Ennis proves he can handle the spotlight

Life as a true freshman can be difficult in major college athletics. Taking the reigns of a top-10 team expected to contend for a league title and make a Final Four run makes things even more challenging. But over the last three days in Maui, Tyler Ennis proved he can handle the load for Syracuse.

Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim does not often put a lot of trust into true freshman. Rare is the player that comes in and has the benefit of the doubt right away. So when Tyler Ennis was handed the keys to the ship out of the gate, that should have been the first clue that he was special.

His skill set was not in question. Ennis is a smart, smooth player who can score from anywhere. More to the point, he has excellent court vision, uncanny basketball IQ, and poise beyond his years. How would that play out on bigger stages though?

We found out the answer in Maui, and it's a great one for Syracuse fans. Ennis can not only handle the pressure of a big game on the national stage, but he excels in it.

Ennis finished the Maui Invitational averaging 17 points, six assists and four steals per contest while shooting 91% from the free throw line. He did all that while committing only two turnovers over the entire three games. Both of those came against California on Tuesday, a game where he finished with a career high 28 points on 9-12 shooting.

The true freshman stepped up even more in the title game. He finished with a steady 11 points, but added a career high 9 assists without committing a turnover. Oh, and he had four steals as well.

Ennis gets Syracuse into their sets and puts the ball into the Orange playmakers hands in perfect position for them to be successful. He runs the transition offense well, and continues to improve on the defensive end of the floor.

As the season progresses and Ennis develops, he may be one of the top five point guards in the country when all is said and done. It's rare to find someone with such poise as a true freshman. Boeheim was right after all.

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