Due to the ongoing spread of COVID-19, the Canadian Elite Basketball League (CEBL) and many other professional sports leagues have had to either cancel or postpone their 2020 season. At the start of the pandemic, when the CEBL first had postponed the 2020 season things weren’t looking great for the Ottawa Blackjacks inaugural season but after long hours in his home office CEBL commissioner, Mike Morreale was able to put the puzzle together and create a 2020 season for the CEBL. Morreale comments, “The CEBL has been at the forefront of the return-to-play efforts by major sports leagues across Canada, and we’re ecstatic at the prospect of being able to return live professional sports to Canadians.” Since we are in late June and the CEBL usually starts in early May, the season will not be the full 70 total games, it will be 26 games, and depending on the success on teams, some teams may play just 6 games.
Going into the specifics of it, each team will play each other once, then the team with the worst record will be eliminated leaving a total 6 teams left to have a bracket. From the standings of the past 6 games played by each team the 3rd and 6th seeds will face off while the 4th and 5th battle it out to see who goes to play in the semi-finals against either the 1st seed or 2nd seed.
When the news broke last Thursday Blackjacks’ forward Shaquille Keith was feeling “Hot and cold,” he says, “-at this point its like your health or your profession because of where we are as a country (Canada) right now.” Being in the middle of a pandemic, it will be different to see basketball be played again but the players, like Keith have all been doing their part to stay in shape and make sure they are at the top of their game once they return to the court. “When I got home from the Dominican and when I knew gyms were going to be closed I went out to the store and bought a basketball net. I was back to the basics.” Keith commented, “I remember the days when I was younger and didn’t go to the gym so when I set up the net in the drive-way and started shooting around it felt normal and I’ve had a good opportunity to stay in game shape.”
Although Keith had some deep thoughts when he first heard about the CEBL’s return, having basketball back brings happiness back to him, “I’m very excited. The last time I played was in the Dominican in March before things got bad so it will be good to be back but overall I’m very happy to be able to play again.”
The last time Shaquille Keith was on the court he was with San Carlos in the Dominican Republic, so coming to Ottawa to play for the Blackjacks will be new on so many levels but he is thrilled to be back in Canada and to be a part of the Blackjacks. “Coming to Ottawa I’m most excited to be a part of the culture there. The basketball background in the city is unreal and being a part of a team with (Dave) Smart will be awesome, there’s guys that have been coached by Smart and to play with these guys that have played on National teams like the Scrubb brothers, it’s going to be good to be in that company and I’m extremely excited to get started and get the job done with the Blackjacks.”
Going into this 26 game format Keith has a total 182 professional games played, scoring on average 13 points a game with 4.8 rebounds and 2.1 assists so when he comes in to play with players like Jean Emmanuel Pierre-Charles and the Scrubb brothers he could make a big impact so if you are a sports fan and you don’t have much to do between July 25th and August 9th tune in to the CEBL’s summer series on CBC Sports,, “You can expect some real passion from me.” said Keith, “If you are watching me on the court I give it my all. This tournament is exactly what players like myself are about because every single game counts so much and you mix the intensity with my passion, you have yourself a great player in the tournament but I’m just excited to get the job done with my team.”