The Saskatchewan Rattlers defeated the Hamilton Honey Badgers 94-83 Sunday to capture the inaugural Canadian Elite Basketball League (CEBL) championship.
Saskatchewan captain Alex Campbell was the Player of the game, leading the Rattlers with 20 points, 11 rebounds and two assists.
“It was amazing,” Campbell told reporters after the game, speaking about the atmosphere at the packed SaskTel Centre.
“The energy was there, especially in those dire moments when we need the lift from fans, they were there for us.”
The CEBL has emphasized Canadian content from the start, requiring teams to have at least 70 per cent Canadian players and forming partnerships with U Sports and Canada Basketball.
Saskatchewan had eight Canadian players on its active roster as of Sunday, including Campbell — a University of Windsor (Ontario) product.
“It’s a great opportunity for Canadian players to stay home in the summer and get games in — professional games against quality players,” said Campbell.
In the championship game, Negus Webster-Chan (Scarborough, Ont.) added 17 points and four assists for the Rattlers, while Shaquille Keith (Toronto, Ont.) had 16 points in front of a hometown crowd in Saskatoon.
Xavier Rathan-Maves (Scarborough) led the way for Hamilton, with 24 points, 11 rebounds and five assists.
Honey Badgers guard Ricky Tarrant Jr. (Pleasant Grove, Ala.), a CEBL Player of the Year finalist, had 21 points, five rebounds and five assists.
Saskatchewan Rattlers 2019 CEBL Champions
As the host team, Saskatchewan had an automatic bid in the the four-team championship tournament, but the Rattlers also qualified on merit, finishing third in regular-season standings with a 13-9 record.
They upset the second-seeded Edmonton Stingers 85-83 Saturday to earn a spot in the championship game.
“They earned their spot,” said league commissioner Mike Morreale. “Couldn’t have written a better script.”
Hamilton was an underdog throughout the tournament, finishing fourth in regular-season standings with an 11-11 record.
But the Honey Badgers pulled off a huge upset in Saturday’s other semi-final, knocking off the top-seeded Niagara River Lions 104-103.
Rathan-Mayes led the way in that contest as well, with a game-high 28 points, eight rebounds and 11 assists.
“I’m happy for basketball in Canada,” said Morreale. “I wave a Canadian flag every single day.
“That’s what I do, and I’m proud of it … I will continue to raise the bar for this product and for this game, because I think it’s important that we do so, and we support basketball at all levels.
CEBL 2020 Expansion
Morreale added the CEBL is looking for expansion, as well as owners for the six existing league-owned franchises.
In an interview with CBC, he said the league could add a seventh franchise as early as 2020.
“We put a probably 80 per cent focus on the league to start, because you are nothing without a strong league,” he told reporters on Sunday. “We’ve seen that from other iterations that have come and (gone).
“Canadian Basketball League made by Canadians, for Canadians”
“This is a Canadian league made by Canadians, for Canadians, played with Canadians — and damn good Canadians.”
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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