Dylan Ennis makes instant impact for surging Villanova

Dylan Ennis (USATSI)
Villanova guard Dylan Ennis averaged 12.0 points per game in the Battle 4 Atlantis last week. (USATSI)

Villanova made national headlines this weekend when it won the prestigious Battle 4 Atlantis tournament in the Bahamas.

With victories over Kansas and Iowa on back-to-back days, the Wildcats proved they're more than just a team that's capable of competing for a Big East title.

Just two seasons removed from going 13-19, Jay Wright has led Villanova back to national prominence. The 7-0 Wildcats are currently No. 7 in the CBSSports.com Top 25 (And One) ranking.

What was the biggest difference in this team compared to last season and the first four games it played this year?

Dylan Ennis.

The transfer from Rice made his Wildcats debut this weekend and didn't disappoint. In three games, Ennis averaged 12.0 points per game, made 8-of-12 shots from three-point range, and gave Villanova a tremendous jolt off the bench.

"He shocked me," Wright said of Ennis. "He played with great composure. He didn't force shots. He was really impressive."

Wright did a masterful job last season leading the Wildcats back to the NCAA tournament, but he didn't have a guard like Ennis.

The 6-2 sophomore can get to the rim and constantly puts the defense on its heels. Villanova has several capable perimeter players in Ryan Arcidiacono, Darrun Hilliard, and James Bell, but they're not cut from the same cloth at Ennis.

With Ennis back healthy and Tony Chennault significantly more comfortable than he was last season, the Wildcats have the potential to be devastating defensively guarding the ball on the perimeter.

"Tony Chennault's minutes have been as efficient as anyone on our team," Wright said. "And Dylan (Ennis) gives us more of the type of guard that we had in the past. He's quick, bouncy, and jet-like. It's not that the other guys we have aren't good. Dylan's just a little different, and more in the mold of what we've had here before."

Wright also praised freshmen Josh Hart and Kris Jenkins for their performances in the Bahamas.

The 6-5 Hart has been huge all season with his intangibles and brings the type of calming influence that Villanova had when they had Reggie Redding. Jenkins meanwhile, plays deceptively bigger than his 6-6 frame and has the ability on offense to take the opponent's five-man away from the basket because of his ability to extend the defense.

"Josh Hart has an intelligence about him that's greater than his years show," Wright said. "And Kris Jenkins' strength and the experience he had playing inside in high school allowed him to guard and rebound for us at a high level. We went to him for three minutes or so in the Kansas game because Jayvaughn Pinkston needed a blow, but he stayed in there and did the job."

Just seven days ago, the Wildcats were headed to the Bahamas hoping to pick up a few marquee wins.

Now that's been accomplished and they're starting to resemble the type of team that was regularly mentioned among the nation's elite a few years ago.

Can it continue?

Things won't get any easier.

Villanova's next three games are all against Big 5 opponents --- Penn on Wednesday, Saint Joseph's on Saturday, and La Salle on Dec. 15. After that, it will play host to an underrated Rider team on Dec. 21 and then travel to the Carrier Dome to play Syracuse on Dec. 28.

Then comes the Big East.

"It works out perfectly," Wright said with a chuckle.

It has so far.

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