Ottawa has been men’s university basketball’s Champ City for a minute, thanks to the Carleton Ravens dynasty.
Now Canada’s capital has a professional franchise gunning for that No. 1 spot.
The Ottawa BlackJacks, named after a super-speedy jackrabbit, is the first expansion franchise in the now-seven-team Canadian Elite Basketball League (CEBL).
“The CEBL is thrilled to welcome the Ottawa BlackJacks to its roster of professional basketball clubs,” said league commissioner Mike Morreale in a statement.
“Ottawa/Gatineau and the surrounding area has a history of basketball excellence. The game was invented in Almonte, which is about 40-minutes west of the city. We look forward to bringing a family-oriented basketball and entertainment experience to the Arena at TD Place.
“This relationship ensures the sustainability of the team and delivers another club for the legion of sports fans in the Ottawa area to rally behind.”
The BlackJacks will play at TD Place starting in 2020, a massive downtown complex that already hosts the CFL’s Ottawa REDBLACKS and the OHL’s Ottawa 67s.
The venue has a 10,000-seat indoor arena, as well as a 24,000-seat outdoor football and soccer stadium. It’s also the site of the U Sports Men’s and Women’s national basketball tournaments in March 2020.
“The BlackJacks deliver high-end play on the court and a modern vibe in the air so it’s going to be something very new and exciting for the fans in our region,” said Mark Goudie, president and CEO of Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group (OSEG), which owns TD Place, as well as the REDBLACKS and the 67s.
Ottawa joins Edmonton, Guelph, Fraser Valley, Hamilton (Ont.), Niagara and reigning champion Saskatchewan in the CEBL, which launched earlier this year.
Ottawa BlackJacks hire Dave Smart as General Manager
It was only a matter of time for Dave Smart to get back in the game.
Truthfully, he really never left.
Bored and tired of beating up and winning championships at the Canadian U Sports basketball level — Smart shocked the nation by announcing his coaching retirement a week after winning his 14th title in 19 years with the Carleton Ravens.
Now, nine months after walking way from the coaching bench, Smart will take on a new challenge in the role of General Manager with the upstart Ottawa BlackJacks franchise of the Canadian Elite Basketball League (CEBL).
When it was announced that the City of Ottawa was awarded a professional basketball team less than month ago — many pointed and wondered to what capacity the sure-shot future Canadian Basketball hall-famer would have with the organization. After all, you don’t just walk into one of Canada’s biggest basketball markets and set-up a franchise without consulting with, and getting the blessing of one of the games’ sharpest minds.
With the BlackJacks, Smart will take on a executive role with club, and much like his current leadership position with the Carleton Ravens — he will be responsible for the day-to-day basketball operations of the CEBL’s 7th franchise.
“Creating a professional basketball program is an exciting challenge. Our city and the thousands of basketball fans deserve a team. I am honoured to be the first general manager in franchise history and look forward to seeing many familiar faces represent the Ottawa BlackJacks as the season unfolds. I am thankful to Carleton University for allowing me to accept this opportunity while continuing my role with the university.” stated Smart at a press conference at the TD Place, the of home the BlackJacks.
With his roots firmly cemented in the Ottawa basketball region since the mid 1990’s and a unprecedented dynasty and winning culture — which he built from scratch less than five kilometers from TD Place at Carleton University. It’s early days in the new venture, but it’s fair to say that the BlackJacks have made their first smart decision towards establishing the team as a potential powerhouse in Canada’s Elite Basketball League.
“The Ottawa BlackJacks welcome the most successful basketball leader in Canada. Throughout his illustrious career, Dave Smart has developed a basketball program that is the envy of university sport throughout the world. Dave will help create a winning environment in Ottawa as we build together the foundation of this franchise. The professional basketball landscape is filled with alumni of Dave Smart and the Carleton Ravens. We thank Carleton University for their commitment to the community. There is no better person to orchestrate a winning team. As the BlackJacks strive to be champions in the community and on the court, we just took the best first step.” added Michael Cvitkovic, Interim President of the BlackJacks.
With the season just five months away the team has quite a bit of work to do as it gets set to kick-off it’s inaugural game on road against the Niagara River Lions on May 7, 2020. The home-opener is set for a week later on May 14th against the Hamilton Honey Badgers.
The next major announcements will be the BlackJacks head coach and staff, followed by player announcements and various other community initiatives.
CEBL’s Fraser Valley Bandits recruit Kyle Julius as new coach and GM
In locker rooms and on sidelines around the world, players have heard Kyle Julius’ earnest, animated admonitions to work their tails off and to fall in love with winning.
A video announcing the former U Sports standout as the new head coach and general manager of the CEBL’s Fraser Valley Bandits found Julius ranting about focus.
“If you can’t focus, you can’t play!” he yelled.
Another clip found him speaking in steady, placid tones about how winning makes everything worthwhile
“When you fall in love with winning, the pain and all that other stuff becomes part of the process,” he said. “You start to enjoy it.”
Julius, who grew up in Thunder Bay, Ont., and was an OUA All Star with the Guelph Gryphons, joins the CEBL after a coaching stint in Taiwan’s ASEAN Basketball League (ABL).
He previously led the London Lightning of the NBL Canada to a league championship in 2017, winning coach of the year that season.
In between, he spent three years as coach of the Saigon Heat in Vietnam, becoming the team’s all-time winningest coach and turning them into an ABL contender.
“I have been blessed with some incredible coaching opportunities all around the world in the past few years and a chance to join the Fraser Valley Bandits is another fortunate blessing,” said Julius in a statement.
“I want the fans to know that I will pour my heart and soul into our team, our players and basketball development in the region.”
Julius parlayed his elite shooting skill into a NCAA Division I roster spot at Furman University in South Carolina, where he played two seasons, averaging eight points in about 17 minutes per game. He transferred to Guelph and became an OUA All-Star and Second Team All-Canadian during the 2003-04 season before playing overseas in Italy and earning a spot with Canada’s Senior Men’s National Team in 2005.
Canada didn’t have a professional league when Julius retired as a player in 2009, but he quickly found a coaching foothold in the NBL Canada with the Mississauga Power and later the Lightning, where he set multiple league records.
He returns to Canada in an attempt to revive the Bandits, who finished last in the CEBL last season with a 4-16 record.
That was a theme of his coaching stint in Asia, and his high-intensity style may be a boon to the only pro franchise in British Columbia’s rich basketball culture.
“Our practices will always be open to coaches and young players for learning opportunities and growth,” he said.
“I look forward to an awesome summer of growing the game in British Columbia and competing at the highest levels of the CEBL.”
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