Canada’s Elite Basketball League isn’t afraid to try new things.
The league itself – a domestic professional league that works with Canada Basketball – is a first.
On a smaller level, the CEBL introduced the Elam Ending in 2020. (A quick reminder of how this works: add nine to the leading team’s total score with four minutes left, and whoever gets that score first wins). The concept will return for all 49 regular season games plus playoffs in 2021.
And in an extreme 2021 The league recently announced its decision to be the first in North America to offer its players part of their salaries in Bitcoin.
The league has already managed to do justice to Bitcoin’s volatility. Out of 114 players at training camps across the country, only 20 were in the league from the start. 31 more are entering their second season.
That means 63 new players will hit Canadian courts this summer.
And it means what happened last season when the Edmonton Stingers were crowned champions after a two-week tournament in St. Catharines, Ontario may not play a huge role in 2021.
CLOCK | Northern Courts looks ahead to the CEBL season 2021:
The Stingers bring back their most important player, two-time MVP Xavier Moon. Reigning Canadian Player of the Year Jordan Baker is also returning to Edmonton.
Baker, who was born in Edmonton, unites with Moon in a dynamic back room. The six-foot-seven guard averages more than nine rebounds per game over his career.
The stability of the Stingers Guard could prove critical in a league of change. The Niagara River Lions may not be so lucky.
Star Guard Trae Bell-Haynes is currently at training camp with Team Canada in Tampa, Florida to apply for the Olympic qualifying list.
If he ends up as one of the 12 – and his chances seem to have increased last week with more NBA failures reported – then he likely won’t be available for the entire CEBL season.
Bell-Haynes is the engine that makes the River Lions run, the clear top player on a team that battled a 2-4 record in 2020 before losing in the quarterfinals.
The Toronto native helped give Niagara a 15-5 finish and first place in 2019 before the team lost a point to the Hamilton Honey Badgers in the semifinals.
Honey badgers are dependent on imports
The Honey Badgers will try to use the sales to their advantage as they will only be returning five players as of 2020, including all-CEBL first-time player Jean-Victor Mukama.
Canadian Duane Notice, who sustained an Achilles injury last season, will miss the entire 2021 season, while starting overseer Briante Weber will not be returning either.
To replace Notice and Weber, the Honey Badgers brought a trio of American imports with them: Trevon Duval, Charles Cooke III and Malcolm Rhett, and the Canadian Lindell Wigginton.
The quartet all have experience in either the NBA G League or top European leagues. Weber was a similar success story; the honey badgers will now try to dig up a few more.
CLOCK | Stingers down Bandits for the 2020 CEBL title:
Hamilton lost to the Saskatchewan Rattlers in the 2019 final, but the Rattlers slumped to a 1-5 record in 2020.
A move to regain the fame of 2019 could come in the form of ex-stinger Travis Daniels, a two-time all-star import who averaged over 15 points per game last season but moved to Saskatchewan in the off-season .
Canadian Negus Webster-Chan, who spent two seasons at Raptors 905, is also returning as a holdover from the 2019 title team.
2019 Finals MVP Alex Campbell, a security guard who says CEBL commentator Sean Woodley plays like Kyle Lowry, won’t be with the Rattlers again after moving out in 2020 but with the Fraser Valley Bandits signed.
Fraser Valley reached the 2020 final after beating the Honey Badgers by a single point in the semifinals. Guard Malcolm Duvivier, the top scorer in the game, will return to the Bandits, as will the key figure Marek Klassen.
But the team lost power forward Olu Ashaolu, the Elam Ending hero against Hamilton, to Niagara while Canadian floor general Junior Cadougan is on his way to the Ottawa BlackJacks.
The new philosophy from BlackJacks
The BlackJacks may have been the story of the 2020 Summer Series. In their inaugural season and with a squad full of Ottawa locals, the BlackJacks surprised everyone with a run to the semifinals.
Soon after the season, legendary Canadian basketball coach Dave Smart left the team as general manager. He has been replaced by former international Jevohn Shepherd, who also works as a basketball analyst for CBC Sports.
Shepherd took a different approach to rostering than his predecessor, focusing less on local talent. Explosive Ottawa-born security guard Johnny Berhanemeskel remains, but Shepherd redesigned his supporting cast. In addition to Cadougan, Abbotsford, BC, the native Joel Friesen will play with the BlackJacks for his third other team in three years.
Ottawa also brought on Kris Joseph, one of two NBA drafts in the league, along with Guelph Nighthawks striker Justin Jackson.
The Nighthawks are led by Raptor’s 905 assistant Charles Kissi, the team’s head coach and GM. Kissi says the team wants to play big this season, which should help 6-foot Jackson.
Kissi is also returning top guards Myles Charvis and Kimbal Mackenzie to leave the G League with new imports Isaiah Reese and Ahmed Hill.
Everything prepares for a fascinating, open race for the CEBL championship in 2021.
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