A summer breeze sweeps over the coast along with the tide of the Pacific Ocean. The sky is clear and the sun is set at just the right angle to feel its warmth on your skin without the risk of sunburn. Music can be heard, but its lyrics are drowned out by laughter and conversation.
Whether it occurs on the mainland or one of the surrounding islands, Hawaii is the popular venue for the Enos family reunions that take place every two years. Utah Valley senior guard Keawe (kay-ah-vay) Enos is always in attendance, and the Mesa, Ariz. native doesn’t have to worry about getting to know anyone also participating in the festivities.
“It’s a surprise if we don’t see them for a couple of days,” Enos said of his relatives. “That’s how much we see each other. We’re friends with our cousins, we’re close to them. We’re always getting together somehow.”
Enos can’t quite put his finger on why family has taken the greatest priority in his life, but there’s no questioning the sincerity with which he speaks of his loved ones. That compassion has translated to his collegiate basketball family, whose members rave about the 6-foot-1 playmaker’s team-first mentality.
“Keawe is a guy I really look up to,” senior center Ben Aird said. “I’ve been his roommate and been really close friends with him the past three years. He really puts the team first and strives to be successful as a member of a unit.”
The bearded, bald Enos grew up the oldest of five siblings and spent every year of his life in his hometown, where he also played one season at nearby Mesa Community College prior to serving an LDS mission in Jackson, Miss. Enos wasn’t initially assigned to learn a foreign language, but said that his mission was “southern speaking.”
When Enos returned home after two years he planned to return to MCC to maintain a proximity to his family, but when UVU head coach Dick Hunsaker came calling he found the opportunity too great to pass up. Enos arrived in Orem as a sophomore and had to go through the highs and lows associated with the game.
“When I was a younger player, a newer player, a lot of confidence came from my shot,” Enos said. “If it’s going in you’re confident and if it isn’t, your confidence takes a hit, which I think is natural for almost everyone. I started to realize that really that’s only one aspect of basketball.
“I’d be lying if I said confidence doesn’t come from when you hit a shot, but if it isn’t going down you can do well in other aspects like defense, helping your teammates and executing on different plays that we’re running. Doing those things will give you a more consistent confidence.”
Though he didn’t know anyone on the team when he first stepped foot on campus, Enos made friends seamlessly. His new relationships paid off when Aird introduced him to Katelyn McKell, who he married in June 2012.
“Part of it is your relation with the guys and how you get along,” Enos said of his adjustments. “The thing that helps me is being able to be genuinely happy about their success. If you can remember that everything you’re doing is for the team’s success, you can keep from getting caught up in selfish thoughts.”
Enos appeared in 23 games his sophomore season, and started seven games, playing in 30 his junior year, before starting in each of the Wolverines’ three contests this season.
“Keawe has a heart of a lion,” Coach Hunsaker said. “It has been so gratifying watching his determination to persevere through difficult times and scenarios within his playing experience. He’s a bit of a poster child of the old saying ‘tough times don’t last, tough people do.’ It’s a great story of never allowing discouragement to overcome you and persevere with a healthy attitude.”
Playing basketball since before he can remember, the speedy guard doesn’t want to think about the day he decides to call it quits.
“The second you stop, whether it’s the end of the season or the end of your career – it could only be a week that you haven’t played – you realize how much you love it,” Enos said.
Eventually he knows it’s inevitable, so he is currently studying exercise science and plans to pursue a career as a nutritionist.
“I’m kind of the healthy guy on the team,” Enos said. “They would say I’m a little bit extreme in that aspect and I would agree. I don’t eat sugar, desserts and stuff like that and I just try to eat as healthy as I can. I think I got it from my mom, who always tried to get us to eat healthier.”
Enos knows it’s not his place to tell a guy eating fast food on a road trip that he’s making a bad decision, yet his teammates still observe his habits.
“Just give that guy some peanut butter and he’s good to go,” Aird said. “That’s part of his work ethic. He wants to take care of his body, and it might be extreme in some people’s eyes, but it just goes to show his work ethic. I’ve tried to do what he does a little bit, but to the extreme that he does it is almost impossible for anyone else. A lot of credit goes to his determination to do that.”
The health nut was willing to impart some of his wisdom that he commonly shares with people seeking guidance.
“The biggest advice I would give everyone is it’s all about balance,” Enos said. “I would never advise someone to be like me, or be a little bit more towards the extreme as others would say. You don’t have to cut anything out completely; it’s just all about balance. Too much of anything isn’t good.”
On the floor he can demonstrate his fiery, competitive demeanor, but off the hardwood Enos is a humble, soft-spoken individual.
“You learn through experience that it’s not all about you,” Enos said. “There’s a bigger picture and a bigger impact you can have.”
Enos is averaging 9.7 points per game on 47.4 percent shooting this season and helped propel the Wolverines to a season opening win with a career-high 14 points against IUPUI.
He echoed the sentiments of his teammates when he said it would be a dream to play in the NCAA tournament but is resolute in his commitment to take the season one game at a time, a difficult lesson he’s picked up by suiting up in the green and white.