By: Jacob Smith
TORONTO, ON – Looking for the immediate impact of rookies is always a storyline as seasons begin. For some U SPORTS players drafted in the 2021 U SPORTS-CEBL draft, the anticipation is tremendous. Whether they start or they’re the 12th man, everybody will have to make an impact, and these players are among those who will make a large one.
Keevan Veinot, G, Hamilton (Dalhousie)
From leading the Dalhousie Tigers to the U SPORTS National Championship to being drafted 5th overall in the 2021 U SPORTS draft, Keevan Veinot has been among the best in the country, and now he has the chance to show it on a national stage. Veinot joins the CEBL alongside his Dalhousie teammates, Alex Carson, who was drafted 7th overall by the Edmonton Stingers, and 2020 CEBL Summer Series Champion Sascha Kappos, re-signed to the Stingers for the 2021 season.
Veinot, from Port Dalhousie, Nova Scotia, led the Dalhousie Tigers in minutes, points, rebounds, assists and steals during their impressive 2019-20 season. As the starting guard, he executed the offence excellently and became Dalhousie’s first-ever Men’s Basketball AUS MVP. To wrap up his accomplishments from his most recent season in the AUS, he was an AUS First Team All-Star and finished in the top 8 in U SPORTS for both assists and steals per game.
Veinot joins a very talented Hamilton team. Playing alongside Lindell Wigginton, a Nova Scotia native, Trevon Duval, Alex Johnson and Cody John, Hamilton’s guards will attack the paint and make smart passes, and Keevan fits right in with that. His ability to take care of the ball, provide energy and execution will be necessary for the Honey Badgers throughout the season as he contributes to a very talented group of guards.
Veinot scored eight points and went 3-3 from the field in Hamilton’s opening weekend loss to Edmonton.
Alex Carson, G, Edmonton (Dalhousie)
If there’s a rookie that’s set up for success, it’s Alex Carson. Coming into the defending champions, the Edmonton Stingers, Carson is joining a team that’s rolling and, after their first win of the season over Hamilton, seem to not be slowing down at all. Alongside guards such as Xavier Moon, who lit up the CEBL during the 2020 Summer Series, Adika Peter-Mcneilly, Kareem South and Mathieu Kamba, Carson adds one more threat to the Stingers backcourt as they look to repeat as CEBL champions.
Playing U SPORTS basketball for Dalhousie alongside Keevan Veinot, Carson has had experience on the biggest stages, and he’s produced. He was yet another incredibly consistent shooter for the Dal Tigers during their 2019 run to the U SPORTS national championship final, shooting 51% and 46% from 3. The backcourt of Carson and Veinot proved lethal among the university talent in Canada, and the Stingers are lucky they were able to land Carson at 7th overall in the 2021 U SPORTS draft.
With a team that distributes the ball as Edmonton does and in a group of guards that can attack the basket as effectively as Xavier Moon, Adika and Kamba, free throws are going to be plenty. The Stingers drafted a player who led U SPORTS in free-throw percentage during the 2019 season with a 93.1% rate. His stats have improved every year he’s played, and as his role grows with the defending champs, Carson should have ample opportunity to continue that trend.
Carson did not play in the Stingers opening game.
Alexander Dewar, G, Saskatchewan (Saskatchewan)
Dewar comes from the 12-8 Saskatchewan Huskies, who finished 7th in Canada West during the 2019 season. Starting alongside JT Robinson, Alexander’s last season playing in Canada West was his 2nd year. During that season, he played 25-30 minutes per game and contributed the most, assisting his teammates and getting rebounds. With the Saskatchewan Rattlers, Dewar joins a backcourt of fellow Canada West guard Mambi Diawara, and former Big 12 Sixth Man of the Year and Baylor Bears alumni Devonte Bandoo.
With the ball movement that Saskatchewan displayed in their first matchup against the Fraser Valley Bandits, Alexander’s skills at dishing the basketball will help as a rotational guard. He averaged 10 points per game during the 2019 season with the Huskies with a high of 29 in a game against UBCO, consistent scoring that the Rattlers will need, struggling to keep up with the Bandits during the second half as Fraser Valley’s lead increased.
Dewar played a critical role in the Rattlers opening game, matched up against CEBL stars Marek Klassen and Alex Campbell. While the rookie could not lead the Rattlers to victory, he did well to limit the Bandits’ star power.
Adam Paige, F, Fraser Valley (Alberta)
The Fraser Valley Bandits started their 2021 CEBL season with an impressive win over the Saskatchewan Rattlers. The 2018-2019 Canada West Rookie of the Year, Adam Paige, immediately impacted the University of Alberta. He shot 50% from the field in his U SPORTS rookie year, and during the following season, it improved to 53%, a gradual improvement that shows much promise as his CEBL and U SPORTS career continues. With Paige not playing in their first game, it is an excellent sign for the team’s potential as the season goes on and championship weekend appears on the horizon.
The Golden Bears finished 22-4 during the 2019 season and made a run through the U SPORTS national championship, where they beat Ottawa in the consolation final after losing to Western and Calgary in their quarter and semi-final games. In their final game of the U SPORTS championship, Paige , alongside Brody Clarke, both played over 20 minutes to help a deep Huskies roster come out with a 88-75 victory.
Paige’s stats remained consistent over his two years playing for the Huskies thus far, but what he showed with consistent scoring and rebounding during an impressive season should make Bandits fans excited to see the future of their 2nd round draft pick. Paige had a season-high 30 points for the Golden Bears in November of 2019, with a season-high 11 rebounds coming in January, and if that can even partially translate to the CEBL, the Bandits are in a good spot with the depth they have at the position and Brandon Gilbeck making impacts everywhere all night long in their first matchup.
Paige did not feature in the Bandits opening day win.
There are many rookies taking centre court as the season gets started, and fans across the country should be excited about the young talent their roster has brought in. As Adam Paige, Alexander Dewar, Alex Carson and Keevan Veinot grow within their roles on their respective rosters, the shining impact they made for their U SPORTS programs should come to light on the national stage.