Hometown: Brampton, ON
High School: Lake Forest Academy
Expectations were undoubtedly high for Dylan Ennis as he entered his opening campaign for the Wildcats last season. Post his transfer from Rice, he spent the previous year on the bench in accordance with the NCAA regulations. While fans could only see him hollering on the pine with the rest of the Bench Mob, a strong, steady buzz began to swirl around this mystery newcomer. Coach Wright piled on praise regarding his performance in practice, and glimpses of this only added fuel to the fire.
Despite suffering a fracture in his hand just prior to Hoops Mania last season, Ennis immediately proved his worth after bursting on to the scene in Atlantis. The sophomore racked up games of 14, 14, and 8 points against top-flight, high-major competition. Perhaps most impressively, he shot a combined 8-12 from distance. I think it’s safe to say that Villanova would not have pulled off its upset of Kansas without Ennis’ presence.
But unfortunately, the hopes of Ennis contributing as another premier sharpshooting guard quickly eroded. His role reverted into that of a spot up specialist as opposed to the tenacious, attack-first mindset many fans expected him to become. Those counting on him to utilize his high caliber athleticism to attack the basket off the bounce were likely disappointed; more than half (83-133) of Ennis’ total field goals attempted came from behind the arc. When combined with a 1-19 stretch over the final nine games of the season, it was hard to avoid feeling underwhelmed.
Yet new seasons yield new hopes and expectations. Wright and Ryan Arcidiacono spent a good portion of their media day approving of Ennis’ performance during training camp. And perhaps for good reason. Ennis retains the same physical toolbox that brought so much anticipation in the first place. While he appeared to lack the lateral agility to stay in front of smaller guards, the Canadian Kid still holds the potential to be one of Villanova’s best perimeter defenders—something sorely lacking from last year’s team. Reports from the Hoops Mania and the Blue vs. White Scrimmage indicate Ennis has the mindset and intensity to get him there.
Offensively, the green light will more than likely continue to burn regarding Ennis’ exploits from downtown. What is most important is attacking the basket. Villanova’s lineup this year will feature at all times three, and often times four, threats from deep. A willingness to penetrate the defense off the dribble and make the right pass will go a long way in improving his effectiveness in running the offense.
Coach Wright seems committed to getting six players "starter’s minutes" this year. As of now, Ennis remains firmly in that picture.
Best Case: Everything clicks for Ennis during his second season as a Wildcat. Despite still relying on the three point shot as a significant aspect of his offensive game, the junior guard connects on a rate high enough to command the defense’s respect and draw his defender closer to the three point line. Consequently, Ennis expands his arsenal to include devastatingly quick attacks at the rim. His offensive improvements are matched by defensive intensity, where Ennis quickly becomes a viable candidate for Big East Sixth Man of the Year.
Worst Case: The shooting woes that plagued him at the end of last season carry over into the new year, where he shoots less than 30% from beyond the arc. Ennis displays a reluctance to attack off the dribble, and the offense sputters more often than not when he takes its reigns. By mid-season, fans are left wondering whether or not their team would be better suited with impressive freshman Phil Booth running the second unit.