CEBL begins preparations for Championship Week at TD Place

Commissioner and CEO Mike Morreale is confident in suggesting this weekend’s championship weekend at TD Place will be the “best yet” in the league’s short history.

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There’s room to grow and problems to iron out, but Canadian Elite Basketball League Commissioner and CEO Mike Morreale remains optimistic about the upstart association’s future.

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Morreale is also confident in suggesting this weekend’s championship weekend at TD Place – featuring an all-Ontario foursome of the Ottawa BlackJacks, Hamilton Honey Badgers, Niagara River Lions and of the Scarborough Shooting Stars – will be the “best yet” in the short history of the league. .

“A lot of people are looking at the butt in the seats, and it’s on the rise, but we’re building a brand and it’s going beyond basketball,” said Morreale, who has turned to promoting everyone. football after his 12-year CFL career with the Toronto Argonauts and Hamilton Tiger-Cats.

The traditional approach to sports fandom – going to games, watching TV, listening to the radio and reading about games and athletes in newspapers – is still important, but Morreale says there is no no more borders in the opening of the CEBL to such a large public. an audience as possible.

“It’s a younger audience, they’re more tech savvy and there are different vehicles for engagement (on social media). It’s related to music, lifestyle, food and fashion .

There was, for example, major buzz around the league when German-American rapper Jermaine Cole (J. Cole) played five games for Scarborough in May and June before leaving for a music tour.

The fact that Cole came and went is in keeping with the fluid nature of lineups.

The rosters are mostly made up of players who spend the winter and spring in European and American development leagues and a handful of players have NBA experience. If a player has a chance to go to a G-League development or national team camp and has to leave periodically – as was the case this summer with the BlackJacks’ Thomas Scrubb – the CEBL doesn’t go there. will not oppose.

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Ottawa native and former uOttawa star Johnny Berhanemeskel, who is key to the BlackJacks’ chances this weekend, signed in July and has played just three games.

It can be frustrating for fans not knowing who may or may not be in the lineup on any given night.

“We always do what’s best for the player and we celebrate that as a win, not a loss,” Morreale said, conceding it makes it more difficult for coaches to make adjustments. lists on the fly.

The CEBL is subject to a salary cap and the league owns nine of the league’s 10 teams, with the teams being managed locally. The future goal is for all teams to eventually follow the model of Scarborough, which joined CEBL 2022 with community ownership in place.

“What they can do is go the rest of the way,” Morreale said. “Teams can work directly with sponsors, have better community connections, have more social and charitable connections.”

The CEBL commissioner is confident that BlackJacks will eventually grow to the point where this becomes a reality.

On the pitch, of course, the past few months have been hectic and rollercoaster for the team. After an 0-3 start, original coach Charles Dube-Brais was fired and replaced by Gee-Gees coach James Derouin.

The struggles continued, however, with the BlackJacks falling to 1-7. They closed the regular season on a three-game winning streak, going 8-12 to end the regular season in eighth place.

Eight teams qualified for the playoffs.

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But as the host side of the Championship weekend, the BlackJacks were guaranteed one of the last four places and will face league leaders Hamilton in the semi-finals on Friday.

Niagara and Scarborough, who qualified through playoff games last weekend, will play the other semifinals Friday afternoon. The winners will play the championship on Sunday afternoon.

It’s not ideal for a team with a losing record to be in the position of the BlackJacks.

Luckily for everyone involved, the BlackJacks’ late surge meant that no team with a better record – expansion Montreal and Newfoundland finished ninth and 10th respectively – missed out on the post-season party.

Morreale suggests the CEBL could change its playoff seeding system in 2023. Greater expansion is on the horizon and it’s also possible the league will adopt an East-West split format and expand the regular season to 24 games. compared to 20 currently.

In 2023, Morreale hopes the BlackJacks will become more of a summer destination for sports fans in the city.

“I’m excited about this market, but I still think it’s a conservative market as it relates to COVID-19 and (viewers) may not be ready to take the leap,” he said. . “They had crowds of 4,000 and 1,500, and their record didn’t help.”

His wish for the rest of the week is to capture the attention of the casual fan through the various activities, including concerts, that take place at TD Place.

“My hope is that people come and find out what CEBL is,” he said. “Not necessarily to go to a game, but just to get in the championship mood, but to celebrate a Canadian basketball weekend. Basketball is not like hockey or football which is rooted in the community. It’s still relatively new.

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