The newly formed Canadian Elite Basketball League (CEBL) formally introduced the Edmonton Stingers to the Capital of Alberta on June 22nd, 2018. Tip off for both the team and league is scheduled for May 2019.

Yes, you are allowed to be skeptical about an all-Canadian Basketball League trying its luck in Edmonton. However, allow yourself to believe that all the right answers League CEO Mike Morreale has given at each team’s press conference thus far - and will do so again Tuesday July 3rd in Saskatchewan - are for real. “Corporately owned” and “well funded” are not adjectives ever associated with the now defunct International Basketball League (Edmonton Chill/Energy) and National Basketball League (Edmonton Skyhawks). Being a former employee of the Edmonton Rush Lacrosse Club, I saw firsthand the effect having a professional team in town had on minor lacrosse registration. Where the NLL never had set ratio numbers for the percentage of Canadians on a team, the CEBL will. President & Chief Operating Officer, Western Operations Lee Genier has been quoted saying the CEBL wishes to develop a U Sports draft to focus on and further develop Canadian talent. The mere existence of professional basketball in the form of the Stingers could and should set off a ripple effect throughout Alberta basketball. This leads me to two questions:

  1. With the CEBL in town, how do you see it affecting the growth of minor basketball in Edmonton?
  2. With the CEBL stressing Canadian content, what effect do you believe it will have on any Canadian draft eligible players in U Sports this upcoming season?

Those questions were sent to all 5 University and College team head coaches in Edmonton. Four were kind enough to respond with their thoughts and are listed in the order that they were received.

Eric Magdanz, Grant MacEwan Griffins, U Sports
1. “Basketball is already exploding in Edmonton. Having a professional team that athletes can strive for only creates a greater pull for younger athletes. Being able to see the highest level of basketball within our country in our own backyard will be a great opportunity”.
2. “Edmonton has produced a lot of professional basketball players but they have all had to leave to pursue their dreams. Having a platform to showcase our local talent is a major benefit to the community and our USport programs. I expect to see a lot of Edmonton and Alberta talent on display. A particular athlete from MacEwan would be Denzel James. Denzel is MacEwan’s all-time leading scorer and last season played in the NBL (Kitchener-Waterloo). Denzel has been a role model in the community and created himself into an outstanding basketball player. I am excited that he would have the opportunity to come home and show everyone how he has grown as a player and to have a chance to impact his community”.

Matt Barreiro, The King’s University, ACAC

1) “It can do nothing but help. There is a basketball culture here that is trying to develop”.

2) “I am not sure there is a ton of ACAC talent from Canada that would be pro ready. It is great to give them an opportunity, however”.

Reagan Wood, Concordia University, ACAC

1. “Impact on minor basketball - I think this all depends on the outreach of the team into the minor basketball community. If the team is able to take time to meet with, work with and invest in opportunities with minor basketball then they can have a positive impact”.

2. “Effect on ACAC players - many of my players are intrigued by the opportunity to continue to play beyond University. If the CEBL can provide that and players are able to stay local and have that opportunity that would be great. If the league is sustainable and able to show that it is here to stay it will also be something we can sell players on in the recruiting process if we see ACAC players making it”.

Mike Connolly, NAIT, ACAC

1. “I think the CEBL will help grow and develop the quality of player in our minor basketball community in Edmonton. I think it will help develop coaches and players to understand what it takes to compete at the next level. Basketball is pretty strong in Edmonton and it has a storied past. But I think the CEBL will take basketball to a higher level and just add to the cities passion and commitment to basketball. The CEBL in Edmonton offer great development,  and will allow players to train and develop at a high level so if given an opportunity to play in the CEBL they will be ready. Hopefully the CEBL will be a realistic / obtainable professional goal for young basketball players in our minor basketball system in Edmonton”.

2. “I think it will give some of our guys an opportunity to train at a high level and improve their skills. Then when they graduate they will have the ability to play in a professional league in their hometown of Edmonton. Canadian and Edmonton content will increase the opportunity for our local good players to play in a league and develop and hopefully open more doors at the higher levels. I think it will be great for the ACAC to have representation in the CEBL. The ACAC has a great basketball conference, one of, if not the top conference in basketball in the CCAA. With ACAC players having opportunities to play in the CEBL, I think, in the long run, it will be good for our conference and good for improving the overall talent in our league”.

Final Thoughts

The CEBL seems just as focused on the entertainment aspect of an evening out as it the game itself. Playing out of the cozy confines of a 4,000 seat arena inside the Edmonton Expo Centre, many basketball dreams will come true. Do not let skepticism stop you from being a part of it. The ripple effect of a successful basketball team starts with you.

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