Kingston, ON– On July 19, 49 Sports previewed the CEBL Summer Series ahead of the tournament set to tip off on July 25. This article is the second part of our preview, taking a look at each of the teams vying for 2020 CEBL glory. If you missed Part One, you can read it HERE.
On the surface, the Edmonton Stingers look poised for a Summer Series championship run, as they bring back three all-stars (including league MVP, Xavier Moon), from a team that finished second in the 2019 regular season. However, the other side of the coin, is that their team may be similar to last year, while a couple of other teams are likely to be significantly better. On top of that, Edmonton’s point differential in 2019 translated to an expected record of 11-9 or 12-8, far below their actual 14-6 mark. That indicates that the Stingers likely overachieved in the inaugural CEBL season. For a team that has very similar personnel to last year, that’s significant to note.
Despite that, the core is still strong, led by the aforementioned Moon (nephew of ex-Raptors fan favourite Jamario Moon). Also returning is first-team all-star Travis Daniels, and second-team all-star and University of Alberta alum, Jordan Baker. Baker played at Alberta from 2010-2014, leading the Golden Bears to one silver and one bronze medal at the U SPORTS National championship. He was a Canada West first-team all-star three times, and a first-team all-Canadian twice. If the Stingers are going to have a successful Summer Series, they are going to have to lean very heavily on that trio.
Also returning are Adika Peter-McNeilly, Mathieu Kamba, Brody Clarke, and Zac Overwater. Clarke will be looking to build on a campaign that earned him the title of U SPORTS Developmental Player of the Year. Similar to Baker, Clarke is also an Alberta grad. But the comparison doesn’t end there, as during his time at Alberta, Clarke had the same number of Canada West first-team all-star selections (three) and first-team all-Canadian selections (two) as his current teammate.
Departing after last year are Mamadou Gueye, Grandy Glaze, and Akeem Ellis.
University of Calgary grad, Mambi Diawara, is a potential candidate to crack the rotation. He graduated from Calgary in 2019, and over the past year he split his time playing in Romania and Argentina. Kirk Williams Jr. is also an intriguing addition to the roster. He spent the past eight seasons in the NBLC, most recently as a starter for the Windsor Express.
Edmonton also acquired three players in this year’s U SPORTS draft. Dalhousie star, Sascha Kappos, is most likely to make a contribution this year. Kappos, and fellow draftee Xavier Ochu, both played key roles on a Dalhousie team that led Carleton for much of the National Championship game in March. The Stingers also drafted York star, Prince Kamunga. However, he did not make Edmonton’s final Summer Series roster.
To call Fraser Valley a revamped roster is an understatement. Gone from a 4-16 last place squad, is every single player not named Marek Klassen.
So how much better are they than last year? Better, I’d say. How much better is very difficult to determine. Among the departed are first overall pick in the inaugural CEBL draft, Joel Friesen, leading scorer, Jalen Kendrick, Tyrrel Tate, and Levon Kendall.
Part of what makes predicting the Bandits’ chances so challenging is that you could make an argument for nearly every one of their new additions as a starter. All have had some success at the international level, but few have had so much success that it seems safe to pencil them in above the others. If new Head Coach, Kyle Julius’ time with the London Lightning is any indication, we should expect this Bandits team to play fast and to play a lot of people.
Several of the newcomers to the Bandits have ties to Julius from his time in the NBLC. Kyle Johnson, Marcus Capers, and Junior Cadougan, all played on Julius’ London Lightning team that won the 2016-17 NBLC title. All three should feature prominently on this year’s Bandits team. Jabs Newby played a bench role on Julius’ 2014-15 Mississauga Power squad.
Cameron Forte is fresh off of scoring 29 points per game (in only four games) with the 2019-20 London Lightning. However, according to realgm.com, he hasn’t played more than six games with any one team since the 2016-17 season. Malcolm Duvivier and Olu Ashaolu have also seen time in the NBLC over the past few years. Another new addition is Creighton alum, Jahenns Manigat .
One steadying influence will be Marek Klassen. The lone returning Bandits’ player was a second-team all-star last season, leading the league in assists.
Fraser Valley picked three U SPORTS players in this year’s U SPORTS draft. However, only one of them (Daniel Adediran of UFV) appears on the Bandits’ training camp roster.
Guelph finished one spot out of the playoffs in the inaugural CEBL season. However, that makes it sound closer than it actually was, as the Nighthawks finished four games behind the fourth place Hamilton Honey Badgers. There isn’t any sign that they underachieved either, as their 2019 point differential translated very closely to their actual 6-14 record. The biggest question for the Nighthawks, is whether they will be able to improve their defence in 2020. In 2019, they ranked last in the CEBL in defensive efficiency at 115.2. Hamilton was the only other team above 108, and they spent the off-season overhauling their roster.
Despite that, there is good news to talk about. Point guard Kimbal Mackenzie only played seven games last season, but averaged 21 points in those games. A full season with Mackenzie running the show will certainly help the Nighthawks’ chances. Also back for the Nighthawks are Olu Famutimi, Jamal Reynolds, and Ryerson product, Myles Charvis.
No longer with the Nighthawks are Carleton grad, Connor Wood, Ezekiel Marshall, Myck Kabongo, and Chadrack Lufile. Last season, Wood and Marshall finished tied for second on the Nighthawks in win shares, behind only Famutimi.
Guelph did bring in a few interesting pieces, but it’s doubtful whether those additions are enough to bring them up to the level needed to contend for a title this season. Joel Friesen and Tyrrel Tate both join the Nighthawks after playing with Fraser Valley last year. Tre’darius McCallum also has a chance to make an instant impact for the Nighthawks. McCallum is a DePaul alum, and played last season with the Windy City Bulls of the G-League.
Guelph picked up a pair of promising prospects in the U SPORTS draft this year. Ali Sow joins the Nighthawks after a stand-out year with Laurier, but unfortunately did not make the final Summer Series roster. Marcus Anderson is fresh off another National championship with the Carleton Ravens.
When training camp rosters were released, the Honey Badgers were a popular pick to take home the Summer Series crown. Although the final roster is still very talented, it doesn’t include 2018 NBA draft pick, Justin Jackson, and Raptors 905’er, MiKyle McIntosh. My model projects the Honey Badgers to finish in fourth place, although as mentioned in part 1 of the preview, the difference in title odds between Hamilton, Fraser Valley, and Saskatchewan, is 0.2%. Returning from last year’s finalist is ex-South Carolina star, Duane Notice. However, “returning” should have an asterisk beside it, as Notice only played three games in a Honey Badger uniform last year.
Departed from Hamilton is essentially everyone else of importance, including first-team all-star Ricky Tarrant Jr., Demetrius Denzel-Dyson, Florida State alum, Xavier Rathan-Mayes, Sampson Carter, and Joe Rocca.
The significant talent out the door may have been matched by the names coming in. Briante Weber starred at VCU, before playing a total of 45 regular season NBA games, split between five franchises (Memphis, Miami, Charlotte, Golden State, and Houston). Most recently he played with the Sioux Falls Skyforce of the G-League. Derek Cooke Jr. has also put up impressive G-League numbers, splitting the 2018-19 season between Raptors 905 and the Northern Arizona Suns. Cooke Jr. joins Notice as Honey Badgers with recent Raptors 905 experience. That should come as no surprise, as new bench boss Ryan Schmidt was an Assistant Coach for 905 before joining Hamilton.
The incoming talent didn’t just go to school south of the border – Acadia alum, Owen Klassen is also bringing his talents to Steel City. Klassen went to Bayridge Secondary in Kingston, before becoming a two-time first-team all-Canadian (2012-13 and 2013-14), and one-time second-team (2011-12) at Acadia. He’s since carved out a very impressive career in Europe.
The Honey Badgers also picked up three players in the U SPORTS draft. Kadre Gray joins the Honey Badgers after leading the country in scoring last season at Laurentian. Unfortunately, Gray doesn’t appear on the final Summer Series roster. Hamilton also selected Lock Lam from Lakehead, and Owen Rwawhire from Toronto.
The biggest flex of the off-season occurred when the River Lions loaned 2019 rotation piece, Alex Johnson, to Hamilton and ex-NBA player, Kris Joseph, to Saskatchewan for the duration of the Summer Series. Once the tournament is completed, both players will be returned to the Niagara roster. In the meantime, Niagara is essentially saying that these two players (one of whom played in the NBA briefly after starring at Syracuse) were not going to make their twelve player Summer Series roster.
That statement, while very impressive, may not actually be that surprising. Niagara, the best team in the CEBL last year for the duration of the regular season, returns four of their top five players (as measured by win shares). That core of Guillaume Payen-Boucard, Dorian Pinson, Ryan Anderson, and Trae Bell-Haynes, led a team that finished first in both offensive and defensive efficiency one year ago. In 2019, Payen-Boucard was a first-team all-star, while Bell-Haynes was a second-team all-star. Also returning to the River Lions is fellow first-team all-star Sam Muldrow.
Gone from last year’s club is Yohanny Dalembert, Nem Mitrovic, and Alex Johnson (on-loan). As replacements, the River Lions brought in another Carleton grad, Ryan Ejim, ex-Stinger, Grandy Glaze, and a pair of New Mexico State products in Tyrone Watson and Daniel Mullings. Ejim split his 2019 campaign between Saskatchewan and Hamilton, and really flourished during his time with the Honey Badgers. Watson has become a mainstay in the NBLC, most recently playing for the St. John’s Edge. Mullings spent this past season playing in Finland. It’s reasonable to think that the best team in the league in 2019, may actually be better in 2020.
In the U SPORTS draft, Niagara picked up Emmanuel Owootoah from Brock. Niagara also selected Brock products, Daniel Cayer and Kascius Small-Martin. However, neither player appears on the River Lions’ training camp roster.
The Carleton Ravens, um I mean, Ottawa Blackjacks are the lone expansion franchise set to debut at the Summer Series. When I say that the Blackjacks have a distinct Carleton flavour, I mean it. Six of the eleven players on the Blackjacks final roster played at least one season for the Carleton Ravens. That’s likely not surprising given that the Head Coach, Osvaldo Jeanty, and General Manager, Dave Smart, are both tied closely to the Ravens.
So will the Ravens dominance in U SPORTS extend to the CEBL? Well, maybe. They’ve assembled a very talented roster, which my model rates as the second best at the Summer Series. Two of the most decorated players in Carleton history, brothers Philip and Thomas Scrubb, have both carved out very impressive careers overseas. They project to be among the top players in the CEBL this year, as is late addition to the roster, Olivier Hanlan. Hanlan starred at Boston College before being drafted by the Jazz in 2015. In 2017-18, he had a strong season with the Austin Spurs of the G-League, before continuing his career in Germany and Greece. Another Blackjack with lots of European experience is big man Kyle Landry. Landry played at Northern Arizona, before spending six years playing in Russia.
Former Ravens, Yasiin Joseph and Munis Tutu, will also be looking to make an impact for the Blackjacks. Two uOttawa grads also join the Blackjack roster. Jean Pierre-Charles played three seasons for Carleton, before transferring to Ottawa for his last two years. In 2019-20, he played professionally in Mexico. Ex-Gee-Gees star, Johnny Berhanemeskel, played professionally in Greece last season. During his time as a Gee-GEE, he was a first-team all-Canadian in 2014-15 and a second-team all-Canadian in 2013-14.
In the U SPORTS draft the Blackjacks selected three more Ravens – U SPORTS Rookie of the Year, Lloyd Pandi, Tajinder Lall, and Alain Louis. Only Lall appears on the final Summer Series roster.
The defending CEBL champions will look very different when they take the court for the 2020 Summer Series. Gone are the top four players (measured in win shares) from their 2019 title squad. Players that won’t be making the trip to St. Catherine’s include second-team all-star, Tavrion Dawson, and Windsor grad, Alex Campbell. Bruce Massey, and second-team all-star, Marlon Johnson, are also no longer with the Rattlers after the 2020 off-season. Negus Webster-Chan, Shane Osayande, and Jelane Pryce, are the only Rattlers that will be back to defend their crown. No doubt, Saskatchewan will be relying far more on Webster-Chan and Osayande than they did last season.
Joining the Rattlers this season are ex-NBA’er and Syracuse alum, Kris Joseph, Denzell Taylor, and Kai Williams. If Saskatchewan wants to make a run in the Summer Series, they’ll need significant contributions from most, or all, of their newcomers.
It’s hard to say how much Joseph has left in the tank, but any time you can add an ex-NBA player that’s still only 31, it seems like a worthwhile gamble. Joseph is on-loan from Niagara for the duration of the tournament. After a fantastic career at Syracuse, he was drafted in the second round of the 2012 NBA draft by the Celtics. He played ten games in the 2012-13 season, splitting his time between Boston and Brooklyn. Since then, he’s been playing overseas, most recently in France. Taylor, an Old Dominion grad, and Williams, who has carved out a nice career in Great Britain, will also likely crack the Rattler rotation.
In the CEBL draft, the Rattlers brought in Rashawn Browne, from the University of Manitoba. The Rattlers also drafted Saskatchewan Husky products, Chan De Ciman, and Alexander Dewar. However, neither player appears on the Saskatchewan training camp roster.
*CEBL Summer Series Analytics Parts 1 and 2 will be updated periodically throughout the week as new roster information becomes available. Most recent update was July 24, 4:45 PM EST.