The youngest of three competitive brothers, Tyler Ennis has gone from runt of the litter to top dog as he enters this year’s Draft.
His father, Tony McIntyre, was one of the founders of CIA Bounce, now famous thanks to the success of alums Anthony Bennett, Andrew Wiggins and a dozen of college basketball’s best players last season. CIA Bounce is one of the top programs in North America and part of the EYBL circuit.
“There was a need for [CIA Bounce]. We felt we had good area kids, not enough people believed they could get scholarships. We put together a team of the eighth graders in September 2004 and CIA had one team so we decided to merge,” McIntyre told SLAM. “By summer of 2005, we had five teams. Each year as our core team got older we added a younger team. Tyler was playing up and down for different teams, my other sons Brandon and Dylan were playing as well, but I would have done it even if they weren’t playing. It was a huge commitment and fiscal obligation in the beginning. I had maxed out my credit cards funding the team. My wife was a 1,000 percent supportive. We deeply believed in what we were doing.”
Being pushed around by Brandon (a recent graduate of University of DC) and Dylan (entering his junior season at Villanova University), Tyler lost a lot of driveway battles with his elder brothers but grew hungry.
“Tyler was able to learn from his brothers and make good decisions based on their history,” McIntyre said. “He saw the decision-making process through his brother’s eyes and actions, the positives and negatives and he analyzed it. It helped him develop mentally. He was resilient.”
“As a son of a coach, you hear about the bad games on the court, at home, your dad is always talking about it,” Ennis told SLAM. “Basketball became serious at a young age, it became a lifestyle.”
The dedication has resulted in a player who is polished and very ready to make the jump to the next level. He’s a likely mid-first round pick with lottery potential.
His childhood hopes of playing in the NBA were not often shared by many of his classmates. Growing up in Canada, basketball is at best a distant fourth on the country’s sports radar behind hockey, baseball and football. But he hopes that he can help the nation raise its hoop stock.
“Growing up in Canada, I wasn’t on the map at a young age. People would overlook me (as a prospect), it would motivate me to go head to head with more heralded guys to show what I can do. There were always good players in Canada but there weren’t enough high-major Division I coaches going to gyms to recruit players. We slowly received respect by playing well through AAU. It wasn’t until I went to the States and played head to head with ranked players that I was able to land my dream school, Syracuse, and finish as a top-20 ranked prospect. [The Ennis brothers] did have a dream of all landing at the same college together but it wasn’t meant to be,” Ennis said.
“One of my goals would be to represent Canada in the Olympics; I played the past two summers for Basketball Canada as one of the youngest players there. Canadian basketball is slowly getting respect, people have to recognize and take note how we have had players good enough to impact the college game and now make it to the NBA. ”
And it was all born on his driveway. The son of a coach, learning hard hoops lessons from his brothers.
“Tyler is dead on, everyone gets to leave after the game but not the coach’s son. He has to listen to everything that went wrong. Often he doesn’t hear enough of the positives. It wasn’t until 17 and under when I took a step back and said as a father I need to appreciate this more. The lifestyle was a commitment that they wanted,” McIntyre said.
“It meant no parties, no movies, it was about being in the gym not just for your practice but for everyone’s practice. Whenever dad is in the gym, they are there, working on their game,” McIntyre continued. “There were times that I questioned it but it went right. We were tight as a family. I wanted to always be around. I wanted to give everything I could. I grew up without a father and perhaps I overcompensated for my kids.”