February 28, 2016 – As the Oregon Ducks finished off their 101-73 drubbing of Washington and wrapped up only their second basketball season going undefeated at home (and first at Matthew Knight Arena), the attention turned to the Seniors. As per tradition, a highlight video for each was played. After watching an array of shots, dunks, and defensive plays from fellow Seniors Elgin Cook and Dwayne Benjamin, it was time for Dylan Ennis’ reel. Unfortunately, his merely included a compilation of Ennis cheering on teammates from the sideline, delving out high fives on the bench, and even coasting around on his scooter with his leg in the familiar boot fans had grown accustomed to seeing him wearing.
Ennis was a good sport about it, laughing as he gazed up at the jumbotron, and when given the microphone to address the crowd said “hopefully I’ll see y’all next year.” And while it was a moment to smile and celebrate, I found that there was a feeling of ambiguity in the air. After all, the impact expected of Ennis upon his arrival was one that was supposed to serve as the culmination of a long journey throughout collegiate basketball, not merely a footnote for someone relegated to a glorified cheerleader as their grand finale’.
As a freshman at Rice, Ennis had an immediate impact, setting a school assist record for a first-year player and making the Conference USA All-Freshman team. This led to the decision to pursue playing on a larger stage at one of the more traditional basketball powerhouses: Villanova. Ennis sat out the following year then began playing for the Wildcats. His first season there, while productive, was marred by nagging injuries to his shooting hand. The following year, however, Ennis had earned a starting job, averaging 9.9 points, 3.5 assists, 3.7 rebounds, and one steal per game as Villanova advanced to the third round of the NCAA Tournament. At that point a future in professional basketball seemed a possibility, but because of the inactive year between his tenures at Rice and Villanova, Ennis could potentially play out his final year of eligibility elsewhere as a graduate transfer. This opportunity would send him clear across the country to a basketball program on the rise nestled in the Emerald Valley.
Ennis, along with fellow transfer Chris Boucher, was expected to make an immediate impact. An already proven veteran of the hardwood, Ennis’ scoring and offensive prowess at guard was sorely needed after the departure of team leader and Pac 12 player of the year Joseph Young. Ennis made his debut at the end of December against Western Oregon but later that same week in the conference opener against Oregon State, he sustained a foot injury. A few days later Ennis learned he would miss the remainder of the season. For someone who had taken the chance with a graduate transfer to have that final season of college basketball, this was a hard blow to Ennis and the team as a whole.
But following the loss to the Beavers and the news that they would be without Ennis, the team suddenly appeared inspired and went on a tear, winning 9 of the next 11 games and vaulting to the top of the conference. Ennis was a very useful presence in the locker room and the sideline, but assuming the role of off-court leader had to have been difficult while watching the team soar to new heights and knowing he was unable to lend his abilities on the court. Ennis found a silver lining during his rehabilitation as he began to form a bond with Megan Trinder, a member of the UO women’s basketball team who was herself rehabbing from a torn ACL. Eventually the two began dating and once Oregon had concluded its most successful season in almost a decade Ennis decided that his “lost season” could potentially be a second chance…if the NCAA was willing to grant another year of eligibility due to medical hardship.
The wait was a long and tense one, but in July at a barbeque of all places, Ennis finally got the news he’d been hoping for. Back on the floor at last, Ennis quickly began proving his worth. Playing primarily as a two-guard off Payton Pritchard and Casey Benson, Ennis has flourished. He’s averaged 11.1 points and 4.3 rebounds this season while shooting nearly 40% from three-point range. Along with his shooting stroke Ennis has demonstrated an innate ability to get to the basket with a mixture of agility and power, leading to double-digit scoring outputs 15 times this season and reaching 20 on three occasions. Adding a cherry to the top, this final year has also enabled Ennis to realize his academic goal of obtaining a Master’s degree as he’s set to graduate with a diploma in Conflict and Dispute Resolution this spring.
On Saturday Ennis again partook in the senior send-off ceremony, this time standing arm-in-arm with Trinder, his family by his side and a walking boot nowhere to be seen. He had notched 20 points, 6 rebounds, and 3 assists, showcasing his offensive arsenal with a few outside shots, some driving lay-ins, and even a nifty little jump hook off a post-up. He could be seen hopping up and down with enthusiasm as Evan Gross sank a three-pointer to cap what would end up being the 42nd consecutive win at Matthew Knight Arena and the second straight season going undefeated at home.
Ennis again looked up to the jumbotron, again sporting that million-dollar smile, but this time watching a true highlight video of his stellar play this season. This time it felt right, this time it seemed proper, this time there was a sense of completion as opposed to frustration. “It’s been a long journey”, Ennis said to the crowd, “but I’m thankful I did it with you guys!”