The CEBL free agency period is set to open on February 1, which is now less than one week away. With the signing window closing, you’re probably wondering who your favourite team might sign. Fear not, for that is why I am here: to give my predictions on who will be joining our summertime ranks.
Now, anyone is free to sign with any CEBL team. But that would require me to sort through an obscene number of statistics and watch endless hours of tape. So instead, for the sake of this exercise, I came up with a few rules for the players on my list:
- They must be Canadian. Given that 70% of the CEBL roster has to be from Canada, this seemed like an easy caveat to make sure at least some of my players make it to the league.
- They’ve never played in the CEBL before. Sure, it would be easy to move around players from last year and say where they’d be a good fit, but where’s the fun in that? Let’s see what new blood teams can bring to the league.
- I have to believe they would actually play in the CEBL. What I mean by that is, if a guy is killing it in one of the top leagues overseas (such as the ACB or LNB) or the G-League, he’s already showing what he can do against high level opposition and making bank doing it. He has no reason to play through the summer, so why even bring him up?
Even with those rules, I still had quite a long list. To make cutting that list down easier, I decided to pick one player I thought would be the best fit for each team. So while these players might not technically be my top 10 options, they’re still in my top 15-20ish and the ones I think have the best chances of appearing this season.
Without further ado, let’s take a look.
Yes, that Anthony Bennett. The much-maligned first overall pick in the 2013 NBA draft has been on CEBL fans’ wish list for a while now, but I genuinely believe he could make his debut in the league this year.
While he’s never technically walked away from the sport – he’s always been around the Canada Basketball program – Bennett is playing in a professional league this season for the first time since 2019. He’s suited up for 13 games in Israel and has averaged 6.5 points and 3.6 rebounds in just 13.5 minutes per game. He’s also appeared in 5 games for the Men’s National Team.
If Bennett wants to make a comeback, he’s going to have to find a team that is willing to play him lots of minutes against quality opposition, and I have no doubt he’d be able to find a team in the CEBL; especially an expansion team looking to draw fans to a new product.
Team Prediction: Scarborough Shooting Stars
The former consensus five-star recruit has had a rough go of it so far in his professional career, but Mane could look to turn things around in the CEBL.
Mane had a ton of hype behind him coming out of high school but opted to stay at home and enroll at Vanier College. Despite that, there was still a belief that he could get selected in the second round of the 2020 Draft, but that never came to be. He instead signed with the Orlando Magic afterwards and would play in 10 games.
He has since made his career in the G-League and even helped the Lakeland Magic win the championship in 2021. That being said, he has been held back by his inability to generate offence. He has shot a putrid .326 from the field and an even worse .137 from deep in 29 G-League games.
Still, Mane is only two years removed from being one of the highest-rated prospects in the world. Signing with the CEBL would allow him to show that he still has the skills that had people thinking so highly of him. And what better place to do so than in the city where you’ve historically played your best?
Team Prediction: Montreal Alliance
There could be another NBA veteran looking to impact the CEBL in the form of Tyler Ennis.
A former member of the Suns, Bucks, Rockets, and Lakers, Ennis has found himself outside the association since 2018. He’s gone on to play in some big leagues overseas and spent a season in the Raptors system, but he’s yet to have the kind of season that would put him back on an NBA team’s map. Ennis will be given plenty of opportunities to show he belongs at the highest level by coming home for the summer.
Though he’s a solid shooter, his most significant strength is making the players around him better by facilitating the offence. Last year, the Rattlers found several players capable of scoring but no one they could rely on to get them the ball at opportune moments. New head coach Dean Demopoulis would love to have someone with Ennis’ experience on the roster, and Ennis is sure to be drawn to Demopoulis’ experience working with players in the big show. It’s a match made in heaven.
Team Prediction: Saskatchewan Rattlers
One of the top Canadians outside of the NBA, we could see Marial Shayok join the ranks of the CEBL in 2022.
After serving as a role player for three years at Virginia, Mayok transferred to Iowa State ahead of his senior year and has been a superb offensive player ever since. He’s proven to be a top scorer in the NCAA, G-League, and now the Turkish league.
However, the wheels have fallen off this year, as he’s managed to only average 5.9 points a game. It’s hard to say what has gone wrong with his game this year (he’s still averaging good shooting numbers), but it’s fair to say this isn’t what he or his new team was expecting this season.
His contract actually has a team option for a second year, so it’s possible Mayok won’t be available to play in the CEBL. But if his disappointing play leads his team to pass on bringing him back, then Mayok will most likely welcome the chance to prove he’s better than what he’s shown so far this season.
It’s hard to predict what the Nighthawks roster will look like this season. But as we saw last year with the signings of Cat Barber and Justin Jackson, Guelph isn’t afraid to go big and make some noise. This seems like a natural fit.
Team Prediction: Guelph Nighthawks
Stefan Jankovic offers the combination of size and shooting that any team would love on their roster.
The 6-11 forward split his college career between Missouri and Hawaii. Upon graduating, he attended the Miami Heat training camp in 2016. His ability to play the stretch-four position has since made him a hot commodity, and he’s spent his career bouncing around a plethora of teams overseas and the G-League.
Coming back to Canada for the summer would allow Jankovic to have some rare stability and show other teams that he’s worth investing in long-term. There aren’t many players his size who can offer the floor spacing he does, so interested teams should make signing him a priority.
Ottawa BlackJacks head coach Charles Dube-Brais was hesitant to play Nick Ward and Ryan Wright together because of their lack of floor spacing, so why should this year be any different with Ward and Chad Posthumus? The BlackJacks will have another forward they can bring in off the bench to help with spacing and let the other big men work inside by bringing in Jankovic. He’s also a former college teammate of Negus Webster-Chan, so that could help.
Team Prediction: Ottawa BlackJacks
Best is a veteran of the game who has made an excellent career after graduating from Ryerson University.
He’s played in the top division of virtually all the best leagues outside of the NBA: Italy, Germany, Greece, and France, with a few stops in the G-League. However, he’s never been a big numbers guy for all he’s accomplished in his career.
He started this season without a team but has since been picked up by the Raptors G-League team (again) from the available players’ pool.
In the CEBL, Best can have the opportunity to be the primary ball-handler and have the offence run through him. It could be his chance to show the basketball world just how effective he can be under the right circumstances.
Last season, the Hamilton Honey Badgers relied heavily on Lindell Wigginton and could run into trouble if they don’t find someone to replace him. Trevon Duval may re-sign, and we may even see the return of Duane Notice, but either way, signing Best is a sure-fire way for Hamilton to fill the giant hole Wigginton leaves behind.
Team Prediction: Hamilton Honey Badgers
Isiaha Mike is everything you’re looking for in a basketball player.
He has ideal size at the wing, standing 6-8 and 215 pounds. He’s long and athletic, which helps him both on defence and scoring on the inside. He’s a good enough shooter that opposing defences must respect him at all three levels. And his vision and basketball IQ help him tremendously on both sides of the ball.
Mike has been playing at the highest level in Germany and has good numbers to show. He even played well enough in his rookie year to earn an invite to the Raptors Summer League team, appearing in 3 games.
He feels like a star in the making, and coming to the CEBL would allow him to be the centrepiece of a team. I can’t think of a better player for an expansion franchise.
Team Prediction: Newfoundland Growlers
Few players on planet Earth – let alone in the CEBL – can match Shittu in both sheer size and physical dominance.
The 6-10, 240-pound, London-born Canadian is a bit of a throwback type of player in that he doesn’t space the floor, he’s a poor free-throw shooter, and he doesn’t make the players around him better. But he can bully his way in the paint, grab offensive rebounds, and slam them back home.
He was seen as a blue-chip prospect heading into college, but despite solid numbers at Vanderbilt, the team’s poor play saw him tumble down draft boards. Despite going undrafted, he drew interest from several NBA teams and spent a couple of years in the G-League. He’s now plying his trade in Israel, but a small sample size hasn’t dominated like we’ve seen him do in the past.
At still just 22 years of age and with such rare physical tools, it’s all but guaranteed that NBA teams still have their eyes on Shittu. While his game may not make him a natural fit in today’s NBA, if he joins the CEBL and shows off how physically superior he can be, teams will have no choice but to give him another chance.
The Stingers put Marlon Johnson in the paint a lot last year because of his height, but he’s a much more effective player on the wing. Bringing Shittu onboard would give the Stingers someone to play alongside Jordan Baker inside while Johnson shows off his shooting ability from the perimeter.
Team Prediction: Edmonton Stingers
Another player who looks to be on the brink of stardom, Jackson Rowe, could look to make a name for himself in the CEBL this summer.
Rowe was a star in university at Cal State Fullerton, and after having a cup of coffee in the Jeep Elite League, has continued to impress in Sweden.
At 6-7 and 210 pounds, he’s another player who fits into the ideal basketball frame. He excels at the dribble drive and getting to the basket, where he can either overpower smaller defenders or use his superb footwork to get around big forwards. The most significant growth in his game has been the addition of a three-point shot. He didn’t utilize it until his senior year, but it’s since become a much more reliable weapon for him. While he doesn’t quite hit it at a frequency you would like, it forces defenders to play him honestly, opening more lanes to the hoop.
His game is still coming together, but he has all the tools to be an impact player at the highest levels.
The Niagara River Lions are victims of their success, with several players being unavailable to them last year due to obligations with other teams. Adding Rowe to the roster will give them a young impact player they can rely on while also surrounding him with teammates who can help take the load off.
Team Prediction: Niagara River Lions
Basketball teams love versatility, which is what Jermaine Haley provides you.
At 6-7, Haley has experience playing at both guard positions and small forward. He’s big enough to dominate any guards that try to defend him down low and athletic enough to cover any forward that gets switched onto him. And though he’s by no means a great three-point shooter, he still offers enough spacing to stretch out a defence.
After spending two years as part of the vaunted ‘Press Virginia’ defence, you know he’s more than capable of taking care of things on that side of the ball.
He’s spent this year – his first as a pro- with the Grand Rapids Gold of the G-League, where he’s been in and out of the lineup. Still, he’s looked good when he’s played and can contribute to a team at a high level.
As we saw last year, the Fraser Valley Bandits love players that can move throughout the lineup, and the fact that it would be a homecoming of sorts for the Burnaby native only sweetens the pot.
Team Prediction: Fraser Valley Bandits