting class, to name a few — but Ennis will be the only floor general on the roster.

Coming in with the reputation of being more of a facilitator than scorer — he’s described by ESPN as being “a great play maker that can also run the team” — how did Ennis do in Russia? Mike DeCourcy of the Sporting News breaks it down:

In a quarterfinal matchup against the U.S., Ennis was overwhelmed by the constant pressure from a series of rotating American defenders. He was not alone; teammate Xavier Rathan-Mayes, bound for Florida State, got the same treatment. Ennis shot 5-of-12 from the field and scored only 11 points.

Ennis led the tournament in scoring, though, in part because of a 42-point explosion against China in a classification game. He shot 15-of-32 from the field in that one, getting to the lane at will. That is his game. He is not an exceptional 3-point shooter yet, and the development of that part of his game will determine how greatly he succeeds.

Struggling against the Americans is a bit concerning, but his scoring is a good sign.

Syracuse is going to need Ennis to be aggressive offensively. While there are pieces around him, there aren’t many guys that are going to be able to consistently create their own shot. And outside of CJ Fair, their leading returning scorer is Rakeem Christmas, who averaged all of 5.1 points.

The Orange will need Ennis to be a scoring threat, and it looks like he’s capable of doing that when needed.

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

POSTERIZED: Wyoming’s Josh Adams takes flight

Josh Adams
Associated Press
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Not only is Wyoming senior guard Josh Adams the lone returning starter from a team that won the Mountain West tournament last season, but he’s also one of college basketball’s best dunkers. And if anyone may have forgotten about his jumping ability, Adams put it on display Saturday during the Cowboys’ win over Montana State.

After splitting two Montana State players at the top of the key Adams attacked the basket, dunking with two hands over a late-arriving help-side defender. If you’re going to rotate over, have to do it quicker than that.

Video credit: Wyoming Athletics

Defensive progress will determine No. 4 Iowa State’s ceiling

Monte Morris
Associated Press
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Even with the coaching change from Fred Hoiberg to Steve Prohm, No. 4 Iowa State remains one of the nation’s best offensive teams. Given their skills on that end of the floor many teams find it tough to go score for score with the Cyclones, and that’s what happened to Illinois in Iowa State’s 84-73 win in the Emerald Coast Classic title game.

Georges Niang scored 23 points and grabbed eight rebounds, with Monté Morris adding 20, nine rebounds and six assists and Abdel Nader 18 points as the Cyclones moved to 5-0 on the season. The three-pointers weren’t falling in the second half, as Iowa State shot 0-f0r-12, but they shot 19-for-24 inside of the arc to pull away from a team that lost big man Mike Thorne Jr. late in the first half to a left knee injury.

Illinois’ loss of size in the paint opened things up offensively for Iowa State, and the Cyclones took advantage. But where this group grabbed control of the game was on the defensive end of the floor, and that will be the key for a team with Big 12 and national title aspirations.

Nader took on the responsibility of defending Illinois’ Malcolm Hill (20 points) in the second half and did a solid job of keeping the junior wing in check, with that serving as the spark to a 12-2 run that put the game away. There’s no denying that the Cyclones can put points on the board; most of the talent from last season is back and the productivity on that end of the floor hasn’t changed as a result. Niang’s one of the nation’s best forwards, and both Morris (who now ranks among the country’s best point guards) and Nader have taken significant strides in their respective games.

Iowa State will add Deonte Burton in December, giving them another option to call upon. Front court depth is a bit of a concern, as Iowa State can ill afford to lose a Niang or Jameel McKay, but there’s enough on the roster to compensate for that and force mismatches in other areas.

But the biggest question for this group is how effective they can become at stringing together stops. Illinois certainly had its moments in both halves Saturday night, but Iowa State also showed during the game’s decisive stretch that they can step up defensively. The key now is to do so consistently, and if that occurs the Cyclones can be a threat both within the Big 12 and nationally.