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From Toronto to Milwaukee: Newest Buck Tyler Ennis embracing all facets of his NBA journey

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Tyler Ennis made his Bucks debut last Friday against the Denver Nuggets.

Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Just nine months into his NBA career, Tyler Ennis has already experienced the full spectrum of emotion as a professional athlete: Excitement, accomplishment, disappointment, frustration, perseverance and refreshment, just to name a few. And while it's unusual that first-round picks get traded in their first season with a team, that's what happened to Ennis last Thursday, when the 20-year-old landed in Milwaukee after a quiet first half of the season in Phoenix.

A native of Toronto, Canada, Ennis grew up in a country predominately known for hockey rather than basketball, a sport that is still developing among Canadians. Not to be confused with fellow Canadian Tyler Ennis -- a center for the Buffalo Sabers -- this Tyler  was forced to actually convince the people around him that the sport he was playing was real, something he could pursue and do the rest of his life.

"I think when I was growing up, people weren't taking it seriously." Ennis said. "People were playing for fun.

"Taking the game seriously from a young age helped me."

Having six siblings allowed him to always stay active when it came to sports, though. His father, Tony McIntyre, often pushed him in the gym, a place that became a sanctuary for him as a young athlete.

"I grew up in the gym. I can remember playing basketball in the gym with my dad and brothers. I just fell in love with the game. I think when I saw the progress and how much better you can get from working hard, I just fell in love with the whole process of working out and getting ready for games and things like that."

McIntyre knows a thing or two about preparing young men for the next level of basketball. He's in charge of the top AAU program in all of Canada, Nike CIA Bounce, a program that produced No.1 overall picks Andrew Wiggins and Anthony Bennett. The program also produced Cleveland center Tristan Thompson, who was selected fourth overall back in 2011 out of Texas.

"People are starting to see the kids now as potential pros and I think that's going to help a lot when people go there to recruit for colleges and even parents just getting them started early." Ennis said.

Ennis also trained a lot with two of his four brothers -- Dylan and Brandon -- as they spent summers competing in their neighborhood on a rollaway court in the street. Sometimes, they would get yelled at for dirtying up brand new clothes.

"That helped a lot. They were always beating me up." Ennis explained. "We'd play 2-on-2 with one of my brothers' friends and I wasn't allowed to call fouls or anything. I think that helped playing guys in my age group and physically being able to do things that people my age weren't doing at the time. "

Playing in Canada, Ennis had the confidence in himself as a basketball player to decide that he wanted to bolt his home country and finish his high school basketball career in the United States. After originally starting off in Chicago, he transferred east to New Jersey and enrolled in Saint Benedict's Preparatory School in Newark, taking a gamble that ultimately paid off.

"I felt I was one of the best guys at my age at the time." Ennis said. "I'd go on Rivals and see all these guys with offers and I didn't have any. For me to get my name out there, I had to put myself in the position to do that."

He would eventually go on to win the Gatorade New Jersey Boys Basketball Player of the Year for 2011-12. Ennis averaged 15.2 points, 7.1 assists, 4.6 rebounds and 2.5 steals that year as a First Team All-State performer. In the classroom, he also maintained a 3.29 grade point average.

"There was no better situation than St. Benedict's. I was able to take advantage of that," he said.

Today, McIntyre serves as the Director of Basketball Operations for Athlete Institute while Dylan currently plays for the Villanova University basketball team. Brandon played basketball for the University of District Columbia from 2009-2012. Just this past weekend, Ennis' father arrived in Milwaukee (Villanova played Marquette University on Saturday) a day earlier than he originally planned so that he could help his son become acclimated to his new surroundings in Wisconsin.

"I always know if I need anything, they'll be on the first plane out here," he said, "which is a good support system for me going forward.

"I'm from a close-knit family."

Ennis made his debut for the Bucks last Friday against the Denver Nuggets and played a career-high 18 minutes. He struggled at times, committing three turnovers and personal fouls each, on top of going just 1-for-4 from the field in his debut. But his new head coach and the man he modeled his game after -- Jason Kidd -- took notice of his patience.

"I thought he did a great job." Kidd said after the game. "From being in the D-league, to now playing in a meaningful game, I give him credit for being professional and doing everything possible to help his team win."

"I think it speaks to his demeanor, his natural talent. He's a poised kid as you can see ... he didn't panic. Guys trusted him with the ball."

From being selected 18th overall by Phoenix in the 2014 NBA Draft, to being buried behind the Suns' trio of point guards Eric Bledsoe, Goran Dragic and Isaiah Thomas, Ennis' journey has already been a bit exhausting in not even a full calendar year. Ennis played in only eight regular season games for the Suns and never saw more than 15 minutes in a game.

That shifted his focus to off the court preparation such as weight training and film study.

"It actually helped a lot looking back. Obviously, I wanted to play right away, but for me to sit there and watch those guys not only in practices, but also in games, I was able to watch and take things from all of them and see how they're effective."

Before being dealt to the Bucks at the trade deadline, Ennis also spent the first portion of his career in Bakersfield, CA, playing for the Suns' D-league affiliate. While in California, Ennis averaged 18.4 points, 4.3 rebounds, 5.3 assists and 1.8 steals in nine games. Some viewed the move as a downgrade, but for Ennis, he discovered a different perspective on what the D-league is actually like and what it can do for basketball players.

"I actually went through it as well (seeing the move in a negative way). When I found out I was going, I was like ‘I don't want to go, it's a demotion', but it kept me in shape. Working out so much, it gave me a chance to go down there and put my things together. A lot of people think when you get sent to the D-league, you're just there.

"Everybody sees themselves coming in as the Rookie of the Year. Everybody sees themselves playing, starting, but the reality is, there's so many guys in the league, that very few come right in (and start). When I did get in the game, I wanted to show them that they were making a mistake by sending me down there."

Now in Milwaukee, he finally gets a legitimate chance to log minutes in the NBA. The Bucks are shorthanded at the point guard position after losing Kendall Marshall because of an ACL tear. Eventual starter Michael Carter-Williams -- the man he replaced at Syracuse University -- is still battling a toe injury that has held him out since the beginning of the month.

Ennis is still trying to find his way each game, but this time around, he's able to involve himself on the court.

"At first you just have to get comfortable," Ennis said, "you've got to feel the guys out, but once you're out there it's just reads and playing basketball. Coach gives us so much freedom and has so much trust in the players that once I'm out there, it's just me making basketball plays."