SU basketball prepares for new players and a new conference

Freshman Tyler Ennis and sophomore transfer Michael Gbinije may be new to the team, but the entire SU team is new to the ACC.

The Syracuse men’s basketball team received a warm welcome to the Atlantic Coast Conference earlier this week at ACC media day. The Orange were picked to finish second in the league, behind only Duke, and senior forward C.J. Fair was selected as the preseason conference player of the year.

The talk of the new conference continued Friday at Syracuse’s media day for inside the Carmelo K. Anthony Center. Head coach Jim Boeheim expects his team to be prepared for ACC play coming from the equally competitive Big East.

“We’re going from a really, really tough league to a really, really tough league, so there’s no difference for us as far as league play,” he said.

Boeheim isn’t worried about any potential changes in officiating style the ACC may pose as well. He said he has no plans to change the team’s style of play due to any new interpretations of rules.

DaJuan Coleman had the chance to play in the Big East last season, although he did so sparingly due to Boeheim’s penchant for limiting freshmen big men’s minutes and a knee injury that kept him out for over a month. Nonetheless, he also has maintained the same approach towards the ACC.

“We’re just going to continue to play our game,” Coleman said. “We’re not going to change up our game for nothing.”

Although the Orange is making the switch to a new conference, the team does have someone with ACC experience: Duke transfer Michael Gbinije. Gbinije appeared in 19 games for the Blue Devils in the 2011-12 season before sitting out last year, and is ready to get back to competitive action.

“I’m just really excited,” he said. “Last year was tough, but hard work pays off and I believe I’ll have a good season this year.”

Gbinije used his time off well, Boeheim said, and expects Gbinije to be a versatile threat for the Orange, capable of playing any perimeter position.

“He plays a little bit more of the one in practice because it’s a more difficult position but he’s comfortable at both the two and the three,” Boeheim said.

In the new conference, it will be important for the Orange to close out opposing three-point threats, Gbinije said, threats he believes will have a tough time adjusting to Syracuse’s 2-3 zone defense.

“You just have to locate shooters. I think our zone will be very surprising to the ACC,” he said.

Another change the Orange has experienced going into this season is the new NCAA rule allowing teams to begin practice two weeks earlier than usual. While the extra practice has certainly helped the team, Boeheim insisted that it doesn’t imply a better end result.

“We’re way ahead of where we would be,” he said. “That doesn’t necessarily mean, though, that we’re going to get further than where we want to be.”

In particular, Boeheim said the added practices have helped the underclassmen better acclimate themselves to the 2-3 zone.

“We’ve been able to do a lot of stuff with the young players, getting them familiar with the defense and also to play more than one position on defense, which takes some time do,” he said.

One younger player the team will be especially counting on is freshman point guard Tyler Ennis, who is expected to run the offense. Ennis said he aims to play within his game and keep the rest of the team focused.

“As a point guard, I’ve always been taught to keep everything in check,” Ennis said. “Making sure everyone’s in their spot and getting them the ball while playing in the system is important.”

Boeheim said he has shown the capability to both run the team calmly and make plays himself when necessary.

“He’s got a good skill set, and he can be explosive,” Boeheim said. “He can also run the team in the half court and make good decisions.”

He also called Ennis one of the most prepared freshman point guards he’s ever had. And Ennis understands the unique situation he is in.

“I have a different opportunity than most freshmen,” he said on his chance to start right away.

Fair is very confident in the team’s new show runner.

“He’s more mature than a normal freshman,” he said of Ennis.

Fair will be well-served to develop a good connection with Ennis, since he will likely be the main target of Ennis’ passes. Boeheim said Fair will get his points regardless of who is around him because he plays off of others so well. Now he must show that he can do the same in a larger role.

“Offensively last year he was the second or third option most of the time, and this year he’ll be the first option,” Boeheim said of Fair.

Fair joked, “second or third, who said that?”

On a more serious note, he added that he is ready to lead the team and for the extra pressure that comes with it.

“I’m looking forward to being the focal point of the team,” he said. “I know there’s going to be a lot of attention coming my way.”

Him and the team, both.

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