James Ennis dunking his way into Aussie hearts

Michael DiFabrizio Columnist

By Michael DiFabrizio, 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.

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    The Crowd Says (17)

    • October 21st 2013 @ 8:29am
      Swampy said | October 21st 2013 @ 8:29am | ! Report

      Not before time.

      When I remember back to the halcyon days of the late 80’s and early 90’s NBL it was the superior high flying US imports that got me along to the games.

      Then we got better and teams starting picking role players and guys who could fill stat sheets rather than the volume scorers of old.

      Only problem there is that the fans didn’t want to watch guys setting great picks or playing lock down defence or boxing out really well.

      From a fan’s point of view – more like Ennis.

      • Columnist

        October 21st 2013 @ 12:38pm
        Michael DiFabrizio said | October 21st 2013 @ 12:38pm | ! Report

        Swampy, great comment. That’s been a constant critique over the past few years – the type and quality of imports. It’s good to see a shift and to also know that the shift is being supported to an extent by a shift in the way the games are called.

    • Columnist

      October 21st 2013 @ 9:36am
      Kris Swales said | October 21st 2013 @ 9:36am | ! Report

      That first one had me fist pumping on the couch on Friday night – can barely a remember more than a handful of dunks across the whole of last season, let alone three in one game.

      Perth looking the goods with or without him at the moment as well.

      • Columnist

        October 21st 2013 @ 12:40pm
        Michael DiFabrizio said | October 21st 2013 @ 12:40pm | ! Report

        Kris, in the past we’d be lucky if an import had three dunks in a season let alone one game!

      • October 21st 2013 @ 11:17pm
        Nathan of Perth said | October 21st 2013 @ 11:17pm | ! Report

        The arena went off its rocker – can think of only there moments that got a comparable noise last season (Lisch crossover ankle-breaker and three pointer, Lisch beclowning Adris Deleon defensively at the end of a half, and a Matt Knight game sealer last year against the Crocs), and this was all in one game. There were a lot of very loud, very pumped people in the Arena!

    • Roar Rookie

      October 21st 2013 @ 9:55am
      josh said | October 21st 2013 @ 9:55am | ! Report

      He’s the new Leonard Copeland.

      If only Brisbane had a team…

    • October 21st 2013 @ 10:02am
      The Plainsman said | October 21st 2013 @ 10:02am | ! Report

      Great article Michael and thanks for the clips.

      Ennis is certainly a draw card – can we have some more draw cards please.

      Sigh – if only we could get the Cannons back!

    • October 21st 2013 @ 1:34pm
      Alex Paull said | October 21st 2013 @ 1:34pm | ! Report

      Being based in Perth and working across the road from the Perth Arena, it’s phenomenal how much support the Wildcats continue to garner over here. Juxtapose that with Tommy Greer’s article http://www.watoday.com.au/sport/basketball/weve-dropped-the-ball-big-time-20131020-2vv30.html. Greer makes some good points, but hopefully with Ennis’ flamboyant talents, it can be the rebirth of the game on a national scale.

      • Columnist

        October 21st 2013 @ 2:22pm
        Michael DiFabrizio said | October 21st 2013 @ 2:22pm | ! Report

        Alex, lucky you! I’ve heard good things about the vibe in the Perth CBD on game day!

        And Tommy Greer’s article was an absolute ripper. Great to hear that perspective from a player. Obviously it’ll take more than some flashy dunks to turn things around in the eastern states and attitudes like Tommy’s can only help.

        • October 21st 2013 @ 11:12pm
          Nathan of Perth said | October 21st 2013 @ 11:12pm | ! Report

          Ennis is advancing things, but the framework in Perth is paved in community engagement and mortared in marketing effort. Ennis is what is letting them capitalise on the good work!

          • Columnist

            October 21st 2013 @ 11:21pm
            Michael DiFabrizio said | October 21st 2013 @ 11:21pm | ! Report

            Could not agree more Nathan. Jack Bendat, Nick Marvin and the rest of the team have done a fantastic job getting the Wildcats out there with school visits and other grassroots stuff prior to Perth Arena and now the marketing on top of that. The model franchise of the NBL.

    • October 22nd 2013 @ 1:56am
      Mick said | October 22nd 2013 @ 1:56am | ! Report

      Ive just moved to perth from country WA. Friday night i was looking for something to do and noticed the wildcats were playing. 630 start was good, it ment i could use my 8 year old daughter as an excuse (i know, bad parenting but a man needs his sports fix). So i pumped it up to her and she was excited to go and see something that would be on tv.
      I went to an nbl game as a kid back in the days of james crawford and ricky grace etc but hadnt really worried about it since. Now i know what i have been missing!!!
      I have been to all the major sporting codes in perth to watch a game… Or 10… And hands down, the wildcats was the best family friendly event ever!! I was waiting for the halftime ‘im tired/this is boring’, but it never came!! This 8 yr old kid spent near on 2 hours cheering and clapping over a sport she has probably only seen a handful of times on tv.
      The atmosphere was unbelievable and the crowd was one of the best behaved i have ever seen. The arena is an excellent venue ($5 for a bottle of water is a bit rich but) and i dont think there is a bad view in the house!!
      Well done to the wildcats management and jack bendat on creating something that feels like ‘ours’! It was as if we felt they were privileged to have us there, as opposed to an afl game were the crowd is made to feel privileged that they are allowed in the gates.
      So anyway as the night turned out, due to this wonderful experience, my family is now fully fledged wildcats members!! Some other codes should take a good hard look at the way the wildcats do things and maybe id throw a few more membership $$ around. But until then, COME ON THE WILDCATS!!

      • Columnist

        October 22nd 2013 @ 8:23am
        Michael DiFabrizio said | October 22nd 2013 @ 8:23am | ! Report

        This is a great story Mick, well done to the Wildcats for putting on such a show!

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