Former Villanova player Dylan Ennis finally gets to the Final Four | Bob Ford

APTOPIX NCAA Oregon Kansas Basketball
Oregon guard Dylan Ennis (31) drives to the basket ahead of Kansas guard Josh Jackson during the second half Saturday, March 25, 2017.

When Dylan Ennis asked to meet with Jay Wright in the Villanova coach's office soon after the 2014-15 season, Wright could have probably listed a few possible reasons for the request from the 6-foot-2 guard who would be one of his three senior captains the following season.

He could have guessed all the reasons except the one that turned out to be true. Ennis wanted to transfer away from Villanova.

"I was shocked, because usually if a kid comes in and says he wants to leave, there's some problem or he's not happy," Wright said this week. "That's why I was so shocked, because everybody loved him. He's a great student, a great kid. There was never anything negative. The kid was awesome. And that's usually not the kid that comes in and says he wants to play in another system."

It wasn't the first time Ennis had decided to change schools. He played as a freshman with Rice in 2011-12, sat out the following season at Villanova because of NCAA transfer rules, then played two years with the Wildcats before beginning a process that landed him at Oregon for his last year of eligibility.

Nothing seems to be a straight line for Ennis, so it also took him an extra year with the Ducks because of a foot injury that cost him a season, but now, as a 25-year-old, he's finally where he wants to be, on the court with the ball in his hands and getting a taste of the Final Four he missed when he left Villanova.

"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," Ennis told reporters. "I have enjoyed my entire career, and whatever happens . . . I could go to sleep knowing that I enjoyed every step of it."

Well, he's certainly gotten to enjoy it longer than almost anyone else. Ennis is the rarest of rare, a sixth-year senior, and his eligibility this season required a special waiver from the NCAA, which normally mandates that four years of collegiate competition have to be completed in the span of five years once the clock starts ticking. The NCAA agreed that Ennis shouldn't have had to sit out the 2012-13 season because there had been some improprieties at Rice that caused him to leave. But Ennis had to sweat it out until last June before learning he would be granted the sixth year.

How long has Ennis been playing college ball? When he first took the floor for Rice, it was more than a year before Barack Obama was elected to a second term. His younger brother, Tyler Ennis, is 22 and playing for his fourth NBA team. (One of Tyler's career transactions, when he went from Phoenix to Milwaukee, came as part of the three-team trade that cost the Sixers Michael Carter-Williams but also netted the Lakers' draft pick that will be conveyed either this year or next.)

So, yes, Ennis will finish up his career either Saturday or Monday on mountain time, topping off a collegiate run in which he has worn a home uniform in each of the other three continental time zones as well. In the process, he also walked away from Villanova just before a fairly memorable season. As he rehabbed his foot a year ago, the Wildcats won the national championship, leading Sports Illustrated to dub Ennis "the unluckiest player" in college basketball.

"I did not feel I was unlucky," Ennis said. "They won the championship. I was happy for them. I'm exactly where I need to be. God gave me this journey, and I've never questioned it for one second."

Ennis, who had completed his bachelor's degree at Villanova, sought the graduate transfer because he felt - or his career advisors felt - that he needed to be a primary point guard somewhere in order to get the attention of the NBA. That wasn't going to happen behind Ryan Arcidiacono, and the recruitment of Jalen Brunson sealed his decision. (Brunson is also partly responsible for another member of Oregon's backcourt, freshman Payton Pritchard, who made two visits to Villanova along with his parents. Wright thought Pritchard was coming, and probably would have had the Wildcats not landed Brunson.) As for Ennis, Wright could see the logic of the transfer once he analyzed it.

"He knew he would start with us, but we play a lot of guards, so it's not really one ball-dominant guard," Wright said. "At the next level, he's a point guard, and that's why he did it. What I told every coach who called me was, 'Look, this kid is a good kid. Don't mess with him. If you know he's going to be your point guard, great, but don't promise him something and then not play him at the point.' "

Villanova helped with the graduate transfer process (and eventually the sixth-year waiver process), and Wright and Ennis remain texting buddies. When Ennis made a quintessential Wildcat dive on the floor to grab a ball and start a fast break that would end in a layup in the Midwest Regional, Wright texted that it was the play of the game.

"I love their team, man," Wright said. "You hear about bad transfer stories, but this is one of the perfect and happy stories. It worked out perfect for him, too."

Perfect would be two more wins, and those aren't guaranteed. But for someone who has been around as long as Dylan Ennis and seen as much, he'll take what happens and add it to all his college memories. If he can still remember that far back.

bford@phillynews.com

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