Oregon 'old man' Dylan Ennis hopes career can go bit longer
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) Oregon's Dylan Ennis, once called the ''unluckiest player in college basketball,'' was feeling pretty fortunate after the Ducks survived to reach the NCAA Midwest Regional final against top-seeded Kansas on Saturday night.
He gets to continue his lengthy college career for at least another day.
He imagined Friday how devastating it would have been for him personally if Michigan had been able to capitalize after he missed the front end of not one but two one-and-ones in the last 2 minutes of the regional semifinal Thursday. The Ducks won 69-68, but not until Derrick Walton Jr. missed his 20-foot jumper with Ennis defending.
''I wanted to be the one to guard Walton for that last possession,'' Ennis said. ''I looked at all my teammates. They said, `Dylan, it's not over.' They had the confidence in me to guard him. I knew it wasn't just those two free throws. But I felt like if he hit that shot, the season would have been on me.''
The personable Ennis is a guy who deserves a good break. He's 25 years old. He's playing at his third school. He's in his sixth season of eligibility. To understand how long Ennis has been around, consider that his brother Tyler Ennis, the former Syracuse star and current Los Angeles Laker, is three years younger and is in his third NBA season.
Few give the third-seeded Ducks much chance to beat a Kansas team that seems to be on an unstoppable roll and will have a huge home-court advantage playing so close to its campus. Saturday's winner goes to the Final Four next week in Glendale, Arizona.
''This game, it's special to me because I know this is possibly my last game. Hopefully not, God willing,'' Ennis said. ''I've had a great experience throughout my college career and to end it hopefully on a high note with my brothers and such a great coaching staff... it's big. I have enjoyed my entire career, and whatever happens tomorrow, I could go to sleep knowing that I enjoyed every step of it.''
The 6-foot-2 Canadian started his college career at Rice in 2011-12 and made the Conference USA all-freshman team. Craving a bigger stage, he transferred to Villanova, where he was required to sit out his first year.
Ennis broke his hand just before he became eligible. He played 30 games in 2013-14 but never felt quite right. The next season he averaged 9.9 points while playing in all 36 games.
With one year of eligibility left and a bachelor's degree in hand, he went to Oregon as a graduate transfer because he would be given an opportunity to play his natural point guard position. But he hurt his foot during a practice in October 2015, made it back to play a couple games and then broke the foot in an early January game.
Meanwhile, Villanova coach Jay Wright had his Wildcats on their way to winning the national title.
Oregon appealed to the NCAA to grant Ennis a rare sixth year because of the injuries. The NCAA said yes.
The combination of Ennis' injuries and Villanova's championship run prompted Sports Illustrated, in its Oregon team preview for this season, to call Ennis the ''unluckiest player in college basketball'' in 2015-16.
''I did not feel I was unlucky,'' he said Friday. ''They won the championship. I was happy for them. They were my brothers before they were my teammates. I'll be friends with the coaching staff and players when I'm done playing basketball. I'm exactly where I need to be. God gave me this journey and I never questioned it for one second.''
With the emergence of Casey Benson and Payton Pritchard, Ennis hasn't played as much point as he might have liked. But he can fill a stat sheet. He's started all 37 games, averages 10.7 points and 4.4 rebounds and is second on the team in assists and third in steals. He shot a team-leading 47.2 percent on 3-pointers in Pac-12 play.
''To win the appeal and to have him come back for his sixth year and finish up his master's degree and just have an outstanding year for us, it's good,'' Ducks coach Dana Altman said. ''He's the old man on the team, and that experience with Villanova and other quality programs has helped our ball club.''
Ennis said he knows time is running out on his college career no matter what happens.
''Hopefully I make $100 million playing basketball,'' he said, ''but I know that it's going to end one day. I'm praying and I'm hoping it's not ending tomorrow and that it ends in Phoenix with us holding that trophy up.''
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