River Lions part of Canada’s pro league
CEBL agrees to free players for national team training, international competitions
This is one of those announcements that doesn’t immediately smack you across the face but which might play itself into a significant moment, evident through hindsight.
Right now, though, it’s about validation, a necessary propellant for the launch of any new league.
On Thursday at FirstOntario Centre in Hamilton, Canada Basketball and the fledgling Canadian Elite Basketball League unveiled a multi-part collaboration which sees the fledgling summer loop become the national organizing body’s official First Division pro league.
“We knew what we wanted to do with our league, and it fit so nicely with what we assumed Canada Basketball wanted to do,” said league chief executive officer Mike Morreale of Hamilton. “This is a big organization that believes in us and that we’ll be successful and that it’s something that they can put their name behind.”
There is no formal investment by Canada Basketball in the CEBL, which opens its inaugural season in May with six teams,
including the Hamilton Honey Badgers and the Niagara River Lions who will play out of Meridian Centre in St. Catharines.
But there’s a vested interest in designating it as a premier league, following the European model. The CEBL will give Canadian players a chance to supplement their income and develop their game during basketball’s traditional off-season.
That will help the national men’s team program keep more players interested in continuing their careers while the league, committed to a minimum of 70per-cent Canadian content, becomes an officially acknowledged stage near the top of the national basketball development pyramid.
Conceptually, at least, that pushes some players toward the league that it normally might not see. When former Raptors general manager Glen Grunwald left McMaster University athletic director’s job to become Basketball Canada chief executive officer last summer, the two organizations quickly began moving closer together.
Grunwald is a longtime friend of Morreale, a former Hamilton Tiger-Cat, and Honey Badgers president John Lashway, who was a Raptors executive for more than a dozen years.
"We can provide support, guidance and some expertise, and they can provide an exciting new product and a further development opportunity for Canadian players, coaches, referees, administrators and management types," Grunwald said. "It’s just adding to the growth and depth of basketball across Canada.
“We’re trying to align the entire sport, starting with five-yearolds and all the way up to postsecondary pro leagues and into adult leagues.
"We’ll definitely work together in not only identifying players but making sure Canadian
players know that this is a big opportunity for them."
The five prongs of the alignment agreement are: 1) The
CEBL playing under full FIBA rules,, rather than NBA-based or hybrid rules; 2) training and development of referees through Canada Basketball programs and CEBL games; 3) mandatory Canadian player content; plus a U Sports draft, likely regionallybased, coming in May; 4) coaching certification through Canada Basketball with CEBL officials then contributing back to the instruction process; 5) the CEBL frees up players for national team training and international games during its season.
Morreale said the First Division designation is part of a total national development program.
"We looked at best practices across the world, and that’s how it works,” he said. "There’s a small part of me that feels like I want to beat my chest and be proud of what we’ve done, but there’s also a really large part of me that says there’s a heck of a lot of work still to do."
Notes: Mike Morreale told The Spectator that "more than 50 per cent" of CEBL players will make as much as or more than current G League players on a per-game basis. That would be about $700 per game.
Canadian Elite Basketball League CEO Mike Morreale, left, and Canadian Basketball president Glen Grunwald announce the collaboration.