New pro basketball team to make nest in Guelph next spring

Chris Seto - GUELPH Mercury Tribune - JUNE 13, 2018

Next spring the Sleeman Centre will become nesting grounds for the Guelph Nighthawks, the latest team to be unveiled as part of the Canadian Elite Basketball League (CEBL).

On Wednesday morning, at what will eventually be centre court at the Sleeman Centre, the CEBL unveiled the Guelph team name and logo. Around 35 people came out for the event.

Guelph team president Cameron Kusch said the hawk has "laser-sharp vision and remarkable intelligence, similar to this city," highlighting Guelph's current bid in the national Smart Cities Challenge.

"We feel that the Nighthawk is a great embodiment for this city: It's elegant, it's graceful as it soars high above, ultimately utilizing its intellect and its vision in pursuit of victory."

Earlier this year Guelph was chosen as one of six teams to build the new CEBL. The league is to begin in May 2019 with each team playing a 20-game regular season.

The teams include Hamilton, Edmonton, Fraser-Valley, Niagara and Saskatchewan. These teams are to be operated locally but will be owned by the league.

Tryouts to be held in the new year

League CEO Mike Morreale, former CFL player with the Hamilton Tiger Cats, said each team will carry 10 players, with room for two others to be kept in reserve. He said more than half of the players on each team will be Canadian.

"The goal is to compare ourselves to the other international federation basketball leagues around the world," he said. Leagues like Europe, Turkey and Australia. The CEBL will be run according to International Basketball Federation (FIBA) standards.

It's not yet clear as to who will be playing in the league, Morreale said. Because the league also owns all of the teams, this allows more flexibility and funding for teams TO bring on bigger-name stars, if they become available. 

"Finding out who exactly will be available at those times, we're not sure at the moment, but we do know that we have the ability to compensate them appropriately if we would like to get bigger name stars."

Players in this league could be paid anywhere between $2,000 and $10,000 a month, he said, but there are no hard caps, he said.

Tryouts will be held locally in the new year, he said.

Doing things differently this time around

At the end 2016 the Canadian Basketball League, led by former Toronto Raptor's coach Butch Carter, launched as the only professional loop playing under FIBA rules. The league consisted of four teams but failed after the first season.

Morreale said the CEBL won't follow this same path.

"We're a startup," he said, adding a lot of time and money went into looking at previous attempts by other startups to establish a successful Canadian league, and where they went right.

"The way we structured our model is taking the best practices of other professional leagues," he said, naming the MLS and CFL as examples. He said the league has enough funding in place to weather any hiccups that may come up as they become established.

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Kusch said between now and the launch of the league, the organization will be working hard to build a local following. He said the aim is to sell out the Sleeman Centre for each of the 10 home games next year. The downtown stadium holds roughly 5,000 people.

"This isn't a basketball court within a hockey venue. This will be a basketball arena true and true," he said. 

Basketball fans can expect to pay between $20-$25 a ticket when the league tips off next spring.

Darrin Conway