For a time, Tyler Ennis appeared primed to co-opt the year of the freshman, orchestrating a 25-0 start for Syracuse with big shot after big shot that piled up like so many upstate New York snow drifts. He was by many measures one of college basketball's best winners. The high rate of victories stopped and Ennis' stay in March was short, but his superlative season now leaves a question: What's Syracuse going to do without him?
That's the immediate concern as of Thursday, after Ennis met with coaches and formally announced he would enter the NBA draft after just one season with the Orange. He was handed the ball after Michael Carter-Williams' departure and did not merely keep the program humming; in some senses Ennis was the brick dropped on the gas pedal, a precocious talent that Jim Boeheim considered one of the best point guards to come through his program, period.
Ennis averaged 12.9 points, 5.5 assists and 2.1 steals per game. His assist-to-turnover ratio of 3.24-to-1 ranked ninth in the country. His Win Shares total of 5.5 -- a measure of how many victories were attributable to a player's offensive and defensive performance -- matched that of Kentucky's Julius Randle and actually outpaced that of Kansas' Andrew Wiggins (4.9). He was the fulcrum for Syracuse on the offensive and defensive end, and he was not the reason that the Orange faded at the end.
The breadth of his contributions means Ennis leaving early leaves Syracuse in a bit of a lurch. The Orange have an incoming point guard in four-star prospect Kaleb Joseph, ranked 55th in the country by Rivals.com. It's not that Joseph can't contribute immediately. It's just that no one would be expected to contribute as immediately and as profoundly as Ennis did. And a strong floor leader could be invaluable: C.J. Fair is gone as well, and Jerami Grant will consider his NBA options. Five-star recruit Chris McCullough, a 6-foot-9 forward, will come aboard and DaJuan Coleman should return after an injury-shortened 2013-14 season. But it could be difficult for all parts to coalesce quickly.
Ennis would have been an expert adhering agent, directing the operation and holding it together. Instead he leaves Syracuse, and the Orange will have to see if they can keep their streak of phenomenal point guards going.
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