June 12, 2012
One of the newest Wildcats, recently announced transfer Dylan Ennis, sat down with Mike Sheridan in the latest installment of the Nova Notebook.
Over the course of his 20 years, basketball has given Dylan Ennis the chance to sample a variety of North America's most cosmopolitan cities, including his hometown of Toronto, New York, Chicago, Houston, and, most recently, Philadelphia. At the moment, though, he is in a different kind of place, one normally linked with sunny tropical getaways.
For much of June, Ennis is soaking up a unique basketball experience as he joins the senior national team in the Caribbean vacation spot of Montego Bay ahead of its appearance later this month in a FIBA tournament in Puerto Rico.
"Both my mother and father were born in Jamaica," explains Ennis. "They moved here when they were very young. This (idea) actually started off as kind of a joke - my Dad asked what would happen if I played for the Jamaican national team. Then we started to think about it and started calling some people. We made contact with the coach and they were receptive. It's been going well."
Ennis will be training with the team as it prepares for international competition this summer. He represented Canada once in an AAU event in France but is otherwise a neophyte when it comes to international basketball. The 6-2 guard, though, is eager to pursue this opportunity.
"This is a national team so you have a lot of experience on the team," he says. "I'll probably be the youngest guy on the team. But I'm also going to play hard and see what we can accomplish."
While adapting to the international style of play is the focus right now, Ennis takes comfort in the knowledge that he feels very much at ease in his new college role at Villanova and remains in frequent contact via text with his coaches and teammates.
In many ways, this is a summer of transition for Ennis, a skilled guard who officially joined the `Cats last week at the outset of summer school. Last season, the native of Brampton, Ontario, enjoyed a breakout campaign as a freshman at Rice University in Houston, averaging 8.5 points and 4.3 rebounds per game en route to being named to the Conference USA All-Rookie squad.
Thankfully, Ennis has never shied from challenges.
Though his family settled in what is commonly known as hockey country, basketball always has held a prominent role in the household he grew up in. Each of the six children raised by Suzanne Ennis and Tony McIntyre have played the sport and two, Brandon and Tyler, currently are competing at schools in the northeastern United States (Brandon is at the University of the District of Columbia while Tyler is at St. Benedict's Prep in New Jersey).
"I have family everywhere," says Ennis. "I have family in New York, aunts and uncles, and one of the great things about being at Villanova is being closer to them."
Ennis grabbed hold of the game at age four and never really let go. The aforementioned National Basketball Association dreams were there but this wasn't merely a flight of fancy. Aided by McIntyre, Ennis spent long hours honing his skill to the point where he soon gained notice on the AAU circuit as a point guard with the tools to create for others while also producing points.
"My parents instilled in me that you can have those dreams but you have to have an education too," Ennis recalls. "That's what led me to where I am today."
After he completed the eighth grade in Canada, Ennis enrolled at Wings Academy in New York, where he could lean on relatives in the area while also tending to his academic and athletic quests. He completed two years there and then headed to a prep school in Illinois, Lake Forest Academy.
"I just decided that getting ready for college, Lake Forest Academy would be great for me," he notes. "I went over there and got a lot out of it. The gym was maybe 30 seconds from my dorm room so I could head over there after class or at night, whenever I felt like I needed to work out or get some shots up."
During his time in Illinois, Ennis became a priority recruit for colleges such as Rice, Akron and the College of Charleston.
"I didn't really hear from high-major schools," he says.
Ennis settled on Rice and has zero regrets about the experience.
"Everything happens for a reason," he says. "I'm glad I went to Rice. I had a great year there. I loved everybody there - the coaches, the players. (But) for me to end up at Villanova is just a dream come true."
When asked why he was able to quickly establish himself as a factor in the starting lineup in a quality C-USA program, Ennis points to coach Ben Braun and his staff.
"The first couple of weeks were hard," he says. "In high school it's not as fast. Once I got used to it, the coaches were there every day to help me, build my confidence as well as my skill set. I was able to play my game while also playing under their system."
When he announced his plans to exit Rice for another college, Villanova moved quickly into the picture along with Cincinnati and Virginia. Ennis knew all about the success guards have enjoyed under head coach Jay Wright and the opportunity to compete in the BIG EAST also was attractive to him. A visit to campus was quickly arranged, and Ennis found himself feeling very much at home among the Wildcats.
"I wanted to get back out East, to be nearer to my family," he states. "I had been away for so long and now there will be a lot more opportunity for my family to see me play. I have always looked up at the BIG EAST and I liked the idea of testing myself against the best.
"Villanova is a tremendous guard school. I get the chance to learn every day from a great coach in Coach Wright and the coaching staff behind him. What put it over the top for me is the family atmosphere here. I have a big family and for Villanova to welcome all of us the way they have means a lot."
Of course, Ennis' addition won't be felt immediately on game days at Villanova. The guard, who retains three seasons of eligibility, is slated to sit out in accordance with NCAA transfer rules in 2012-13, though he will be able to practice on a daily basis. Adapting to a pace that does not include game action will take some getting used to but Ennis prefers to emphasize the positives.
"Growing up, I don't think I've ever sat out a game for an injury or scheduling or anything," notes Ennis. "It's going to be a different outlook for me. I can see the game as someone from the outside, a coach you may say, and I think it can help me get better. This coaching staff and the players support me and this year, with them behind me, I think it can be a good learning experience."
Ennis took part in several VU workouts before heading to Jamaica and will be a part of all team activities once he returns from his Jamaica. Those looking in at the Davis Center practices will, Ennis believes, find a passionate player.
"I'm a big energy guy," he says. "I'm real talkative on the court. Even though I talk a lot, these coaches, Coach Wright and Coach (Billy) Lange, want me to talk more. I want to bring energy and leadership. I'm a pass first point guard and I know Coach Wright has had a lot of guards who could pass and score. I'm trying to be dynamic in both of those aspects."
Ennis plans to focus on using his long wing-span - it is equal to that of an average 6-7 athlete - and learning the system to become a better defender.
The first step in that arc comes, in of all places, Montego Bay.
"These could be my only games for a while," he says. "I'm going to learn all I can."
It figures to be a kind of priceless basketball experience that will offer him another avenue to hone the skills that have brought him to the Main Line.
"It's great to be here and be a part of the Nova Nation," he says.