As an Australian fan of basketball it is officially time to get excited. Why? Three names: Dante Exum, Ben Simmons and James Ennis.
Let me lay it out for you…. young Aussie prospect Dante Exum will be a top-5 NBA lottery pick in either 2014 or 2015 and has the potential to become an All Star-calibre player in the association. ESPN’s NBA Draft expert Chad Ford has Exum currently ranked as the third pick in next year’s absolutely stacked NBA draft, should Dante choose to make himself available. That ranking has him behind only can’t-miss prospects Andrew Wiggins (Kansas) and Julius Randle (Kentucky) and ahead of highly touted Jabari Parker (Duke), Marcus Smart (Oklahoma State), Aaron Gordon (Arizona) and Andrew Harrison (Kentucky). All of these guys, including Exum, are regarded as potential franchise players – the type of cornerstone pieces that an NBA franchise can build around. Yep – Dante Exum is that good. Born and bred in Melbourne, Exum is the son of former NBL player Cecil Exum. Cecil played with MJ at the University of North Carolina before plying his trade with the Geelong Supercats and North Melbourne Giants through the 80s and 90s.
Dante Exum is about to blow up and we here at Downtown are looking forward to enjoying every single second of the ride. For more about Dante Exum, check out the highlight packages below and get a load of this recent article from Dime Magazine:
Keeping with the father/son theme is young Aussie prospect Ben Simmons, son of former Melbourne Tigers import Dave Simmons. Ben Simmons is a product of the Knox junior program and has spent some time under the tutelage of Kevin Goorjian as part of the specialised basketball program at Box Hill Senior Secondary College. He has a legit basketball body, can play both forward positions and has the kind of athletic, well-rounded game that leaves NBA scouts salivating. Simmons currently plays high school ball at the powerful Montverde Academy (Florida) and has already helped the school to a national championship. In August this year, Simmons joined Dante Exum as part of the Australia Boomers team that defeated New Zealand in the FIBA Oceania Championships – turning heads with his above-the-rim contributions in limited minutes. Soon it will be time for a year at LSU followed by a top 5 selection in the 2016 NBA Draft. The future is bright for Big Ben.
If you get the chance, make sure you watch some Perth Wildcats action this year. Perth’s new import, James Ennis, is one of the most exciting import talents to hit Aussie shores for a long, long time. Downtown’s Roy Ward recently mentioned Ennis in his piece on this season’s most exciting NBL players and for good reason as Ennis is going to be seriously fun to watch. Before we go any further, check out these highlights from his play at Long Beach State last year:
Got your attention? Ennis was picked #50 in the 2013 NBA Draft by Atlanta but was traded on draft day to the Miami Heat for a future second round pick. Heat President Pat Riley said “We were happy to get into the draft. We feel that James Ennis, with his size and athleticism, has a huge upside and someone we hope can develop into a high-quality NBA player.” Ennis could get called up to play for the Heat at any stage this season if injuries hit the 2-time defending champs. But the more likely scenario is that Ennis works his way onto the Miami roster for the 2014-15 season after a strong year of production in the NBL. My advice? Don’t risk it – watch some Wildcats games early on and enjoy the show.