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Syracuse's Tyler Ennis goes up for a basket against Virginia Tech's C.J. Barksdale during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2014, in Blacksburg, Va. (Associated Press)

Syracuse's Tyler Ennis goes up for a basket against Virginia Tech's C.J. Barksdale during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2014, in Blacksburg, Va.

(Associated Press)

March Madness

Syracuse’s road to the Final Four takes a detour through Brampton Add to ...

But basketball was the passion of the Ennis household. Noticing abundant talent in the Brampton area, McIntyre began taking his teams to tournaments in the U.S. and, along the way, established relationships with prep-school coaches who started recruiting them. His program, called Bounce, eventually joined forces with another Toronto-area Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) program called CIA. They became CIA Bounce, developing players from a young age and helping them navigate the complexities of playing at U.S. prep schools and colleges.

It was as part of CIA Bounce that Ennis teamed with the sensation Wiggins. Ennis ran the floor with a unique maturity, finding Wiggins in space for explosive scoring. Their team played in top AAU events against the best American teens, including the final of the 2012 Nike EYBL and Peach Jam, where they fell one point shy of becoming the first Canadian team to win it.

“He’s a tremendous, tremendous basketball player,” Wiggins said. “He’s always in control of the game. And I knew he was going to have a good year. Because people always saw me, they never really noticed him, and his ability to score, pass, create … now he’s just showing people what he can do, you know? He blew up. I knew he was going to blow up.”

Brandon was the first Ennis brother to get a scholarship, then Dylan, who today is a sophomore guard at highly ranked Villanova. All the while, Ennis watched and learned about the process.

“I remember all the calls coming for my brothers and thinking, ‘I can’t wait for schools to be calling for me,’ and it was so hard to be patient,” Ennis said. “I had been asking to go off to prep school right out of eighth grade, but my dad kept saying I wasn’t ready. When the time finally came, he said, ‘If I’m going to let you go to prep school, you’ll have to be a lot more vocal. You’re not going to know anyone, and you won’t have me or Dylan there to help you lead a team. You’ll have to step up.’”

While Brandon stayed in Brampton for four years of high school, Dylan left after Grade 9 for Wings Academy in the Bronx and then Lake Forest Academy in Chicago. Tyler chose U.S. prep school too, heading to basketball powerhouse St. Benedict’s Prep, where he lived in the dorms of the all-boys Catholic school in Newark, N.J., hoping U.S. college scouts would notice him there.

“There’s a 40-foot fence around the school and there’s nothing there but books and basketball – you can’t even walk to a corner store or go to the movies, so it wasn’t easy for him,” McIntyre said. “He was there for his last two and half years of high school, and he knew it was what he needed for his basketball development and for getting exposure.”

During his first year there, the head coach left the job and several of his teammates transferred. He wanted out too. When new coach Mark Taylor took over, his first priority was convincing Ennis to stay by promising to build a new team around him.

They enlisted several new players, including a couple of other Canadians Ennis suggested. Ennis watched over the newcomers in the dorms and they pulled together as a group of kids all playing for individual college scholarships. Taylor had coached the likes of NBA stars Jay Williams and Andrew Bynum as high schoolers and said Ennis was “as good as anyone I’ve ever had at the high school level.”

“I saw a kid steal the ball from Tyler once in a game, and then he clapped in Tyler’s face,” Taylor said. “Tyler didn’t say a word or change his expression at all, but he went down and scored 11 points in about 30 seconds.”

The day Ennis was inexplicably left off the McDonald’s All-American list of top high-school players during his senior season, teammates told Taylor not to bother with a pre-game speech for their game that night because that news was motivation enough. They predicted a huge game for Ennis, and he delivered with a 54-point night.

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