College basketball is enjoying more positive publicity and attention over the first month of its season as it has in years. One of the main reasons for the hype are the high profile freshmen at elite programs. Jabari Parker at Duke is having a great so far. Andrew Wiggins had more fanfare coming out of high school than any recruit in recent memory.
Aaron Gordon has received attention at Arizona. Kentucky features Julius Randle and the Harrison brothers, among others, who are big contributors. In fact, when any of those players play, ESPN leads their SportsCenter with "Freshman Focus." They go over their performance and break down their statistics in that game.
Lost in the strong performances of the aforementioned rookies is one of the most efficient players in the country, who also happens to be a freshman. Syracuse point guard Tyler Ennis deserves every bit of the notoriety as others are receiving.
All Ennis has done is led his team to an 8-0 start, including two wins over ranked opponents. His stats are comparable to most, but the poise and control he plays with cannot be overstated.
On the early season, Ennis is averaging over 12 points, five assists, three rebounds and three steals per game. All of this while only averaging one turnover per outing. In fact, Ennis has not turned it over more than twice in any game this season. He's also shooting over 42% from beyond the arc.
Compare that to Andrew Harrison, Kentucky's freshman starting point guard. Harrison is averaging 10 points, three assists and two rebounds per game, while averaging over two turnovers as well. In his eight games, he has turned it over two or more times on five occasions.
Aaron Gordon is averaging an impressive 13 points and nine rebounds per game, while adding over one assist and block per contest. However, he is shooting under 49% from the free throw line.
Kansas freshman Andrew Wiggins is putting up 14 points, over five rebounds, one assist and one steal per game.
Ennis' numbers compare favorably with those three freshmen sensations. While Parker and Randle are all scoring at a higher clip, Ennis' impact on his team matches either's contributions.
To put Ennis' basketball IQ and efficiency into perspective, compare him to Oklahoma State's Marcus Smart who is largely considered the best player in the country. Smart has the clear edge in scoring at over 20 points per game. But he has turned it over two or more times seven times in eight games this season.
Smart is averaging less than four assists per game, while turning it over more than three times each time he takes the floor.
Beyond the numbers are intangibles that cannot be measured by statistics. Things like leadership, poise, understanding of the offense, etc.
This is not to say that Ennis is better than any of these players. Simply that he belongs in the group of the best freshmen in the country. While he has not received the same type of attention to date, that should change as the season goes along assuming he continues to develop his game.
By the time the year ends, he may be more than just one of the best freshman in the nation. He may be one of the best players.