River Lions part of Canada’s pro league

CEBL agrees to free play­ers for na­tional team train­ing, in­ter­na­tional com­pe­ti­tions

The Welland Tribune - - Sports - STEVE MIL­TON Hamilton Spec­ta­tor

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.

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