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News / Sports / Prep Sports

Fort Vancouver’s James Ensley hired as boys basketball coach at Battle Ground

Ensley, a 1996 Battle Ground grad, spent past 10 seasons leading the Trappers

By Meg Wochnick, Columbian staff writer
Published: April 24, 2024, 12:22pm
2 Photos
Fort Vancouver boys basketball coach James Ensley, shown here in November 2021, has been named the new boys basketball coach at Battle Ground. Ensley, a 1996 BG graduate, spent the past 10 seasons as Fort Vancouver's coach.
Fort Vancouver boys basketball coach James Ensley, shown here in November 2021, has been named the new boys basketball coach at Battle Ground. Ensley, a 1996 BG graduate, spent the past 10 seasons as Fort Vancouver's coach. (Roberto Rodriguez for The Columbian) Photo Gallery

As a Battle Ground native, James Ensley takes pride in returning to a place that impacted him not just in athletics, but why he became an educator and coach. 

“That part makes me feel good,” Ensley said. “This is an opportunity to go back and help the kids, process through athletics, and teach life lessons through sports that were granted to me.

“I can name off a ton of coaches that through my career, I’m still in contact with, that helped me survive my teenage years.” 

Ensley, a 1996 Battle Ground High graduate who played for hall of fame coach Butch Blue, is Battle Ground’s new boys basketball coach after a decade leading Fort Vancouver. The hiring is pending board approval.

While grateful to be back at his old roots, it wasn’t on Ensley’s radar initially — “I’ve never really looked at another opportunity in 18 years (including eight years as a Fort assistant),” he said. That is, until Ensley learned weeks ago his job as dean of students and athletic director at Fort Vancouver was being eliminated as part of Vancouver Public Schools’ $35 million in budget cuts for next school year. 

As AD, Ensley spearheaded outside-the-box ideas in recent years to help continue to build the path to prosperity for Trapper athletics.

Those included a 1A football schedule since 2021, and the girls basketball and girls soccer programs having modified schedules to increase participation and competitiveness. More recently, Fort won its appeal to play in Class 1A for all sports. The Trappers will be a full-fledged Trico League member starting in 2024-25. 

Where or what Ensley’s full-time job in education will be next school year, he said he’s unsure. What he is sure about is transitioning to a competitive 4A Greater St. Helens League, a challenge the coach doesn’t back down from.

The Tigers, under former coach Brett Johnson who was hired weeks prior to the 2023-24 season, placed third in the 4A GSHL to reach the postseason. The other two playoff-bound teams, Camas and Skyview, reached the Hardwood Classic. 

“I’ve got to get to work,” Ensley said. “It’ll really test my ability to get a program up and rolling, and to be able to compete at that (4A) level.

“But we’re going to compete at a high level.”

KNIGHT HIRED BY MOUNTAIN VIEW: Chuck Knight is Mountain View’s new girls basketball coach. The former Camas girls head coach from 2010-15 replaces Dan Larson, who led the Thunder to a share of the 3A GSHL title and a bi-district berth.

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