BlackJacks Roundup

The calendar has flipped over to a new year and it’s hard to believe that it’s been almost six months since the CEBL season came to an end.

Long gone are the days of summer sun and the sound of shoes squeaking on the hardcourt; replaced now by winter blues and a symphony of skates on ice. However, that doesn’t mean that your favourite Ottawa BlackJacks players are taking the time to rest. No, the majority have taken their talents overseas and continue to put in the work to improve their games, hoping to one day get the call-up to the big show like we’ve seen other CEBL stars earn this season.

Nick Ward and Kadre Gray have been reunited in Spain, with both joining Coruna in the LEB Oro. Both players got off to a hot start on the year, with Ward leading the team in points (16.0 PPG) and rebounds (8.5) through 13 games. Meanwhile, Gray has played a key role off the bench, chipping in with 6.9 points in 16.1 minutes-per-game.

Unfortunately, the team and the players have seen their fast start derailed lately by the ongoing pandemic. They’ve played just one game since December 12, with a number of games being postponed due to an outbreak within the team. Here’s hoping they can get things back on track and contend for a league championship.

One player who’s only gotten hotter as of late is Johnny Berhanemeskel. Though his time as a BlackJack was cut short this season due to his obligations to his team in France, Berhanemeskel has been tearing up the LNB – widely regarded as one of the best leagues outside the NBA. In 15 games for Chorale Roanne, the Ottawa native is averaging 16.5 points to go along with 2.7 rebounds and 2.6 assists. He’s also put up some very impressive shooting averages, hitting 44.5% from the field, 41.4% from deep, and 90% from the free-throw line. He was even named one of Canada Basketball’s Players of the Week for his efforts.

Berhanemeskel isn’t the only BlackJack to suit up in the LNB this season, as Dominique Archie continues to ply his trade for Pau-Orthez. Starting all 15 games so far this season, he has made a name for himself as a stretch-4. He is scoring 8.1 points a game while hitting 41.4% of his three-point shots, where more than two-thirds of his shots come from. As well, he’s averaged 4.8 rebounds and 1.7 assists.

Archie got off to a slow start on the season, most likely due to the long year he had just endured. He went from finishing a delayed season in France straight to playing for the BlackJacks. He then flew back home to Atlanta to spend time with his family for a couple of weeks before jetting off again to star this season. Some time to settle down and readjust appears to have done Archie good as he has turned his season around as of late. It should be exciting to see how he performs down the stretch.  

Sadly, it looks like we won’t be able to see Tyrell Green finish out his season. After signing on with the Glasgow Rocks of the British Basketball League, Green made an immediate impact. In 5 games, he averaged 11.6 points and 4.6 rebounds, while hitting 51.2% from the field and 40.7% from three. However, in a game against the Manchester Giants on December 12, Green went down awkwardly and had to be carried off the court by the opposition.

He has since posted workout videos to his social media accounts, so it’s possible the injury isn’t as bad as initially feared. Whatever the injury may be, here’s hoping that he is able to fully recover and resume his career soon.

Mamadou Gueye provided an immediate spark to the BlackJacks last season after joining the team at the transaction deadline. He’s continued his strong play overseas while suiting up for the Yokohama Excellence of the B3League in Japan. Through 18 games, he has put up 17.4 points, 8.5 rebounds and 2.2 assists in 30.8 minutes per game.

Though he is competing in a third division league, it has given Gueye the opportunity to showcase what he can do as the main facilitator on offense. Those kinds of minutes are invaluable for a player as they work on rounding out their overall game.

Meanwhile, over in Qatar, Earl Calloway has kept his career going with Doha Ahli. Starting in the first 5 games of his team’s season, Calloway has contributed 16.8 points, 4.2 rebounds and 5.8 assists per game.

Another member of the team’s leadership core, Junior Cadougan, has actually been lending a hand to another CEBL team. The Edmonton Stingers are currently competing in the BCLA tournament, representing Canada. Since it is their off-season, they had to construct an entirely new team to participate in the tournament, and Cadougan was one of the players brought on board.

In the 2 games of the first round, Cadougan came off the bench to average 3.5 points and 2 rebounds a contest.

While he hasn’t caught on with a team full-time, that is most likely due to his family obligations. Cadougan has two very young children, so there are probably only a handful of teams he would consider playing for close to home. Fortunately, the BCLA tournament has given him the opportunity to still practice and play against high level competition, just on a smaller scale.

And lastly, Antonio Williams has caught on with the Plymouth City Patriots of the British Basketball League as a mid-season addition. Since Williams joined the team, the previously winless expansion franchise is 2-0, with ‘Booman’ averaging 16 points, 3.5 rebounds and 9 assists a game.

While it is impossible to know how many of these players will return to Ottawa come summertime, it’s still enjoyable to see them having successful seasons for themselves. The BlackJacks – and the CEBL as a whole – pride themselves on giving players a platform to showcase their skills and further their careers. That so many players from just one team have been able to take advantage of said opportunity and continue on to a higher level than they were the year previous speaks volumes about the leagues ability to live up to its goal.

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