Can you feel it, basketball fans? The change in the weather. The longer days. The start of spring? No. It’s the start of the CEBL season.
We’re fewer than a meager 50 days away from the Ottawa BlackJacks tipping off the 2022 season. General manager Jevohn Shepherd has been hard at work getting a roster ready to compete for the championship on home court, and we’re starting to get some idea of what the team will look like.
The team has so far announced the first five players that will dawn the black and red this summer. There’s a couple of familiar faces – well, one that we’ve actually seen in Ottawa; a name that should be familiar to most CEBL fans, and a couple of players who are new to the league.
Let’s give them a look.
The first player to sign with the BlackJacks ahead of the 2022 season, Posthumus will look to continue his hot play into a new year.
If you’re only familiar with the BlackJacks from seeing them play in person, you can be excused for not recognizing Posthumus’ name. The big man was signed on an emergency basis ahead of the playoffs, but made an immediate impact, recording the first 20-point 20-rebound game in CEBL history.
He would finish the playoffs averaging 18.5 points and 15.5 rebounds on 70% shooting over the two games. He since appeared for the Edmonton Stingers during the BCLA tournament, where he put up 9.5 points and 8.3 rebounds over six games.
While it’s not realistic to expect the Chad Posthumus we saw in the postseason to be the norm, you can expect to see an athletic player with legitimate center size who gives it his all on both sides of the court.
After having his career derailed for a few seasons due to a lingering hip issue prior to making his BlackJacks debut, Posthumus looks like a man hellbent on making up for lost time. Head coach Charles Dube-Brais loves to utilize his big men on the inside, so expect Posthumus to be given every opportunity to be the most impactful center in the CEBL.
The first player to sign with the BlackJacks under the CEBL’s new international player rule, Adel makes his way to Ottawa by way of South Sudan and Australia.
Despite his distant roots, Adel has actually spent most of his basketball life in North America.
He moved to the States in high school to pursue his hoop dreams and ended up attending the University of Louisville. He spent three years in school, averaging 13.5 points across 67 games in his final two seasons.
After going undrafted, Adel would sign on with the Toronto Raptors G-League affiliate until he was offered a contract with the Cleveland Cavaliers. He played 19 games with the NBA team towards the end of the season. He has since spent most of his time in the G-League, averaging 10.5 points and 4.6 rebounds through 92 games. He played last season in his adopted home of Australia before returning stateside.
Deng is a big get, not just for Ottawa but for the CEBL as a whole. Despite his girth of experience, he’s still just 25 years old and has spent his entire career going back to college playing at the highest levels.
So how was he available to the BlackJacks, you ask? Quite simply, his shooting numbers have taken a harsh drop in the past two years. While he was never known for his range, he still managed to hit a very respectable 35% on 4 three-pointers a game over his sophomore and junior years. Those numbers understandably dropped slightly to 30% in his first two years in the G-League thanks to the further three-point line. But last year in Australia, he shot just 20% from deep, and is hitting just 21% this year. His overall percentages from the field have actually gone up, but teams in the modern day will always favour players who can stretch the floor.
Still, at his worst Adel is a young, long, athletic wing that can finish around the rim through contact. If he can rediscover his shooting touch in Ottawa, Adel can be a force for the BlackJacks.
The BlackJacks will welcome a new Canadian to the league, as Jackson Rowe joins the CEBL ranks for the first time.
The Toronto native first made a name for himself playing for Cal State Fullerton in the NCAA. A starter from day one, he would go on to average 12.1 points and 7.3 boards over a four year, 111 game career.
After the pandemic limited him to just 6 games in his first pro season (in France’s Jeep Elite league, considered to be one of the best outside of the NBA), Rowe has impressed in Sweden this year, scoring 16.2 points a game to go along with 7.3 rebounds.
I gave Rowe a bit of a look as part of a previous article. While I got the team he would eventually sign with wrong, I’m glad to see him in a BlackJacks jersey.
At 6’7” and 215 pounds, he’s got a great frame for the game. He’s long and athletic and likes to finish at the rim with some degree of violence. That length also allows him to challenge opposing players on defense, and he’s developed a reliable shot in the past few years to round out his game.
His game has really progressed this season, playing mostly in the four spot with even a few starts at center thrown in. However, he’s best suited further away from the basket where he can show off his jumper and be given lanes to cut inside. If we get to see that in Ottawa, Rowe has a real chance to take over the league.
The more diehard CEBL fans among us are sure the recognize John as one of the more dynamic sixth men in the league’s short history.
In 23 games over two seasons with the Hamilton Honey Badgers, John has averaged 8.2 points per game despite playing just 16.7 minutes a contest. That translates into a guy who gets buckets in bunches. He probably would have been given a role if he didn’t have the somewhat unfortunate luck of being stuck behind players like Briante Weber, Trevon Duval, and Lindell Wigginton.
Prior to starting his pro career in the CEBL, John was a star at Weber State University, the same school that produced perennial NBA All-Star Damian Lillard. He averaged 10.5 points over 129 games, including 14.7 a game over his final two seasons.
He doesn’t have much experience outside of the league, though he did play in 14 games in Kosovo last year, where he averaged 16.9 points. He also represented the Stingers for 2 games in the BCLA window.
John is sure to be hoping that the change in scenery will get him that bigger role. He’s so far the only guard on the team, and his ability as a spot up shooter makes him a good compliment to the rest of the roster, who so far all prefer to do their scoring at the rim. He can be an impactful player off the bench or a capable scorer in the starting rotation.
Regardless of his role, John is sure to play a big part in the BlackJacks title aspirations.
The best shooter in the CEBL is coming back to the Ottawa BlackJacks.
Green won his way into the hearts of BlackJacks fans last season, when he started in 13 of 15 games. He averaged 9.9 points, including hitting 45% from beyond the arc, where 67% of his shots came from. For his career, Green is averaging 13.6 points per game, playing 109 games across a varying level of leagues.
He started this season with the Glasgow Rock of the BBL, but an injury put an end to his year after just 5 games.
Green is an absolute sniper when he is on his game. He feasts from the land beyond. And with the combination of his height and high release point on his shot, there are few that can defend him.
He is pretty much the antithesis of Rowe and Adel, which makes him the perfect person to come off the bench for them. Despite his size and length, Green is just an okay defender, and he doesn’t offer much on the offensive side of the ball other than his shooting. However, by coming off the bench, Green will have every opportunity to be a selfish player when he’s on the court, and I mean that in the kindest way possible.
Green is at his best when he can put up shots and find his groove early. By being the focus of the second unit, he’ll be allowed to do just that without having to worry about fitting into the scheme of the offense.
This year’s team already marks a drastic departure from the make up of last year’s. This is a much younger, longer, and athletic line up than we saw last year. That squad struggled to keep up with the fast pace of the league, and Shepherd has obviously made an effort to make sure this year is different.
Of course, it’s hard not to notice that Nick Ward isn’t on the roster, and with three starting forwards already announced, it’s pretty much guaranteed we won’t see him in a BlackJacks uniform this summer. As dominating as he was on the offensive side of the ball, his game was heavily reliant on being given the ball inside and then going to work on his defender in the post. He didn’t offer much on the defensive side of the floor other than his natural size, and his effort and attitude were called into question during the season.
In having Posthumus, Rowe, and Adel in the front court, the BlackJacks are hoping to have more spacing and fluidity in up front. All three like to run the floor and set screens for their teammates, which should set up better scoring opportunities.
Another thing to note is that the team has yet to use any of their Import spots (International players like Adel are exempt). Those spots are usually used for star players – which is not to say that Americans are inherently better, but there’s no denying they have better infrastructure around them growing up. This is surprising because most expected Alain Louis and Kadre Gray to rejoin the team this year, but with only the guards missing from the starting lineup and those Import spots sitting empty, that’s now being brought into question.
Of course, the BlackJacks could always just opt to go with an entirely Canadian lineup, but that doesn’t seem like the best use of the league’s rules.
With a solid core already in place, it will be interesting to see what players are brought in the fill out the roster. This team wants nothing more than to be able to celebrate a championship on homecourt, and they appear well on their way to making that a reality.