Ennis is Canada's next great guard 0
Brampton's Tyler Ennis does defensive drills at Ryerson University recently. Ennis will man the point for Canada's junior national team at the FIBA America's U18 Tournament next month in Brazil. (madeinregio.com)
Canada — Ontario in particular — has been producing a stunning amount of talent at the point guard position of late.
Most notably, Pickering’s Cory Joseph was a first-round pick last summer and might get a championship ring with the seemingly unbeatable San Antonio Spurs; Kevin Pangos of Holland Landing lit up the NCAA for Gonzaga, winning a slew of WCC awards as a freshman; Toronto’s Junior Cadougan took Marquette deep into the NCAA tournament and Toronto’s Myck Kabongo showed flashes in his first season at Texas and, with continued improvement, could be an NBA lottery pick next summer.
Next on the list: Tyler Ennis, a Brampton native who was named New Jersey’s state player of the year while toiling for St. Benedict’s Prep in Newark.
There are many in the Canadian basketball community who believe Ennis will be as good or better than any of the guards listed above.
Ennis will lead Canada’s junior national team at the FIBA America’s U18 Championship in Brazil from June 16-20 under the direction of head coach Roy Rana.
He will be coming off of not only a great high school season in New Jersey, but also a summer run which so far has seen him direct AAU squad CIA Bounce to a 17-3 record at the Nike Elite Youth Basketball League. Matching up against the best young hoops talent in America, Ennis’ all-Canadian squad posted the best record in the league, starting 14-0 before losing a pair and forfeiting one last weekend in Oakland.
A week earlier, Ennis was at Ryerson University, trying out for a Canadian team that is expected to contend for a medal in Brazil and to qualify for the FIBA World U19 tourney next year in Prague (top four finishers qualify).
Ennis will be making his debut for Canada and is excited to be in the fold.
“Everybody wants to represent the country,” Ennis told the Toronto Sun recently.
“Coach Rana reached out to me. He had me working out a little bit last year with the team and this year he said it’s my team, he wants me to run the show for him.”
Ennis, a 6-foot-2 all-around floor general certainly can do that. He prefers to create for his teammates, but is an adept scorer when necessary.
“He’s a pass-first point guard, a great point guard, looks for his teammates, looks to get everybody involved before himself,” said Xavier Rathan-Mayes, who not only will join with Ennis as a key piece for Canada, but also is his long-time backcourt-mate with CIA Bounce.
“There’s not too many unselfish point guards like that out today.”
Rana knows with Ennis and likely backup Kaza Keane - who he also thinks highly of - point play will be a major strength for the team.
Rana is not surprised Ennis is getting considerable attention from college powerhouses like Syracuse, Kansas and Georgetown, among many others.
“He’s got a very mature game for a young kid,” Rana said of the 17-year-old. “He sees the floor, (is) very calm and patient, settles everybody down. He’s a big-time talent, no question.”
The group will reconvene at Humber College next weekend for another gathering and round of cuts before getting ready for Brazil later in the month.
Ennis did not come onboard merely to see himself in a Canadian jersey. Like always, he wants to win games.
He fully expects Canada to contend for gold.
“We have confidence going in, having Andrew Wiggins, the No. 1 player (in North America for the class of 2014 by ESPN, Ennis is 30th for 2013, Rathan-Mayes 20th), Trey Lyles (7th in 2013), myself, Xavier ... Going over, we have confidence against the other countries. We think we can win it all,” he said.
“We want to win gold. Go undefeated if we could. There’s nothing we can’t handle. We’ve played against them. Same talent level. We have every position they have with talent so we’re just going in to win.”
It has been a long time since that was the mentality for a Canadian men’s squad at any level.
The next step will be backing up the talk.
CANADIANS GETTING MORE RESPECT
Isaiah Watkins has spent a lot of time with the Canada Basketball and Ontario Basketball programs.
“I’ve been through every possible system that Canada had to offer,” Watkins said recently at tryout camp for the Canadian junior national team.
The Toronto native won an Ontario championship for Oakwood before leaving for the U.S. to play for St. Benedict’s Prep in New Jersey. He spends his summers on the AAU circuit, competing against top American talent.
Over the years, Watkins has noticed a change in how Canadian ballers are perceived down south.
“Now that a lot of us have gone to the States, a lot of the scouts have also come up here to see what the talent is like and they are starting to find out that we can actually play up here,” Watkins said.
“We as a country are starting to figure out that with the right steps we are able to go down to the States and be successful. We have tons of guys in the pros who are being successful so I think it’s definitely showing through.”