VANCOUVER, BC – The Fraser Valley Bandits did not make winning a habit in their inaugural season at the Abbotsford Centre. However, in 2021, things are looking brighter as they opened their season with a 92-74 victory over the Saskatchewan Rattlers.
Alex Campbell, a former Windsor Lancer who won the 2019 CEBL Championship with the Rattlers, faced his former team in his debut and did not disappoint. At the same time, Fraser Valley’s new star matched up against University of Saskatchewan standout and training partner, Alex Dewar, who made his pro debut.
While jerseys of local sports organizations filled the seats in place of a raucous crowd, the Bandits gave their TV-watching fans an exciting basketball game and a reason for hope in 2021.
Campbell rattles former team
While many players who face their former teams often have animosity towards the organization, that was not the case for Campbell, who took a year off the CEBL, not playing in the Summer Series. Although ‘It’s just another game’ is often a sports cliche, it was clear that nothing about facing his old team went through Campbell’s mind.
“You would think I would have the game circled on the schedule and stuff, but I try to ignore all that noise and focus on the game itself and try to treat it like any other game,” said Campbell, who has two teammates from the 2019 Rattlers now with him on the Bandits.
Although he had never played a game with the Fraser Valley, Campbell fit right into the playing style and culture of the team, cracking jokes at training camp and communicating well in his debut.
“There’s a couple of guys we knew just from Toronto, so the chemistry is there,” said Campbell, who grew up in Brampton, Ontario. “The chemistry just comes easy when you have a bunch of like-minded guys.”
As a star player throughout his career, playing as the sixth man, as he did on Saturday, is not something he has often done. However, the Bramptonian is confident in the team’s construction and puts his total effort into whatever role he is assigned.
“A lot of people wouldn’t accept that role at his level and the calibre of player that he is,” said Head coach David Singleton of Campbell’s 25 point performance. “He is humble and understands it and worked the position well.”
Campbell and Dewar: Two friends face-off
For much of the evening, the Campbell battled a familiar face in Saskatchewan guard Alex Dewar, who made his pro debut in a more prominent role than expected. Despite never playing on a team together, the two know each other well from time in Saskatoon.
“Alex [Dewar] is my guy! I reside in Saskatoon, so in the summer, when there’s no pandemic and all, he and I often play against each other,” said Campbell of the Rattlers’ 2020 U SPORTS Draft pick. “I’m happy for him.”
“Alex [Dewar] is my guy!”– Alex Campbell
While no Canada West competition stopped Dewar from playing with the U of S Huskies in 2020-21, he has been one of the conference’s best players through his first two U SPORTS seasons, averaging 13.6 points, 2.6 rebounds and 25.6 minutes in 47 university games.
Chad Jacobson is the lead assistant coach with the Saskatchewan Huskies and is the main man with the Rattlers. Through Dewar’s university career and now in the professional game, Jacobson has been there.
Knowing the Saskatoon native’s skillset, Jacobson had no hesitations in sending Dewar out against some of the CEBL’s best. “He goes in, he competes, he plays hard, he does what he’s asked to do, and that’s what he did tonight,” said the Rattlers Head Coach.
While Dewar valiantly defended Klassen and Campbell, the Bandits pushed through to hit the target score of 92, winning their first game at the Abbotsford Centre in nearly two years.
The Bandits may have gotten the victory, something that was hard to come by in 2019, but missing out on the fans took away some of the shine for Singleton. “I’ve been coaching now for over a year, and there have been no fans, so I do miss it; one day, they’ll come back and enjoy it.”
Fraser Valley continues their CEBL season at home against the Niagara River Lions on Tuesday night, as they face Carleton’s Lloyd Pandi, who won the 2020 U SPORTS-CEBL Player of the Year award.
Fans won’t be in attendance for Tuesday’s matchup with Niagara, but it might not be long until a limited capacity flock to the Abbotsford Centre for a Bandits game. With the Government of British Columbia moving into Stage 3 of the re-opening plan and allowing 720 fans (10%) to attend the FIBA Olympic Basketball Qualification Tournament in Victoria, a Bandits crowd could return soon.