PHOENIX (AP) — T.J. Warren and Tyler Ennis are not exactly strangers to each other.
Twice last season, as members of the Atlantic Coast Conference, Warren’s North Carolina State squad met Ennis’ Syracuse team. Now they are teammates — picked in the first round by the Phoenix Suns.
With their parents and other family members looking on, they were introduced at a news conference Friday at Suns headquarters, and each praised the other.
“We were 1-1” Ennis said. “They beat us in the tournament.”
They bring a healthy respect for each other.
“You watch a player and you respect him after the game,” Ennis said. “Then the next year you get to play with him. I think we kind of know each other’s game and I think we’ll work well together.”
Warren said he and Ennis will complement each other.
“Tyler’s a great player,” Warren said. “Coming from a great conference, it will be fun to compete together at the next level.”
The 20-year-old Warren, who played two years in college, was the ACC’s leading scorer, averaging just under 25 points per game, and was the conference player of the year last season. Ennis, just 19, was the highly efficient and clutch point guard for a Syracuse team that won its first 25 games.
“Coming from the ACC, I feel like it was the best conference in college basketball,” Warren said. “You’re playing against a high level every night, so you just have to bring it and compete.”
Warren was the 14th pick overall, Ennis the 18th.
“They have had a lot of success at the highest levels of college basketball,” Suns general manager Ryan McDonough said. “Obviously this is a big step up in competition going to the NBA, but they’re off to a good start. They’re headed in the right direction.”
Warren is not a good outside shooter. His points come around the basket.
Coach Jeff Hornacek assessed the talent of both players as they move to his up-tempo system.
“These two guys fit perfectly,” Hornacek said. “You go back to my days. It wasn’t all 3-point shooting, a lot of midrange shots. T.J. can get the ball anywhere in the 10-, 15-foot range and get you a bucket.”
The coach said he was impressed with the way Ennis performed in pressure situations at the age of 19.
“The poise of running a team, getting guys in the right spot,” Hornacek said. “He’s going to make plays, make guys better, knock the shot and make the great pass.”
The Suns are joining a team with a crowded roster coming off a surprising turnaround season, going 47-34 and just missing the playoffs.
P.J. Tucker and Marcus Morris are the small forwards, and the Suns’ offense centers around the dynamic double-point-guard offense of Eric Bledsoe and Goran Dragic.
Both draft picks will have to compete to get any playing time.
Ish Smith filled in as the third point guard last season.
Tucker and Bledsoe are about to become unrestricted free agents, but McDonough emphasized that the draft picks aren’t seen as replacements, but as addition of depth and young talent that will only get better.
The plan is for both rookies to play in the summer league. Their days in the ACC should serve them well in the intense competition to come.
“It certainly helps if a guy, especially a young guy like these two, is able to step in and produce early in their career,” McDonough said, “against the highest level of competition outside the NBA.”
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