James Ennis

It was early April and Long Beach State forward James Ennis was preparing for the NCAA’s annual dunk contest during Final Four weekend.

Ennis, who worked out for the Clippers on Wednesday, never imagined he would be in such a position, showing off his athleticism on a national stage.

 “When I was younger me and my brothers always talked like, ‘If you could do a dunk competition that would be a dream come true,’” Ennis said. “I didn’t do too well, but it was just exciting to be there.”

Ennis did not make it out of the first round of the dunk contest in Atlanta, but he has been on the NBA radar after averaging 16 points per game his senior year in Long Beach and earning Big West Player of the Year honors. The Clippers brought him in Wednesday morning along with Lorenzo Brown (North Carolina State), Brandon Triche (Syracuse) and Kwame Alexander (Cal State San Bernardino).

“The workout was good,” Ennis said. “They put us through a lot of shooting drills, 3-on-3, scramble, mostly a lot of shooting.”

For Ennis, though, the prospect of playing in the NBA was not in the forefront four years ago when he was a 17-point per game scorer on a Ventura High team that lost in the opening round of the CIF playoffs. He stayed local, attending Oxnard College, then Ventura College, and eventually winding up at Long Beach State with two years of eligibility remaining.

“The whole process has been crazy,” Ennis said. “Moving around to all the places, I had to adjust to that. But I think I did pretty well.”

During that time, athleticism was never a problem. He was a champion high jumper at Oxnard and he joked that “everybody knows” he dunk the basketball. It was the other elements of his game that he said he needed to develop. 

He went from a role player as a junior at Long Beach State to a focal point a year later. He scored six points per game more, and became an energetic defensive leader for the 49ers, averaging 1.7 steals and 1.3 blocks.  

“Me coming in as a senior, I knew I had to take on a bigger role,” Ennis said. “So, after my junior year I got right in the gym and got stronger and shot the ball a lot, my handling. I had to improve my overall game and I surprised myself when I got Big West Player of the Year.”

Ennis believes he has a place in the NBA, saying he wants to show teams that he can “defend any position.”

“I can dunk the ball, everybody knows that, so I have to show the different things I can do.”

And if Ennis is successful in that, he may have a chance to live out another dream come true.

Day 5 - June 19, 2013 

 Lorenzo Brown  Brandon Triche  James Ennis