Feb. 1, 2013
The Nova Notebook, by director of media relations Mike Sheridan, spends some time with Dylan Ennis, a transfer guard from Rice University who is sitting out the 2012-13 season before beginning his Wildcats career as a sophomore in 2013-14.
Over the course of his 12 years as head coach at Villanova, Jay Wright has often pointed to what he considers to be one of the core values of this program.
"We have a saying: everyone's status is the same but their roles are different," notes Wright. "Whether you are the leading scorer, a walk-on, or a student manager, your status is that you are a part of this family."
Dylan Ennis is still relatively new to that family. However, unlike fellow newcomers Tony Chennault, Daniel Ochefu and Ryan Arcidiacono, the 6-2 guard has yet to have his basketball skills formally introduced to the Nova Nation. Ennis, you see, is a transfer student, who can practice with the team but must observe matters on game nights in accordance with NCAA policy. (Chennault, who also transferred to Villanova last off-season, was granted a hardship waiver which allowed him to forego sitting out the '12-13 campaign.)
From a public standpoint, then, Ennis, for now, remains a man in the background. At home games he is near the end of the bench dressed in a shirt and tie. He does not travel to most games played away from home. It's a role that is both new and in some ways challenging for an outgoing and enthusiastic Toronto native who likes interacting with others.
"The toughest days are when we have away games," he says. "I'm usually watching it on my computer and I'm not able to cheer and let my players hear me. It's a lot better for me at home games - I am able to be on the bench, cheer, and get in the huddles to encourage our guys. For me, I just want to do all I can to support this team on the court."
It is role that includes little fanfare. But Ennis' gifts - he was named to the Conference USA All-Rookie team while averaging 8.5 ppg for the Owls in 2011-12 - have already helped the Wildcats in ways that are hard to measure. Each day in practice, Ennis leads the "White" team, the reserves whose primary role is to push the starters in each session. During the season Ennis has often mimed the tendencies of such stalwarts as Michael Carter-Williams, Peyton Siva, and D'Angelo Harrison.
Ennis, as a proven collegiate guard, brings a level of reality to the role simply because he has breakdown gifts of his own.
"Those practices," he says with a smile, "are my games."
That this season would be a test is, of course, not a surprise - the transfer rules are straightforward, barring a significant family hardship such as the one endured by Chennault. The former Wake Forest guard transferred back to Villanova to be closer to his mother, who was facing health issues at home in Philadelphia and then also lost an older brother, Mike Jay, in June.
In the case of Ennis, he knew well that the full Villanova basketball experience would not be available to him until the 2013-14 season begins.
However, accepting the concept can be much different than living the reality. Ennis took part in the Hoops Mania festivities in October with the knowledge that his journey would not be the same as his teammates.
"You just think it's going to go by really fast," Ennis states. "But then when you start doing it, it feels like it's never going to end."
When the season opened, Ennis did peak ahead at the calendar to calculate when his time in limbo would come to an end. It was a habit, however, that he soon dropped.
"I think that made it take longer," he says. "I've found the best thing is to just go day-by-day. I really try to work hard to do a great job on the scout team in practice."
Ennis credits the coaching staff and his teammates for keeping both his mind and body fully engaged through what can be an awkward period.
"The coaches have done a great job with me," he states. "They have a schedule set up for me with weight room workouts and individual workouts on game days when we don't practice to keep me sharp. They treat me like I'm a regular player in practice. So it's going by a lot faster than I thought it would have when we started the season."
The one point where matters slowed came in late December after Ennis returned from visiting his family in Toronto for Christmas. During a practice session he suffered an injury to the MCL in his left knee. Fortunately, the damage did not require surgery but the guard was sidelined from practice for several weeks before returning on Jan. 14.
Soon, though, he was back in his customary spot leading the White unit as the Cats prepared to play Pittsburgh at the Pavilion. It is a view that offers him a unique perspective as a young Wildcat team makes its way through the ups and downs of life in the BIG EAST Conference.
"We started off with a lot of new guys and it took a while for everyone to adjust to one another," he notes. "We have been playing great lately. We have stayed with Coach's approach about having a great attitude and sticking with our values. We are doing a lot better now."
In terms of campus life, Ennis' experience is not impacted by the transfer rule. He has already established a presence at Villanova among his peers and professors with an engaging demeanor that invites conversation.
"It's been great," he states. "The fans here are great people. You see that they support everything we do. I always love seeing the fans of the Nova Nation come out to support us."
Ennis also enjoys having increased access to his immediate family in Toronto along with his extended family in New Jersey and New York City after spending his high school years in Chicago and last year in Texas at Rice.
"When I was in Houston it was tough for my family to get to my games," he explains. "Now I am able to drive up and see my uncles and aunts who live along the East Coast. It's really refreshing because I've been away from home for a lot of years now. To see them consistently really helps me get through my days."
It also helps that this transition year will, from a basketball point of view, give him a foundation in the Villanova system that should allow him to get a running start on next season.
"When I first started, I had to get a lot of kinks out," he says. "I had some habits Coach fixed. He's made me a Villanova guard on and off the court. Going through it every day, I know what to expect next year. It's not going to be like I'm a freshman where it's a culture shock every day."
Ennis has created a niche or two for himself in the public eye. He is featured in a segment of each installment of "Inside Villanova Basketball with Jay Wright" titled "Dylan's Diary", where he gives viewers insight into this most unique of seasons for him. What's more, he's a noted presence on Twitter.
Mostly, though, he is waiting patiently, doing all that his position allows him to bolster his team.
It is his role for now.
In 2013-14, that role will change in a dramatic way.