Unfortunately for the CEBL and the Ottawa Blackjacks, their 2020 basketball season may not be able to be played due to the coronavirus outbreak. However, given that the Blackjacks haven’t played a game in the CEBL yet, this time is being used as an extended off-season. In this ‘extended off-season’ the Blackjacks, led by Carleton Ravens’ great Dave Smart have had some success hiring staff members Michael Cvitkovic (interim president) and Osvald Jeanty (head coach) but most recently signing a group of players.
Unlike other teams in Ottawa like the Ottawa Senators, Redblacks, 67s or Atlético Ottawa, you don’t see the Blackjacks in the headlines when they sign a player which they have been doing a lot of recently. Over the past couple of months Dave Smart, the Ottawa Blackjacks’ general manager has been able to bring in a number of star players like Jean Pierre-Charles, Eric Kibi, Chris Ware, Munis Tutu, Yasiin Joseph and a few U Sport draft picks. Take a look at some of the players brought in so far by the Blackjacks:
Out of all of the transactions made this off-season by the Blackjacks signing Jean Pierre-Charles has to be up there as one of the best. The Ottawa native has made a name for himself over the past couple of years in international leagues. However, what makes this move so good is the familiarity the city has with him. Of course, growing up in the area is great for the younger generations in Ottawa, but, to go on top of that is his time spent at both Carleton and Ottawa University. For an Ottawa native, it seems common to play for one of the two Universities, for him to play for both and excel the way he did makes it a great pickup by the Blackjacks’ organization.
Excelling at the university level, Pierre-Charles played in 95 games total, 57 with Carleton and 38 with Ottawa. Of the 6 seasons he played (2 w/Ottawa, 4 w/Carleton) his 2016-17 season with the Gee-Gees is what put him on the map. Starting 19 of the team’s 19 games, Pierre-Charles averaged just under 15 points a game while using his 6-foot-8 figure to go up and average 8.7 rebounds a game. Every basketball player’s dream is to play in the NBA and with his height and skill, maybe at one time that seemed possible but after University ball, Charles went on to play in international leagues in Mexico and Spain.
For Pierre-Charles, going on to play internationally was something he didn’t mind as he was quite familiar with doing so. In his late years of University eligibility, he was given the opportunity to represent Canada on two different occasions, the first being the 2017 World University Games and another opportunity in 2018 for the Commonwealth games. Going to Taiwan to play in the World University Games has to be one of the biggest opportunities that Jean Pierre-Charles has had. Having the chance to showcase his talent in front of scouts worldwide and even playing against future NBA players like Boston Celtics’ Carsen Edwards boosted his confidence tremendously. In the tournament he was able to play in 6 games, scoring just under 4 points a game and getting 4 rebounds per game. As mentioned, the World University Games wasn’t his only international tournament he’s played in. The 2018 Commonwealth Games that he was invited to, like the University Games, is a great opportunity for Pierre-Charles and he took that opportunity and ran with it. Being a part of team Canada he played in 6 games, scoring over 5 points a game while getting 4 rebounds and 2 steals a game.
Following his college career and his time overseas at international events, Jean-Pierre Charles took on the opportunity to play in international leagues. For two seasons he split time in leagues in Mexico and Spain, playing in a total of 70 games. In these 70 games, he showed that he could play at the professional level, having his best stint in 2019 with the Spain league. In Spain, he scored over 6 points a game while playing a big role on his team’s defensive system getting nearly 7 rebounds in every game he played. If you were to look even deeper into his stats, in that 2019 campaign in Spain Pierre-Charles had a game with a career-high 18 rebounds. If you’re in quarantine watching ESPN’s Last Dance, you might be thinking of Dennis Rodman when you see those numbers. With that said, once the Blackjacks are on the court at full speed, you can count on Pierre-Charles to make an impact on the games and with him being from the Ottawa area, having him on the team is great for the community.
After the team signed Jean Pierre-Charles in February it seemed like they’d be more active in bringing players in, but they ended up spreading out their signings and Munis Tutu could be one of the best players brought in so far. The 6-foot-1 point guard was born in Egypt before moving to Windsor, Ontario at just nine months old. Tutu was raised into the game of basketball and watching his older brother go on and play the sport at the college level motivated him to do the same. After countless hours practicing his craft and getting better at basketball, Munis made his way to the college level and even higher.
He was signed by the Ottawa Blackjacks on March 30th, and that contract brings him back to the city of Ottawa where he spent 3 seasons at Carleton University. As a Raven Tutu played 68 games, getting 22 minutes a game last season scoring 12 points per game on a 43% field goal percentage, just under 3 assists a game and on defence, he averaged 3.8 rebounds and 2.2 steals per game. Tutu has mostly been known for winning 2 National Championships with Carleton but before coming to the city of Ottawa he had his opportunities in the NCAA. Playing for the NCAA’s Division 1 Loyola Marymount University, Tutu was able to play in 61 games, getting over 15 minutes of action a game and even making impacts with over 3 points a game and 2 assists per game.
Of course, once you see his college stats you see how good of a player he was with Carleton for their National Championship run last year but then you wonder how he will do at the professional level. Unlike Jean Pierre-Charles he hasn’t been able to try out any international leagues, but he has had the opportunity to play with Pierre-Charles at the 2018 Commonwealth Games where he put on a show for team Canada, scoring over 10 points a game, getting nearly 5 assists a game and even playing good defence with 2 steals and 4.4 rebounds per game. The numbers in that tournament play earned him a spot on the First Team All-Star list and was given a chance to play in the 2019 World University Games.
From representing Canada to leading the Ravens to two national championships Munis Tutu has shown a lot of what he’s capable of and Ottawa Blackjacks fans should be excited about him playing at TD Place with Ottawa.
Eric Kibi was born just a couple hours from Ottawa in Quebec City but Kibi’s basketball dream has taken him all over the world. With Pierre-Charles being just 26 years old and the Blackjacks roster mostly full of players coming out of college, the team needs a few veterans around to teach the younger players and set examples. Eric Kibi at 29 years old could be the veteran presence the team is looking for. He’s only 29 years old which may sound very young for many people but for an athlete 29 years old in the back half of a player’s prime. With that said, Kibi has had a very long career with a lot of travelling but it all started as a kid with a dream.
The dream of playing professional basketball one day gave Kibi a way out of his hometown in Ottawa, leaving Canada at the age of 15 to play at Sandia High School, a prep school in New Mexico which helped him latch on to NCAA opportunities. A lot of Canadians get to play at the NCAA level nowadays but for Kibi to play there as a Canadian in 2008 is very rare and shows just how good of a player he is. He started his college career at Jacksonville College (JUCO) and after having two big seasons, scoring nearly 14 points a game and getting on average 9 rebounds a game, Kibi earned a spot at the NCAA Division 1 level. Splitting up 2 seasons between both Little Rock Arkansas and Abilene Christian he played in 49 games, scoring just under 6 points a game and using his 6’7 frame to get 4.8 rebounds a game. Unfortunately, the numbers he put up weren’t enough to get him to the NBA where he once hoped to get to, but at 29 years old he’s been able to see the world playing basketball.
Eric Kibi was signed by the Ottawa Blackjacks to play in their first season in the CEBL, but it won’t be Kibi’s first professional season in the capital. Kibi kicked his pro career off in Ottawa playing for at the time Ottawa Skyhawks. In Ottawa he averaged 16 minutes a game (28 games) where he scored almost 5 points a game and getting an average of 4.9 rebounds. The numbers in his rookie year weren’t the flashiest but it sparked opportunities all over the world. Kibi has been able to play for teams in London, Denmark, France and most recently Argentina where he averaged 8.3 points and 6.2 rebounds a game. Those stats from Argentina add to his professional totals that show he’s played in 188 professional games, getting over 19 minutes a game in which he’s scored 8 points a game and averages 6 rebounds per game. Having Kibi back in Ottawa will be great for him to be where he grew up and for the Ottawa Blackjacks as well. Kibi will be playing a veteran role on the team but as seen in his background he has a lot of talent to make an impact for the team also.
As mentioned when talking about Eric Kibi, it’s good to have veteran guys on the roster to guide the younger players to success, and there are never too many veterans on a team. With that said, the Ottawa Blackjacks front office brought in a game changer veteran with Chris Ware. At 30 years old he is one year older than Kibi which also means he has a little more experience than him. The Chicago, Illinois native has been around the game of basketball since he was just a kid with NBA hopes, but after putting together a few solid seasons in college his career had a different path outside of the NBA.
Of course, you have to start somewhere and Ware got his start after he was seen in high school. At 6’8, 275 lb Ware, a forward averaging close to 15 points a game and 9 rebounds from Hammond High School made his way to Lincoln College in the NAIA (a step down from NCAA). At Lincoln he played 66 games, scoring 12.3 points a game with 7 rebounds and close to 2 assists a game in 2 seasons. The numbers produced in the two seasons and the size frame he has opened eyes of scouts at Pittsburg State an NCAA division 2 school in Kansas. He ended up playing one season with them and another with Indiana Tech, a JUCO school and in the two seasons he averaged a total 10 points, 6.9 rebounds and 1.25 blocks a game which brought him to the professional level.
Coming into Ottawa, Chris Ware is a seven year veteran in professional basketball. He launched his pro career in his home state of Illinois with a few semi pro teams and then was discovered by teams overseas. To this day, Ware has played in 197 pro games split up in Brazil, Romania, Kosovo and Indonesia. In the seven seasons and 197 games he has done very well, making his mark in leagues with close to 8 points per game on a 50% field goal percentage while using his size to get over 4 rebounds in 19.6 minutes a game. With all the leagues and countries Ware has played in, this marks his first stint in Canada and the Ottawa Blackjacks will enjoy his presence on the team once the coronavirus outbreak slows down and they can have their inaugural season
Seen by the signings of both Jean Pierre-Charles and Eric Kibi its clear that the Ottawa Blackjacks are all about local talent, and Yasiin Joseph has the ultimate Ottawa story for the Blackjacks. Like most professional athletes, Joseph grew up playing sports and fell in love with the game of basketball. Being from Ottawa, your exposure level to NCAA schools is very low but growing up in Ottawa he saw first hand how strong the Carleton Ravens basketball program was, many even compare it to some division one schools. Seeing how strong they were, Joseph worked to make the team someday and to be in the best position he started playing for the Ottawa Guardsmen in his high school years.
Playing for both the Guardsmen and Glebe Collegiate High School, Yasiin Joseph did all he could to get to a post-secondary school for basketball and he ended up making his way to the Carleton Ravens roster. Going to Carleton University where he grew up minutes away from, Joseph played in all 5 years he was eligible for and most recently won the U Sports National Championship in the 2020 season. To get to the 2019-20 championship and the 3 others he’s won the 6-foot-1 guard has played in 77 U Sports games, averaging over 11 points, 3.2 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 1.1 steals in 20.1 minutes a game.
When you see that he has won National Championships in 4 of his 5 seasons spent with the Ravens and with the numbers he’s put up to help the team get those accolades, it’s shown that he is a winner and that’s exactly what the Blackjacks are looking for in a player. To have this good of a player and even being a local product, the Ottawa Blackjacks have a hell of a player in this transaction and it’s something to be excited about in the team’s future.
All in all, the Ottawa Blackjacks have been able to find some talented players in their first off-season and Dave Smart is in the mix of doing another great basketball-related deed for this city of Ottawa. Stay tuned for more on the Ottawa Blackjacks and all of your Ottawa sports teams on your number one 613 sports news source.