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KU freshman Tristan Enaruna showing signs of high ceiling early on

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Kansas guard Tristan Enaruna (13) passes against the Duke during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2019, in New York. (AP Photo/Adam Hunger)

Kansas guard Tristan Enaruna (13) passes against the Duke during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2019, in New York. (AP Photo/Adam Hunger) by Associated Press

He played 16 minutes in his college debut, followed it up with another strong showing in Game 2 and soon may be in line for even more playing time.

Freshman wing Tristan Enaruna wasn’t perfect on Tuesday night in KU’s 68-66 loss to Duke at Madison Square Garden in New York City or during the Jayhawks’ 74-62 win in the home opener at Allen Fieldhouse on Friday, but he provided enough of a glimpse of his skill set to suggest that using him more in the weeks ahead might be.

Although Christian Braun was the first freshman off the bench for the Jayhawks against Duke, Enaruna played more than four times as many minutes as either of his freshmen teammates in both KU games.

Enaruna followed up a 5-point, two-rebound, two-block showing against Duke with a line of 9 points, five rebounds and two assists in 20 minutes in the win over UNC Greensboro and had a significant impact on both games.

Despite the 12-point win at home, KU coach Bill Self said Enaruna hit “the biggest shot of the game,” against the Spartans, a 3-pointer from the top of the key that halted a late rally by UNCG and locked up the Kansas victory.

The shot was not unlike the 3-pointer he hit against Duke, with Enaruna calmly coming around a ball screen and hitting a rhythm jumper like he had done it 100 times before.

“He’s a talented kid that’ll just get better with time,” Self said. “He just needs to keep getting stronger and being a little bit more aggressive and I think that his minutes will go way up.”

That last part is the trick. For the past couple of weeks, Self has talked about wanting to see Enaruna come out of his shell a little more and assert himself with the kind of energy and intensity that matches his talent.

“Tristan, to me, maybe has the most upside of all of (the current KU freshmen) because he’s so long,” Self said on a recent episode of “Hawk Talk.” “He’s 6-foot-8 and his wingspan is 7-2 or 7-3 and he can really slide and move. His shot is streaky, but he is so casual acting. He’s so smooth and plays so cool that sometimes it drives you nuts because you want him to play harder. The reality is he is playing hard, that’s just kind of his personality.”

Self compared him to former KU great Archie Marshall, who played for Larry Brown in the mid-to-late 1980s.

“Archie Marshall was that way,” Self said. “Archie was so smooth. And I remember coach Brown going, ‘Come on, Arch, God, come onnnnn.’ That’s what I want to do with Tristan.”

Asked about his “casual” demeanor on Thursday afternoon, Enaruna smiled as if to indicate that he, too, had heard plenty from Self about his laid-back vibe.

“I think it’s kind of just the way I am, which sometimes makes it look like I don’t try hard,” Enaruna said. “But I think it’s just something that has been with me all this time.”

Asked after the UNCG victory how he could turn up the intensity to please his head coach, Enaruna matter-of-factly laid out the game plan.

“I think it’s just a switch that you have to turn on,” he said. “Once you’ve done that it’s just all automatic, diving after balls, going to the glass, all that.”

Enaruna flashed some aggressiveness against both Duke and UNC Greensboro. But it appeared to disappear as quickly as it arrived.

However, neither game — nor either stage — ever seemed too big for him. Part of that is his cool, calm and collected nature, and part of that is Enaruna’s comfort level and confidence in most situations.

KU sophomore David McCormack lauded Enaruna’s debut but also backed Self’s claim about his laid-back demeanor.

“It’s very hard to tell with Tristan just because seems poised all the time,” McCormack said. “He’s a very casual player. But Tristan played really well. I was proud of him. He played to his size, his length, defensively and offensively.”

KU point guard Devon Dotson agreed after the UNCG victory and said a lot of what Enaruna has shown so far is what he and his teammates have seen from the 6-8 freshman from the Netherlands in practice dating back to early summer.

“His length (brings) activity on the defensive end, he gets his hands on loose balls, knocks down shots and keeps possessions alive,” Dotson said. “I’m not surprised.”

Comments

Len Shaffer 1 week, 6 days ago

I'll be sure to tell Coach Self that you said that.

Eric Brunner 1 week, 6 days ago

McCormack or Dok, we can't start nor should we ever play 2 centers who can't shoot jump shots at the same time. It's 2019, you can't get away with that anymore. Enaruna is the future (more like the present) of basketball. We are going to get annihilated by great teams if we don't have 3 guys on the court at all times who can shoot from outside. Garrett is hopeless in that area but a necessary lockdown defender. Just look at how we've lost our last couple of games in the tourney...we get DESTROYED from outside and have no answer when teams get hot.

Eric Brunner 1 week, 3 days ago

Hey Creg, did you pay attention in middle school when we learned how percentages work? It's pretty easy to be 50% this year considering he's only taken 4 three-point shots. His career average is about 25% when you take over 100 attempts into account

Steve Zimmerman 1 week, 6 days ago

This kid has played for international team. He shows he can contribute on both ends immediately, as we all see. He's probably the only one that can compete in the league 2 years from now. Let's sit back and enjoy - this kid is going to be special.

Dirk Medema 1 week, 3 days ago

Eric - What part of middle school taught you that 2/4 wasn’t 50%? Was it in MS that you learned that history inevitably determines the future? Do you still make the same mistakes you made in MS? Hmmm? Maybe the players work on their game during the off-season and develop from year to year. Garrett’s freshman year shooting problems were well documented. His 3pt percentage didn’t improve significantly last year but his offense as a whole did. Maybe his 3pt shooting did for this year. I don’t recall them teaching it in MS but most adults do know that 1 event doesn’t make a trend. What we need is for his improved 3pt shooting to be matched by the rest of the backcourt.

Stuart Corder 1 week, 2 days ago

My thoughts:

  • I agree with Bee Bee. Enaruna should start. KU has options here, as HCBS could remain “big”, and sit Garrett OR he could return to small/fast ball and sit McCormack. Personally, I think Marcus Garrett is a jack of all trades whom is decent at many things, but excels in nothing. I predict that his efficiency and effectiveness off the bench would be day/night better than his career as a “starter”.

  • Jalen Wilson’s injury, though unfortunate, benefits Enaruna’s exposure to playing time. I also think Wilson’s injury stint will force him to watch Enaruna and learn from his mistakes. Echoing the sentiments on the article: Wilson is aggressive, but unpolished, whereas Enaruna is more polished, but lacks aggression. Wilson’s injury is an opportunity for both of these Freshmen to blossom by tourney time. Having a more experienced Enaruna paired with a hungry, more polished Wilson would be incredibly fun to watch and dangerous for our opponents.

Brian Jahelka 1 week, 2 days ago

Perry Ellis was always so smooth and "chill" out on the court too. Never looked like he was "trying hard". I like to see players smile and get outwardly amped up when they make a play. Always used to drive me nuts that Perry would go down and drain some tough shot and come back up the court with a poker face. He was all business! Loved watching that smooth operator operate.

Joseph Bullock 1 week, 2 days ago

Stuart Corder, Garrett is one of the best defenders in the Country! He is also great at driving the ball down hill!

Creg Bohrer 1 week, 2 days ago

Yes Eric I did. Enough to know that 2 of 4 is 50%

Craig Carson 1 week, 2 days ago

As much as I hated seeing Jalen go down to injury, this should give him more opportunity to showcase himself

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