The CEBL season is finally upon us, basketball fans. The Ottawa BlackJacks are looking to start things off on a high note when they play host to the Fraser Valley Bandits.
The game will mark the BlackJacks first opportunity to play in front of a capacity crowd in their 3-year existence. They’ll look to send their fans home happy, but it won’t come easy against a hungry Bandits squad.
Let’s take a look at how the teams stack up, how they match up, and what you can expect come tip off.
The Bandits are a team built around being a threat from the perimeter. Alex Campbell, Kyle Adnam, Shane Gibson, Malcolm Duvivier, Murphy Burnatowski, and former BlackJack standout Kadre Gray have all made their reputation off the deep ball. Look for them to press the action to try and get open three in transition.
Imports Emmitt Williams and Maxie Esho will look to handle most of the load on the wings. Both are big, strong, athletic players who look to use their size on the inside to punish opposing defenders. Unfortunately for the Bandits, they have a serious lack of depth in those positions and could end up in trouble if either of them rack up some early fouls.
The same could be said for their center position, which was a strong point for the franchise last year. Gone is league blocks leader Brandon Gilbeck, replaced with Chris McLaughlin and U SPORTS product Thomas Kennedy. McLaughlin impressed in a short stay with the Bandits in 2019 but has only played sporadically over the past 5 years. As for Kennedy, he showcased that he can defend against professional bigs last year with the Hamilton Honey Badgers, but struggled to contribute on the offensive end. They are thus far the only two true centers on the roster, so again, an injury or foul trouble could prove costly to the team.
General manager Jevohn Shepherd is bringing a reloaded and revamped roster this season with the hopes of winning the CEBL championship on home court. Only two players – Tyrell Green and Ryan Wright – return from last year’s regular season roster, as well as playoff hero Chad Posthumus.
Leading the team on the court will be a stacked backcourt, that includes a veteran of over 200 G-League contests, Walt Lemon Jr. The score-first guard has to be on the early shortlist for MVP favourites and will undoubtedly be the primary focus of the teams offense. Joining him at the guard positions are fellow G-Leaguer Jared Wilson-Frame, former Hamilton Honey Bader Cody John, Ottawa native Corey Johnson, and last year’s U SPORTS standout for the Saskatchewan Rattlers Nervens Demosthene, and Bernard Thompson.
The wing positions are nearly as impressive, and feature former Cleveland Cavalier Deng Adel. Joining him are Jackson Rowe, Thomas Scrubb, Tyrell Green, Jermaine Haley, Guillaume Pepin and Shameil Stevenson. Each one offers their own unique set of skills and can make a serious impact on the court.
And finally, the center position is shored up by the aforementioned Posthumus, who posted the first 20-20 game in the CEBL in his BlackJacks debut last season. He offers a sturdy presence in the paint on both sides of the ball, and brings a contagious energy to the team. Joining him at the five-spot are the returning Wright and Zena Edosomwan. Both are big, athletic centers who can bring a lot off the bench when the team needs an extra kick.
The pace this game is played at will most likely determine the victor. Fraser Valley’s glaring holes in the front court make them the definite underdog in this matchup, especially against a BlackJacks squad that has an abundance of depth at those same positions. However, if they can get up the floor quickly, they’ll have ample chances to hit open threes.
For the BlackJacks, the game is simple: keep your man in front of you. They’re too deep and talent riddled to be tripped up for a Bandits team that will most likely be fighting for a playoff spot come seasons end. If they can slow things down and work the ball inside, the points should come easy for them and be few and far between for the Bandits.
The BlackJacks open up the season on a four-game stretch against teams that, on paper, shouldn’t pose too much of a threat. While Ottawa is guaranteed a playoff spot thanks to their role as hosts of championship weekend, that means nothing if they are forced to face the toughest opposition in their first game. It’s imperative they take care of business early to build up a lead in the standings, and that starts on Wednesday night.