For James Ennis, this is all a dream. Early in his career, track and field may have been his calling card to stardom. Now, he’s less than two months away from hearing his name called in the NBA Draft.
“I started doing track when I was in high school. They gave me a chance because I could jump high,” the wiry athlete explained. “In high school, I didn’t jump so high. I only cleared 6-5. Then at VC, I cleared 6-11. I had no form, but if I did, I would have cleared 7-4.
Growing up in Ventura, CA, Ennis as always known as an athlete. Every basketball hotbed has that 6-6-ish guy who can jump out of the gym, but lacks in the skills department. In this 22-year-old’s case, that potential was fulfilled, but it took some time, though. After his stellar career at Ventura HS ended, he didn’t have the grades to head to a DI school. Left with limited options, Ennis stayed at home to play at Ventura College, a Cali JuCo that doesn’t even offer full rides.
“Knowing that I came from a JC, I had to put in a lot of work to keep up at the DI pace. After my JC career, I just kept on working really hard and kept pushing myself to be the best I can be,” he explained. “Once I got to the DI level, I had to get my shot off a lot faster because everyone has around the same talent as you.”
James got it done in the classroom and on the hardwood at Ventura. He got his grades right and accepted a scholly to Long Beach State. Rocking perhaps the dopest jerseys in the NCAA, his first year at “The Beach” was a successful one. The team had diminutive scoring point guard Casper Ware and athletic big man TJ Robinson taking the majority of the shots, but Ennis still contributed. With Ware and Robinson graduating last summer, it was James’ team and he was ready to blow up.
With the keys to the car his senior year, Ennis put in work. He averaged 16 and 7, yet also making a monster presence on the defensive end. His dominance was noticed too, as he won Big West Player of the Year honors. Long Beach State won the regular-season crown, but was then was upset in the conference tourney. With his college career over, Ennis headed to Portsmouth and put on a show, solidifying his status in the NBA Draft in the process. This brings us to where we were today: Manhattan Beach, where he is prepping for the Draft with Tyrell Jamerson.
A former point guard at UNLV, Jamerson specializes in ball handling and he has a willing student. He put the 6-7 swingman through stationary drills, full-court drills, and drills with varying speeds to enhance explosiveness. Giving maximum effort throughout the drills, it was evident that Ennis was engaged.
“I’m really trying to get my handle right,” he admitted. “I’m getting sharper, keeping the ball low to the ground, and am trying to keep my head up at all times.”
One area of the workout that left a lot of optimism was Ennis’ perimeter shooting. He shot a respectable 36 percent from three in college, but shot the ball at a much higher clip from the NBA line in the workout than he did the college line. Ennis is an unselfish player with above average court vision for a wing and we couldn’t even see his biggest strength (his defense) in a workout like this. Add all these things together and you see why James will be hearing his name called in Brooklyn in late June.
The first thing I’m going to bring to a team is my defense. I can guard multiple positions. My length also allows me to keep little guards in front of me,” he said. “Also, I’m a high energy guy off of the bench who is willing to do whatever it takes to help my team win.”
Humble, hungry and freakishly athletic, the best days lay ahead for Mr. Ennis.