Syracuse Tyler Ennis

Tyler Ennis downplays Jim Boeheim’s critical remarks on NBA Draft decision

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CHICAGO — Much has been made of Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim being critical of his own players after they make a decision to enter the NBA Draft early.

After a tremendous freshman season as the Orange’s starting point guard, Tyler Ennis became the latest former Syracuse player to leave for the NBA Draft after appearing in the lottery of multiple mock drafts.

Despite those promising projections for Ennis, Boeheim went on SportsCenter in April and made some critical remarks about his starting point guard and how he wasn’t fully prepared to join the professional ranks.

“I think he is a great college player, but I think physically he could have used another year,” Boeheim said on SportsCenter. “I think when you get to the NBA, you need to be as physically ready as you can be, so I think Tyler could have benefited from another year, but certainly he is a tremendous player and a very smart point guard.

“I think point guard is probably the hardest position to break into in the NBA … but he has the skill set to be able to do that … it’s just a question of landing in the right place.”

But during last week’s NBA Draft Combine at Quest Multisports in Chicago, Ennis downplayed his former head coach’s remarks and he told NBCSports.com that he viewed Boeheim’s take in a different way.

“That situation, I think the media and the outside people that really don’t know the situation kind of got a different angle than (the players) did,” Ennis told NBCSports.com. “Even through my decision to enter the draft, I sat down with coach a few times and talked to him. And even to this day we’re able to speak and be on the same page. We’re both loyal people, we have a good relationship and he just wants what is best for me.”

It’s not surprising to see Ennis downplay Boeheim’s remarks because he’s probably used to his former coach bringing a certain dose of truth into the equation. Ennis has probably heard plenty of critical remarks from Boeheim in practice, during games and in film sessions so this is likely nothing new for him.

Those kinds of remarks from Boeheim rub certain people the wrong way because it looks like he’s putting the Syracuse program’s interests above the interests of his individual players, but I’m sure his players don’t think much of it after playing for him and hearing it straight from him all season.

As for the NBA Draft process, Ennis is viewing the proceedings much like he did when he entered Syracuse last fall — as an underdog.

“It’s been great and it’s been a journey but I’ve enjoyed every minute of it. As an underdog, I had a lot to work for and I had to impress a lot of people and that’s what I’ve had to do my whole career,” Ennis said. “That’s what kept me motivated (entering college) and going through this (NBA Draft) process, I’m going through the same thing. I’m just finding ways to keep myself motivated and I know going to the next level won’t be easy. So even after this process of being drafted, I have a lot of work ahead of me.”

Much has been made about Ennis playing in Syracuse’s 2-3 zone throughout the season, as many basketball analysts question the point guard’s ability to defend in the more man-to-man focused NBA. Ennis believes he’ll be fine on the defensive end at the next level.

“I think my defense is going to surprise a lot of people,” Ennis said. “At Syracuse people question the defensive end (because of the 2-3 zone). I think through workouts and when teams watch me defend I think I’ll surprise a lot of people on the defensive end.”

Ennis averaged 12.9 points, 5.5 assists, 3.4 rebounds and 2.1 steals per game during his freshman season at Syracuse.

DePaul adds 2018 commit

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Wisconsin guard John Diener has committed to DePaul, his grassroots program announced Wednesday night.

The 6-foot-4 Class of 2018 guard ends his recruitment rather early with offers also from instate schools Green Bay and Milwaukee. He’s known as a shooter and becomes the first commit for Dave Leitao in the 2018 class.

Diener, who plays with the Wisconsin Playground Warriors in the spring and summer, commits to the Blue Demons with them coming off a disappointing campaign, Leitao’s first in Chicago. DePaul went 9-22 overall and 3-15 in the Big East, finishing only ahead of St. John’s.

DePaul has been recruiting the Midwest hard with incoming 2016 recruits from La Lumiere School in Indiana, Sagninow, Mich. and locally in Chicago.

Four-star guard Fisher commits to TCU

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Jamie Dixon’s presence is already being felt in the Big 12 and on the recruiting trail.

TCU received its first commitment of the Dixon era when four-star 2016 point guard Jaylen Fisher announced his decision to join the Horned Frogs on Wednesday.

“Due to how comfortable my family and I are with the coaching staff,” Fisher posted from his Twitter account, “and the emphasis the university has put on making basketball a priority, I’m committing to be a student-athlete at TCU.”

Getting a consensus top-75 prospect, who was once committed to UNLV, is a heck of a coup for being just a couple months on the job. It instantly shows the Frogs are going to be a player for some of the country’s top players, which is a necessity if you have designs on making a move up the ladder of arguably the country’s best league in the Big 12.

Maybe the most gratifying thing for TCU, though, is the reason Fisher publicly stated for making his decision, the school’s “making basketball a priority.” The hoops program has suffered immensely in the Big 12 (while the football program has flourished), winning a total of eight games in their four seasons (including a winless 2014), but the school sank $72 million into renovating its arena, made an aggressive move in firing Trent Johnson and then went out and got its dream candidate, Dixon, an alum. Fisher’s commitment is the first time those moves have shown that commitment to basketball paying off.

 

Report: Izundu’s San Diego State transfer ban rescinded

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Washington State transfer Valentine Izundu will be visiting San Diego State after all.

Coach Ernie Kent has rescinded his restriction on the 6-foot-10 graduate transfer from visiting the Aztecs, according to a report from the Spokesman-Review, citing an anonymous source. Izundu will also be reportedly visiting Fresno State and UNLV.

Izundu had previously been barred from considering the Aztecs by Kent because of suspcisions of tampering. Izundu vigorously denied that was the case as at the center of the dispute was a trip he made to San Diego for spring break. He publicly said he did not have any contact with the SDSU coaching staff , though he attended an Aztecs NIT game.

Kent, though, appears to have relented, as many coaches who have similarly faces public pressure in such situations before him have. In this era where so much attention is being paid to player rights and welfare, there only seems to be growing public sentiment against programs restricting transfers beyond the absolute bare minimum is rarely going to go over well. It may make things more difficult for coaches and programs, but it’s the deck is largely already stacked in their favor in most every other instance.

Ex-Michigan State player Keith Appling faces weapons charges

Keith Appling
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DEARBORN, Mich. (AP) Authorities say former Michigan State basketball player Keith Appling faces charges including carrying a concealed weapon after he was found in possession of guns and marijuana in suburban Detroit.

The Wayne County prosecutor’s office says 24-year-old Appling was arrested outside a Dearborn club on Sunday night. Club security called police after seeing a man pull a gun from the trunk of a car.

Prosecutors say Appling was in the driver’s seat of the car when police arrived. Officers found a handgun under the driver’s seat, a loaded weapon in the trunk and a small amount of suspected marijuana.

Weapons and marijuana possession charges were announced Wednesday.

The court says he doesn’t have a lawyer on record.

Appling played for the Spartans from 2010-2014 and plays for the NBA’s development league.

UNLV transfer to finish career at Michigan State

UNLV forward Ben Carter, right, celebrates after his team defeated Oregon in an NCAA college basketball game Friday, Dec. 4, 2015, in Las Vegas. UNLV won 80-69. (AP Photo/John Locher)
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Former UNLV center Ben Carter announced on Wednesday that he will be transferring to Michigan State to finish his collegiate career.

Carter, who began his career at Oregon, averaged 8.6 points and 6.0 boards in his one season with UNLV before tearing his ACL in late January. He spent two seasons with the Ducks before transferring to Vegas, which is why he’s eligible immediately for the Spartans.

And that’s the biggest reason that Tom Izzo and company targeted him.

The Spartans lost Deyonta Davis to the NBA Draft after one season, a fact that became an inevitability midway through the year but one that the Spartans didn’t necessarily plan for heading into last season. Carter isn’t going to be an instant impact kind of player, particularly not when he’s coming off of an ACL injury, but he is a big body and a veteran presence on a front line that wasn’t going have much of either.