It was the 2013/14 NBL awards dinner at Southbank, Melbourne. Rotnei Clarke of the Wollongong Hawks was announced the league’s most valuable player. James Ennis was awarded an All-Star Five selection.
His trophy? You know the rest of the story.
One moment that led to Australian basketball fans having a negative opinion on Ennis.
That’s what you know.
What you don’t know, is how humble and appreciative James Ennis is as a person. A quiet and unassuming fellow, Ennis greeted dozens of school children inside Victoria’s State Basketball Centre in Wantirna South today.
He treated those around him to a special day in their lives, providing a once in a lifetime clinic for some junior basketball players; the very same ones who look up to their modern day role models in the National Basketball League.
Ennis made time for all, making sure each student received an autograph on their chosen product.
Following this, he sat down with The Pick and Roll and reflected back on his time in Australia upon returning to our shores.
“We won a championship! It was all good coming (to Australia).”
Travelling half way around the world for your first professional contract probably isn’t on the agenda of any budding NBA star who has just had his name called out in the NBA draft.
However, that’s becoming more of an regularity, thanks to the pathway Ennis mapped out. After being selected pick number 50 by the Atlanta Hawks in the 2013 draft, he found himself in the land down under trying to contend with how he found himself so far from home.
“Coming over here helped me grow up as a person, being young coming out of college it helped me mature quickly.”
Ennis used the Wildcats as a massive maturity platform, stepping up to the plate off the court just as much as he did on the court for his team. It provided him with a preview of what it was like to play in a professional organisation, a teaser of what it would be like in the NBA.
The debate of whether Ennis was ready for the NBA coming straight out of college was a difficult one, however he couldn’t have asked for a better stepping stone en route to the bright lights of Miami.
On the court, Ennis describes Perth’s development of his game play vital for the NBA’s elite.
“(Perth) helped me get a lot stronger, to be ready at a professional level. Coming out of college, you never know how to play at a level with a bunch of professionals.”
Spending a full season inside a basketball huddle makes sure you’re a part of a family, something he’ll never forget anytime soon. Always speaking highly about his ex-Wildcats teammates, Ennis makes sure he keeps in touch with the crew.
Returning to Australia, he hopes to expand his character and continue to give back to the Aussie community. In a display where he wants to branch further than Perth, Ennis has teamed up with A&D Sports Management to continue to promote the game.
After concluding his first full season in the NBA, Ennis is remembered globally for the moment he soared over Rasual Butler, one that sent him to No.1 on the Dunk of the Year rankings. Talk of the highlight dunk brings a boyish smile to Ennis, and sends him into chuckles.
“I didn’t even know the ball went in the rim. When I watch the video, I feel like I closed my eyes when I went up, because I was so high I didn’t know what was going on.”
After sharing his recollections of season 2014/15, Ennis promised he would never forget the Perth Wildcat fans, following up with the comment that he would like to return after his NBA career is run and done.
“I was talking to my agent and we were talking about ending my career here, so after the NBA I was thinking about coming back here and playing for Perth one more time.”
Arguably, Ennis has single-handedly rejuvenated the NBL, which has sparked multiple draft picks to don NBL uniforms alongside elite local and international talent.
If James Ennis wants to come back and play in the NBL, who’s going to say no?