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National Basketball League of Canada takes page out of CFL Playbook with All-Canadian Draft
Written by: Zach Dadson
The National Basketball League of Canada (NBL Canada) has taken a play right out of the Canadian Football League’s (CFL) playbook this offseason.
The league, which is entering its sixth season, has opted for a Canadian only draft (as opposed to an international draft) and hosted their first ever Pre-Draft Evaluation Event at the Meridian Centre in St. Catharines on Saturday, June 11, 2016. This is a practice that the CFL has used as a method of recognizing, cultivating and celebrating quality Canadian talent.
“The concept is identifying guys hopefully within the first two to three years they’re out of school, recent graduates, so that before they wander off and go play someplace else or decide maybe pro basketball isn’t for them, they recognize what this league is,” Commissioner David Magley said at Evaluation Event.
“Exposure is a big thing of what we need so if we can get a guy that’s decided ‘I’ll put my accounting career on hold’ or ‘why would I go to Estonia when I can play here in Canada, I didn’t realize this cool of an event or this good of an opportunity to play’. We’re trying to grab those young men quicker,” Commissioner Magley continued.
Each NBL Canada team must have four Canadian players on their roster and, by focusing on Canadian talent at the draft, the league hopes to build stronger relationships with Canadian colleges and universities.
“It’s important we get a better relationship with them, we’ve not had much of one the first five years and we think going forward, if we’re going to build our brand the way we should, we need to work more in unison with the university programs and the college programs here,” said Commissioner Magley.
For Niagara River Lions Head Coach Grâce Lokole, Saturday, June 11th’s Pre-Draft Evaluation was an excellent opportunity to see what the 25+ Canadian athletes in attendance can bring to the NBL Canada.
“We’re trying to see what the guys we have can do. We’re putting them through a lot of different stuff, we have shooting, we have some mental stuff, we just want to make sure we’re getting a good look at these guys and to do that you need to do a lot of different things just to see what they can do.”
The athletes who had all graduated from Canadian universities or colleges in the last three years were put through the paces for nearly 6 hours on Saturday, including 3 on 3, 4 on 4, and 5 on 5 full court scrimmages.
Coach Lokole feels positively about the strong message an All-Canadian draft will send.
“I think it’s going to show the country that we’re serious about our Canadian content, that we’re very serious about players here. We want to invest in them, we want to build relationships with these schools that they’re coming from so I think it’s huge for this league. I think it’s overdue,” Lokole said at the Pre-Draft Evaluation.
A number of the athletes in attendance on Saturday talked about how playing in the NBL Canada would be a dream come true. Many of them also echoed Commissioner Magley’s sentiment that the honour to play professional basketball in their home country is an opportunity that did not always exist and one that they would be specifically proud of.
Playing professional basketball for a hometown team is an idea that specifically resonated with 6’4” Cedric Kasongo, who grew up a short drive from the Meridian Centre in Welland. Kosongo played his collegiate basketball at Cape Breton University where, as a senior, he averaged 10.7 points and 5.8 rebounds per game during the 2015-2016 season. Kasongo is a proud Welland native and was excited that he would have the opportunity to represent his hometown’s blue collar work ethic at the professional level.
Greg Morrow, a 6’4” Guard/Forward, averaged 24 points per game in his final year at Western University. The London, Ontario native has been watching his hometown London Lightning since the league’s inception five seasons ago and feels that it would be an honour to play professional basketball in his home country.
Commissioner Magley explained that the league’s first All-Canadian draft will take place a couple of months after the Pre-Draft Evaluation so that “guys we fall in love with, we can call their coaches, we can look at their social media, google their name, find out what type of citizens they are and then be able to draft guys that are going to make our team, make our league and make our league stronger and at the same time build Canadian content.”
The NBL Canada will continue to have opportunities for players to showcase their talent throughout the summer as Commissioner David Magley will be embarking on an ambitious off season where he will host combines throughout the United States and Canada.
“I’m going to do 30 combines in the US and Canada to try and find the best talent we can and go to them and bring them back in so we have the best year ever in Year Six”.