Former Syracuse star and current Boeheim’s Army guard Tyler Ennis chatted with the media on Tuesday about the upcoming TBT as the collection of former Orange players looks to defend its 2021 championship. Here’s what he had to say.
Tyler Ennis: Thanks for coming out. Super excited to play. Being an overseas player at the moment, I haven’t played in the States in front of family for a few years. I think that’s a big part. Being able to be part of the TBT is something that me and Boeheim’s Army and everyone involved have spoken about for a few years. A bunch of things have kept us from working together. But now, this year, everything kind of came together. Also being able to go back to Syracuse and put on that jersey again is something that I think I’ve missed. I’m excited to get back to The Tournament.
What led to you joining Boeheim’s Army this year?
TE: I’ve always been interested in playing. Like you said, the injuries have kind of kept me from being available to play. We spoke when COVID first hit and the Tournament happened, just how much I was interested in playing and wished I would’ve played. But being in Canada at the time, I don’t’ think I would’ve been able to make it work. This year, it worked out. I’m healthy. I’m looking forward to getting some game action and playing in front of family. And I’m really good friends with Coach Jeremy Pope and obviously a lto of other guys. He sealed the deal for me as well as Kevin and Shaun Belbey. Letting me know how much of a good time it was last year on top of winning it all.
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When is the last time you were back at Syracuse?
TE: I was talking to someone the other day. I haven’t been back to Syracuse since the year after I left. I want to say 2015. Me being a Toronto kid, I’ve driven past Syracuse a bunch of times. I’ve been in Buffalo a bunch of times, but I haven’t been back to Syracuse in quite a while. That’s something I’ve wanted to do, especially with me kind of wanting to do online classes in school. Just kind of missing the atmosphere and everything while I’m overseas. So I think the opportunity to go back and spend a couple of days, and also play in front of the fans, that’s something I’m looking forward to. It’s not an opportunity I’d be able to get in any other league or tournament. To be able to play a game in Syracuse with fellow Syracuse players. I think it’s a once in a lifetime chance with the TBT.
It’s been a tough few years for you, but you’re finally healthy.
TE: Last few years have been tough. I broke my leg in 2018. I broke my leg, rehabbed an entire year. Played a season, was healthy, COVID hit, so it ended my season early. Everyone’s season was ended early. Then the following year, I tore my Achilles. So the last three seasons, were tough ending early, not the way you want to go into a season hoping it would end. But this past season, I was able to play fully. I didn’t miss a game. I didn’t miss a practice. That was something that I went into, looking forward to getting back out there and playing to show everyone where I’m at. This past season was a success. I played well. I was healthy so just looking to add on to that. The only way to get game reps is to play games and this is an opportunity to do that.
How excited are you to play with Boeheim’s Army?
TE: Super excited. I think it’s a long shot to kind of team up with guys based on what league they’re playing in, what teams they’re on. We all remain friends. Rak was at my house a couple weeks ago for a BBQ. So we keep in touch. He is a good friend of mine. And we’ve remained friends. He was actually at the time committed to play so he talked me into it as well. It plays a big part. The comradery we had. The friendships we grew while I was there and just to get a chance to come back and see them outside of basketball is an option I would’ve taken. The chance to play basketball and potentially win another championship in the TBT all factored into me playing this year.
What are your expectations of playing in the TBT?
TE: I think we all have the goal of winning. We all expect to win. Or at least get really far in the Tournament. Obviously, when you play in a tournament that’s one and done, I think any given night, anyone can beat anyone. But I think with the roster we have, we should be in the finals. If we’re not, I think we’ll all look at it as a missed opportunity. But obviously we haven’t played together. There’s a lot to be done, as well as every other team playing. But I think we’re looking to go in and have fun, but also win. With something on the line, everyone is a little more locked in than usual.
Did you play a role in recruiting Dee Bost and Kyle Wiltjer?
TE: I played against Dee Bost tor the first time this past year in Turkey. We’ve seen each other in Istanbul a few times as well. I didn’t recruit him. He was already committed when I decided to play. But he played a part, being able to play with him. Kyle, me and him, we played together on two separate teams with the Houston Rockets and then in Turkey. We’ve kept in touch. We’ve been on the same timeline. We both had kids recently. And just the same stages of life. We talked a lot when we played together. When they reach out to me with the roster, he was a potential person they wanted. And we spoke. It’s weird because during the season and after the season, a ton of teams reach out. And obviously I wanted to play for Boeheim’s Army. I said no, and I wasn’t playing this year. When everything came together, it was within a week, me and Kyle essentially decided on the same day we were going to play. He’s excited to come to Cuse and everyone knows the history of Syracuse and how much we all loved it and rave about it now to this day of being a Syracuse player. So he kind of wanted to experience that as well as just play in the TBT. It was a perfect blend for him to play for us.
Do you view this as an opportunity to show you’re still healthy on a national stage?
TE: That’s something I didn’t consider when I decided to play in terms of it being on ESPN. I sort of realized that after. I mean, I’ve watched it the past couple of years. But I think it is a chance for me to show everybody. A lot of people realized I’ve been injured and gone through a last these past few years. But playing overseas, not everyone gets to see you play unless you post your highlights on Instagram. This is a chance for me to play in front of my family, which I think they’re excited about. At the very minimum, if people see I’m healthy, that will help me in my career, but playing well on a big stage, regardless of where I decide to play next year, I think it’ll be a plus.
Is it going to be difficult playing on a team that hasn’t played together before?
TE: Yeah, I think it’s kind of, build chemistry as much as possible. We’re not throwing together a team, but we essentially have a few days of practice and then we have to head into a game. So is everyone else. At this point, we have a bunch of veteran professional players on the roster. We have an experienced coach as well. So I think it’ll come together quicker than a normal team would. And there’s a goal in mind. So we all realize we’re going to have to sacrifice. Whether that’s shots, minutes, whatever it ends up being, I think it’s a chance to have fun, play basketball, but also potentially win some money in the summer, which is a plus as well.
How does it feel to be back in Syracuse?
TE: It feels great. I feel the love from the fans regardless of not being back in Syracuse or even just normal basketball posts on social media. I think there’s just a never-ending love for Syracuse on my part, but also for the fans towards me. I keep in touch with the coaching staff to this day. Red Autry. G-Mac. I still talk to, even though he’s not there, Coach Hop. So we built a bond. I was only there for a year, but it doesn’t feel like it. I think I jumped at the chance to be back in Syracuse and be around the city. I haven’t been back in so long. The games being in Syracuse played a big part in me deciding to play.
What was your favorite Syracuse memory?
TE: Basketball-wise, I would say the Duke game was an experience I’ll never be able to replicate. Just the magnitude of the game. Our first year in the ACC. The fans. And winning at home. It was one of the most exciting games I’ve played in in my life. And that includes the NBA, overseas, everything. Obviously playing Pittsburgh both games. It was a great game when we played them at home that year, but also on the road. Being able to hit the game-winner. Every year when we play Pittsburgh and on the anniversary of that shot, I get a million posts, a million ats. So it’s funny. My fiance says, how long are they going to remember that shot? So it’s enjoyable but sometimes I forget that it even happened. It’s been, what, 8, 9 years? And also just being a college student. Looking back, I remember those moments more than the basketball moments. Just being able to be a college student for a year was enjoyable. I had a great group of friends. Friends on the team but also friends I met through school that I keep in touch with to this day that I think I appreciate more than the basketball.