Ennis family enjoying reunion close to home

Posted: March 24, 2014

BUFFALO, N.Y. - Thursday was easy. Several hours separated their sons' games, providing Tony McIntyre and Suzette Ennis ample time to head to the hotel, change their clothes, grab a bite to eat and make their way back to the First Niagara Center.

Tonight is a different story. The couple's 22-year-old son, Villanova's Dylan Ennis, plays in a third-round NCAA Tournament game that immediately follows a game featuring their 19-year-old, Syracuse star Tyler Ennis. The schedule doesn't exactly offer much time for the players' family members to ditch all their orange gear in favor of the blue and white.

"Got it planned out," McIntyre, the boys' proud father, said with a smile yesterday morning. "[I'm going to] wear a [Villanova] T-shirt and wear a [Syracuse] sweatshirt, and then just be able to take the sweatshirt off and then you're ready to go to the next game."

For Dylan and Tyler's family, a wardrobe change is certainly a good problem to have, one that appeared unlikely entering last Sunday's NCAA Tournament selection show. Sure, there was a chance second-seeded Villanova and third-seeded Syracuse would land at the same second- and third-round location. But at an arena that's only an 80-minute drive from the family's home in Brampton, Ontario? That seemed too good to be true.

Up to this point, Tony and Suzette mostly divvied up trips so that at least one parent was represented at as many games as possible. But on the luck of the draw, 50 to 60 family members and Brampton-area friends will watch both of the Ennises compete tonight for a trip to the Sweet 16. Syracuse (28-5) plays 11th-seeded Dayton (24-10) in a game expected to start at 7:10. the tipoff between Villanova (29-4) and seventh-seeded Connecticut (27-8) is set for 9:40.

"We were really excited about it," said Dylan, a reserve guard who averages 5.2 points in 16.6 minutes per game off the bench for the Big East regular-season champions. "My family doesn't get to travel up to Philadelphia as much as they go to Syracuse [because of] the distance, but having my family here and playing near my little brother, it's a great feeling."

Better yet for the Ennis clan, the Villanova and Syracuse squads are staying at the same Hyatt Regency at which Dylan and Tyler's family scored rooms. Before Wednesday, Christmas break marked the last time the whole family was together. So on the eve of their respective NCAA Tournament debuts, both players spent about an hour together hanging out in their parents' hotel room with other family members.

"It was great to see them," said Tyler, who scored 16 points and dished out six assists for the Orange in Thursday's 77-53 win against 14th-seeded Western Michigan. "It's tough to get all of our family together with the different schedules we have, but for everybody to be able to make it here to Buffalo and have both me and my brother playing on this level is great. It shows how far my family's come."

Among a family of six kids, including four boys, Tyler is the star. When Syracuse's locker room opened to the media yesterday afternoon, cameramen and reporters swarmed Tyler's corner stall. The poised floor general of a team that won its first 25 games, Tyler has more than filled the void in Syracuse's lineup left by Michael Carter-Williams, now with the 76ers, and is a potential NBA lottery pick. A finalist for several national awards, Tyler led the ACC in assists and steals and enters tonight averaging 12.8 points, 5.6 assists, 3.4 rebounds and 2.1 steals.

Dylan, a transfer from Rice who is in his first season playing for Villanova, has enjoyed watching his kid brother's success from afar. Despite busy schedules, Dylan, Tyler and their older brother, Brandon, 24, are in contact every day via a group text-messaging thread. Brandon played Division II basketball at the University of the District of Columbia.

"My family's motto is, 'When one person is successful, then everybody is,' " Dylan said. "[Tyler's] doing a great job and I love watching him grow up into a great man and a great basketball player."

Back on Dec. 28 at the Carrier Dome, Dylan and Tyler squared off in a game Syracuse won, 78-62, behind 20 points from its point guard. Dylan contributed four points in 23 minutes. For the game, Tony and Suzette sported custom-made T-shirts. "Ennis vs. Ennis," the Villanova "V" and Syracuse "S" featured in the middle of the design.

"You spend so much time looking forward to [the game], and then it happens and I just want it to be over," said Tony, who has coached basketball since before Tyler was born and runs CIA Bounce, a premier Canadian AAU program. "It's so weird; it's like going to a tennis match and cheering for both people with every single stroke."

The boys' parents might prefer this current setup, their two middle sons playing in the same gym as supportive brothers, not competitors. The earliest Villanova could get a rematch with Syracuse would be in the Final Four. If the Wildcats win tonight, they play next week at Madison Square Garden. The Orange, meanwhile, would head to Memphis with a victory.

The Ennis family will figure out next week's trips when the time comes.

"We might have to flip a coin," the players' father noted.

But until then, Tony, Suzette & Co. will enjoy this rare opportunity, a Tyler and Dylan doubleheader on the biggest stage college basketball has to offer.

On Twitter: @jakemkaplan

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