by Jeremy Bauman / @JBauman13
Point guard Dylan Ennis is a leader in every aspect of the word. The 6-2 senior point guard from Lake Forest Academy in Chicago has been playing ball since a youngster and has decided to share his college decision with SLAMonline first, along with a glimpse into the mind that makes him a special player on the court and a special person off of it.
SLAM: What has your journey been like since you started playing basketball and what have some of your best memories been? When did you begin to love to play and where did you see it taking you?
Dylan Ennis: From the age of 4 I fell in love with the game. When my father put the basketball in my hand I knew it was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. He used to push me until I couldn’t go anymore. And then when he would say “that’s good for now”, I would tell him “no, that’s not enough.” I would dedicate myself to the game of basketball before anything I did. I would be playing basketball whenever I should be doing something else whether it would be homework, eating dinner, anything you could think of. People knew me for being the “guy who put basketball first.” One of my favorite memories I will never forget is when I was playing in Las Vegas, I was about 14, and I had a real bad game to advance to the championship playoffs after a missed buzzer beater. My father was my coach and he was real upset with my performance so he let me have it after the game. So I just walked into the parking lot so angry. But my mother came out there and told me everything will be ok. I told her how I didn’t think I will because I was so small and skinny and no school would ever take a chance on a player like me. She then started crying, grabbed me and said “Dylan, as your mother I know you will make it. With my faith in God I know you will achieve your dreams no matter what… do you trust me?” I hesitated but responded “Yes I do.” When I got back to the hotel my father told me how much faith he also had in me and how he knew that I will make something great out of this game of basketball. From that day on I knew if I had my families support behind me, and I dedicated all my time toward eating, drinking, and breathing basketball, I could make it anywhere.
SLAM: Pretty inspiring if you ask me. You’re originally from Canada. When and why did you decide to cross the border to further your dreams?
DE: From a young age I wanted to always play with the best so I would always play 2 years older than my age. So when I was 14 my uncle (Paul Ruddock) came up to Canada to run a practice. He was a NYC star point guard in Queens back in the day. I tried to impress him so much I played terrible at the practice. But then he told my father “I know Dylan is good, I can see it in his eyes.” So then when I was around the age of 14, he and my father decided I should take my game across the border and live with my uncle. He knew he would mold me into the great point guard he was. So I then moved in with him to start the 9th grade. He was living in the Bronx but had to move to Long Island so I moved with him. I had to take the bus/ subway for three hours every day to and from school. Even though I had to wake up at 5 a.m. everyday and would get back at 11 p.m., it was what I was willing to do to be great. When playing at Wings under Coach Billy Turnage I learned to be tough and play hard every possession. He didn’t give me any breaks; he pushed me to be the best player I could be. Playing 2 years in the Bronx gave me that killer instinct I needed to go with my high basketball IQ. I will never forget playing in the crowded, loud, ghetto gyms; they were always my favorite games. Then coming to Lake Forest helped me mold my talent to take it to college. With the help of Coach Matt Vaughn and Kyle Kouncz, I know I will be ready when I step onto the college floor for opening night.
SLAM: Three hours is a long commute to school every day… Where are you taking your talents to and why? What do you see in the Rice program that enticed you to join the team? What kinds of factors affected your decision?
DE: I will be taking my talents to Rice University in Houston, Texas. What I saw in Rice that enticed me was the players and coaches. Each and every one of them are great people on and off the court. They are definitely having the whole family atmosphere that I have been looking for in a college. And when it comes to basketball, I like Conference USA; it has some very tough teams in it. And also Rice’s outer conference schedule is great. That was a big thing, they are not afraid to play anybody; my exact personality. I believe when I put on a Rice uniform and step out onto that court with my player and the coaching staff, we will be a team you are going to have to fear. Losing doesn’t cross my mind. I play for what’s on the front of my jersey with pride.
SLAM: How did Coach Braun impact your decision?
DE: Coach Braun was a big impact on my decision. The day he met me I just knew I had that player/point guard connection with him. He knows the game from his many years experience and I just want to soak all of his knowledge up like a sponge. I feel that he can teach me so much more to the game that will make me a superior player. He knows what it takes to win and to compete and that’s what I was looking for in a coach. He also told me that he can turn me into a coach when I decided to hang my sneakers up. That’s been a dream of mine since I was a young kid. I use to draw up plays on the back of my homework and show it to my father and ask him if he thinks it would work in the game. I know that Coach Braun can help me in so many ways, not just as a basketball player, but as a young kid, aspiring to be a complete mature man.
SLAM: Best of luck to you over there! Where will your strengths lie when you start to play college basketball next season? What do you feel you need to work on so that when you get to campus you will be competing for a starting slot?
DE: My biggest three strengths are my basketball IQ/intangibles, leadership, and court vision. When it comes to knowing the game I feel I have such a grip on it. Although I could learn a whole lot more, I have a great feel for the little things the average player won’t recognize. Whether that reading an opposing player or knowing what your own player is going to do before he does it. I just do the little things that nobody else does. Also, my leadership is what makes me unique. No matter who I am playing with I take over when it comes to controlling the floor, getting everyone involved, and just keeping everybody happy. I take a lot of pride in leading my team to victory. Every loss I’ve ever had I always believe it’s my fault no matter how good I play because I sit back and say “What if I did this or that differently?” I am very hard on myself when it comes to losing and that is why I lead and don’t follow. My uncle always told me “If you want the praise, you have to take the pain too,” so when my team wins it’s a team effort, but when we lose I put it upon myself, nobody else. Last but not least, my court vision. As a young kid I was very small so I couldn’t shoot from far or make lay ups over the bigger guys. So my father told me “If you can learn how to get you teammates open shots they can make you look good.” So from there on I would take so much pride in getting my teammates in great opportunities to score or make a play. And as I grew to be 6-2 it made the game so much easier because I could score when I wanted, but I could also create a great play for my teammates. Yet, before going to college I have to work on being that lock down defender. I can play good defense with my speed and long arms (6-7 wingspan), but I want to be able to lock down any guard I play against whether he is bigger, stronger, or faster than me. I want to be able out out-think him so much that I know what he’s going to do before he does it. If I can do that then they will be so frustrated, that I can have my way with him on the offensive side of the ball.
SLAM: You were originally committed to Akron. When did you realize that it wasn’t the right fit for you? What caused you to change your mind and open the process back up?
DE: The University of Akron is a great school in every way. From school to players to coaching staff; I just felt I rush into making an early decision to commit. They were the first school to offer me a scholarship, I was so excited. I just felt I didn’t give myself a fair opportunity to evaluate other schools. So I decommitted and wanted to see other schools. I wanted know 100% if Akron was the right fit or me, or if I would fit in better somewhere else. I just wanted to be comfortable with this decision, so I took my time and decided Rice was the best fit for me to play college basketball.
SLAM: Watching you play this summer I got the feeling that you could potentially play at a major university, yet mostly mid-major schools were recruiting you. Do you feel that a mid-major situation would suit your game better anyway or do you feel you would be just as comfortable at the high major level?
DE: I feel that I can play basketball on any level. I flew under the radar until my junior year. I know my abilities, as well as the schools that were recruiting me. I have no problems in taking my game to Rice because I know all the schools that didn’t recruit me (whether mid or high) will be wondering where they went wrong. Coach Braun was able to snag me, I now I will return the favor and make him a happy coach playing under him.
SLAM: Where do you see yourself playing in the future? What are your goals with the game of basketball and with school? What will you major in?
DE: In the future I see myself playing in March Madness with my Rice uniform on at the free throw line looking into the crowd and seeing my parents cheering me on. But after that is done, I plan to play professional basketball in the NBA or overseas. I set out to play basketball for money one day and that’s what I will do. And in the end when I am to get up and down the court, I will be coaching the game. Hopefully giving a young man a chance to make his dreams come true like coach Braun did for me. And as far as school, I hope to get my degree from the prestigious Rice University and possibly majoring in sports management. But we can’t tell the future, we can only have faith in God. And that’s the reason I am where I am today.
SLAM: Thanks Dylan, best of luck to you!
DE: Thanks a lot!