James Ennis dunking his way into Aussie hearts

Michael DiFabrizio Columnist

By , Michael DiFabrizio is a Roar Expert

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    The Perth Wildcats have one of the greatest finals records in professional sport, but their streak looks to be in trouble. (Image via NBL)

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    Two weeks into his NBL career, James Ennis is already the league’s must-see attraction.

    The Perth Wildcats import had a resume that always made him look good on paper – particularly the part that reads “Pick 50 – NBA Draft 2013”.

    But after three games, we now know Ennis is worth the price of admission not on what he’s done before, or who he’ll be playing for in the future (the Miami Heat in case you hadn’t heard), but what he’s doing now.

    Game 1 (vs. Adelaide): 25 points, 4-7 from three, four rebounds.

    Game 2 (vs. Sydney): 27 points, six rebounds, two steals.

    Game 3 (vs. Melbourne): 21 points, seven rebounds.

    About the only sign he’s in his first season of pro ball is his turnover numbers, given he currently seems good for 3-4 per game.

    But you’ve got to admit, those numbers above are pretty impressive in the NBL world. The past two seasons not a single player has averaged more than 20 points per game.

    Better still, those who’ve been tuning in to these games would know it’s obvious what Ennis brings to the table goes beyond numbers.

    His four threes on debut, at a venue in Perth Arena that is the Bermuda Triangle of three-point shooting, were fun to watch, but Friday night he took things to another level by taking things to the rim.

    It started with a dunk:

    Then there was another dunk:

    And then, best of all, there was this dunk (picking up the foul, too):

    If you want fans of the sport – and there are many in this country – to get along to NBL games, highlights like these are going to do it.

    While the signings and subsequently brief stints of Patty Mills and Jonny Flynn in recent years generated some buzz, they didn’t offer the game a constant highlight reel and big numbers like Ennis has been thus far.

    The reality is, to get people off their couches and into arenas you need the sausage, not just the sizzle.

    The likelihood is that Ennis will be off to buddy up with LeBron James after this season. Ennis was a second-round pick for the Miami Heat. Ennis’ contract with the Wildcats includes an NBA out clause where he could return to the Heat if the team requires him in the upcoming season.

    So, there’s a slight possibility he’ll be called to the biggest league prior to the end of this season. So that’s the downside here – that the NBL can’t hang on to talent like this beyond a short-term stint.

    But the upside is the NBL actually has a “poster boy”. If the league was smart they’d put some of those highlights into ads to air leading into the summer holidays. We can only hope.

    At least, whether intentionally or not, the fixture is cashing in on the hype. Perth have been scheduled for five games in the opening three weeks with another two this weekend.

    The more Ennis the better, right?

    Michael DiFabrizio
    Michael DiFabrizio

    Michael DiFabrizio is based in Mildura, Victoria. He has been an expert columnist at The Roar since 2009, leading to appearances on ABC News 24 and in the Age. Follow Michael on Twitter @MichaelDiFab.