Official Player Websites Subscribe - Free Newsletter

Sports News First

Exciting import mixed news for Wildcats

By Chris Pike
8 December 2012 07:08AM EST

PERTH Wildcats fans inside the Perth Arena were set alight on Friday night by the team's new big man import Michael Dunigan, but his starring performance is likely to be the only time they will see him in red.

Dunigan made his presence immediately felt on Friday night in the Wildcats' 80-68 win over the Wollongong Hawks with the 23-year-old's NBL debut one to remember.

The 6'10, 245lb big man threw down two massive dunks, pulled in four rebounds and helped his teammates collect countless more and while only credited with one block, he was a massive defensive presence particularly stopping the influence of dynamic Hawks guard Adris Deleon.

Dunigan finished with 19 points on 8-of-11 shooting from the field and immediately the Chicago-native became a crowd favourite in front of the 11,239 strong attendance at the Perth Arena.

He helped the Wildcats improve to a 7-3 record on the season to move ahead of Wollongong into second position on the ladder, but it looks set to be the first and last home game he plays with the Wildcats.

The Wildcats do not have another home game until January 13 against the Melbourne Tigers with the Perth Arena unavailable between now and then due to the staging of the Hopman Cup tennis tournament.

Dunigan has been signed as an injury-replacement player for Matt Knight who is currently sidelined with a tear to his calf. Knight is expected to be back in time for that next home game, which means that Dunigan will be off the Wildcats' roster.

However, it could prove to be a big loss for the 'Cats based on his efforts on Friday night that immediately showed that he could very well be the best big man import in the NBL.

Considering his only rivals are New Zealand's Will Hudson, Sydney's Darnell Lazare, Cairns' Shane Edwards and Melbourne's Seth Scott, the big man stocks coming from overseas are not at an all-time high this season.

While the Wildcats might not have a place for Dunigan once Knight returns from injury, based on his performance on Friday night he could very well return to the Perth Arena this season but in a different uniform.

The Adelaide 36ers currently have two open roster spots while other teams in the league might consider bringing Dunigan in after he showed what a difference-maker he can be.

Fresh off only narrowly missing a full roster spot in the NBA with the Memphis Grizzlies, Dunigan showed on Friday night that he is an excitement machine, can be a defensive menace, rebound strongly, finish around the basket and bring a crowd to life.

All the things that any team in the NBL would dearly love.

Wildcats coach Rob Beveridge has had mixed luck with his import injury replacements in his time coaching the club.

It worked a treat when Galen Young arrived in 2009/10 to help win a championship with him replacing Paul Rogers, but Andre Brown failed to have the same impact when he replaced Shawn Redhage a season later.

Beveridge already can't help but be excited by what Dunigan is bringing, but can already sense that it's going to be hard to say goodbye to him.

"I wish he was here for more home games because that is probably the only one he'll get to have, but he was very impressive. I just love his enthusiasm, his passion and that becomes infectious within the group," Beveridge said.

"He's working as hard as he can and he's giving me the look that he's ready to come out, and then he yells to me from the bench that he's ready to go again. It has been tremendous having him come in and it gives a lift to all the players as well because we have gone through some pretty tough times.

"His boost right now is just what the guys needed. After the first session he had with us the guys grabbed him and have taken him out for lunches and dinners since. He has fitted in so well and I'm really pleased with how it has gone so far."

Wollongong coach Gordie McLeod had his team try to go up against Dunigan on Friday and acknowledges that he was a big reason why the Hawks were outrebounded 43-25 and had just 16 points in the paint compared to the Wildcats' 34.

His Hawks now get another chance to counter him next Friday night against the Wildcats in Wollongong.

"We've had a look at the new fella now and he had 19 points on debut, and a lot of them were around the paint. He was strong and was a handful. We have to lick the wounds now and have to go away and try to find some sort of way to counter him," McLeod said.

"You can scout as much as you want and look at footage, but what he's going to do with that group is something you can never judge.

"We knew he was strong around the basket and we knew he was a good rebounder, and knew he was athletic but we did a poor job trying to stop him where they dished off to him and he finished around the rim. You can't allow that and he shot at a high percentage as a result."

Round 10 of the NBL continues on Saturday night with the Sydney Kings hosting the New Zealand Breakers, and the Townsville Crocodiles taking on the Melbourne Tigers. Then on Sunday, the Adelaide 36ers host the Perth Wildcats.

Your view first

Add your comment... Comments (0)