Guelph Nighthawks ready to soar in St. Catharines

The Guelph Nighthawks have set their roster for the 2020 CEBL Summer Series, with seven new players joining the five who remain from last year’s inaugural squad.

Here’s a look at the names called by Head Coach and General Manager Charles Kissi:

“I’m excited about the group we put together.  I think we have a good balance of rounded basketball players. Our guys have bought in and worked extremely hard over our training camp,” Kissi said.

“These guys are going to have to come in and compete every day,” he added. “It’s that type of daily competition that will help establish the winning culture we’re focused on building in this organization.”

As mentioned, the roster features five members of the 2019 team, including Olu Famutimi (who I wrote about here), Myles Charvis, Jabari Craig, Jamal Reynolds and Kimbal Mackenzie.

The the new group of seven includes five Canadians (Marcus Anderson, Tyrrel Tate, Joel Friesen, Corey Johnson and Tyrell Green) and two internationally designated players (Americans Tre’Darius McCallum from the NBA G League and Jonathan Arledge from the French Pro A Jeep Elite League).

Here’s a few players I’m most excited to watch:

  • The Nighthawks selected Marcus Anderson with the third overall selection in the 2020 CEBL – U SPORTS Draft, following a five-year championship-filled career at Carleton University. Anderson is known as one of the top defenders in the country, and was named the U SPORTS and OUA Defensive Player of the Year in 2017-18 and 2018-19. Anderson’s Carleton Ravens were crowned U SPORTS National Champions in four of his five years at the Ottawa school, including the most recent 2019-20 season.
  • Joel Friesen was selected first overall draft pick at  the 2019 CEBL Entry Draft and signed with the Nighthawks after a stellar rookie season with the Fraser Valley Bandits. The 6-foot-5 Canadian previously starred for the University of Alberta, leading the Golden Bears to 2nd and 3rd place finishes at the USPORTS Final 8 Men’s Basketball Championship.
  • Tyrrel Tate is a Calgary native who grew up in North Carolina. He spent three seasons in the NBA’s G League, most recently in the Washington Wizards organization as a member of the Capital City Go-Go. Like Friesen, Tate was a mainstay in the lineup for the Fraser Valley Bandits in 2019, starting 18 games, scoring 14.2 points and adding 4.3 rebounds and 2.4 assists per game. He most recently played in the Mexican CIBACOPA, where averaged 17.8 points per game.
  • Lastly, we have American small forward Tre’Darius McCallum of the NBA G League’s Windy City Bulls. As a starter this past season with the Chicago Bulls G-League affiliate, McCallum averaged 11.2 points, 3.5 rebounds and 2.8 made three-point field goals per game. There’s definitely a lot to like about his game:

 

 

I’ve greatly enjoyed getting to know more about these players and their respective journeys that have landed them in Guelph, and I’m excited to see what they can do as a group over the next few weeks.

The CEBL Summer Series tips off on Saturday, July 25th with a nationally broadcast double-header (CBC), beginning with the Nighthawks versus the Ottawa BlackJacks at 3:50pm ET.

The Summer Series will culminate with the CEBL Championship on August 9th.

Once grounded, Olu Famutimi now soaring with Nighthawks

If ever Olu Famutimi dreamed of playing basketball anywhere close to his hometown, it was no doubt as a member of the Toronto Raptors.

The 36-year-old is indeed playing professional basketball in Ontario, but the talons on his jersey come in the form of Nighthawks, not dinos.

It’s a hard turn from a once promising career that began in Toronto and migrated to Flint Northwestern High School in Michigan, where he was named a 2003 McDonald’s High School Basketball All American alongside some guy named LeBron James.

Like many young Canadian hoops fans, Famutimi grew up idolizing Vince Carter. He was well on his way to being drafted to the NBA when he tore his ACL while landing a dunk while playing for the University of Arkansas. Despite the devastating injury, he elected to enter the 2005 NBA Draft, where he was passed over entirely.

He did earn a couple cups of NBA coffee with the San Antonio Spurs and the Philadelphia 76ers, even appearing in a few preseason games before being waived. Over the past 15 years, he’s bounced around several pro leagues around Europe and North America, even playing for Canada’s men’s national basketball team.

Famutimi was named MVP of Guelph’s Canadian Elite Basketball League squad after the Royal City’s inaugural season in 2019, and he currently has his eyes set on leading the Nighthawks to a Summer Series tournament win when CEBL resumes player later this month.

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The long road back to basketball relevance made last year’s team MVP win that much sweeter.

“I never really expected that award at the point of my career that I’m at right now, so it was really a blessing and a testimony to the hard work that I’ve been putting in over the years,” Famutimi said.

Famutami averaged 15.1 points, 4.8 rebounds and 2.4 assists per game for Guelph last season, and while he didn’t lead the club in any of those categories, his journey certainly affords him an extra level of leadership and perspective that truly defines his value.

“Olu became a staple in our locker room last season, showing our younger players the work ethic and dedication required to excel at the professional level,” Head Coach & GM Charles Kissi said at the time of Famutami’s re-signing. “His steady presence was influential as we started to mold the culture of our club in the second half of the season. We’re excited to have Olu back, and I believe being the first signing of the upcoming season is representative of his role as a core leader in 2020.”

The 2020 season did not play out as anyone expected, but Famutami is excited about the format nonetheless.

“I like everything about it. Considering the situation, we’re lucky to even be able to actually have a season. The structure of the tournament is amazing, and I think the Elam Ending is going to make things really intense,” he said.

Indeed, the part of the CEBL decision to turn the season into a single-site tournament, rather than the 20-game regular season was the institution of the Elam Ending, which sees teams play to a target score at the end of the fourth quarter rather than the typical conclusion of the clock. As a result, every game has a game winning basket, making for a much more exciting finish.

Expect the MVP to be a vocal party in those late-game huddles and a key contributor in Guelph’s efforts to win the championship.

Lord knows he’s paid his dues.

“Ball”

Like it or not, it appears as though sports will attempt to be a thing as we continue to wade through a global pandemic, and the Canadian Elite Basketball League (CEBL) is set to tip off a special Summer Series on July 25.

It will be the first live professional sports action in Canada since the COVID-19 outbreak in March, and the league’s seven teams will convene in St. Catharines, Ontario for a 26-game competition that ends August 9 with the CEBL Championship game.

These dates, of course, are subject to any regression in Ontario’s phased-in reopening process.

While you can expect some CEBL content on this website over the summer (specifically in relation to the Guelph Nighthawks), I wanted to start by highlighting the new ball (please say it aloud like Hedo Turkoglu) they’ll be playing with this summer.

Per the official release:

The CEBLxSpalding TF-1000 Legacy ball, featuring a new design with black panels and a microfiber composite leather cover, will be used for all 26 games of the CEBL Summer Series. With a deep channel design for superior control, the ball is Official NBA size and weight (Size 7). It will feature the official CEBL logo, the signature of league commissioner Mike Morreale, and the league’s Twitter handle, @CEBLeague, embossed in gold foil on the black panels.

Basketball and maybe soccer are unique in that the design of the ball is actually kind of important, since it can actually be seen in-play. That allows for some looks that actually matter, and this one is pretty rad. On top of that, you can even grab your own, and there’s nothing quite like shooting around in the schoolyard on a hot summer night with a ball used by the pros.

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“Spalding has been integral to basketball for more than a century, yet they’re still an industry leader when it comes to innovation and contemporary design,” said CEBL Commissioner Mike Morreale. “The CEBLxSpalding TF1000 Legacy reflects the CEBL’s vibrant brand. We’re about presenting world class basketball in a new way, and we
will be showcasing that to a national and international viewing audience during the upcoming CEBL Summer Series. As one of our premier partners, Spalding will be at the heart of every highlight and game-winning basket.”

The Nighthawks will begin Summer Series action on July 25 against the The expansion Ottawa BlackJacks at 3:50 p.m. ET.

All games will be available to stream in CBC.

“Hey Google, play (obscure 90s Christian band)”

Last week, I found myself playing with a new toy I received from Lauren and the boys for Father’s Day, desperately trying to remember the name of a band I had on heavy rotation 20 years ago.

For a summer job in the year 2000, I decided to forego the comforts of one Salvation Army camp for another, ending my 3-year career at Roblin Lake (RIP) and travelling to the wilds of Maine for a 2-month counsellor gig.

This was pretty big for me, to be honest. Looking back, I can’t recall ever having gone anywhere on my own like that. My semester at University the previous year had been in Ottawa where I grew up, and all my previous camp experiences had been alongside trusted buds.

Even when we were mandated to quit attending a camp in Quebec for one on Ontario, friends were there. That summer, though, my parents were dropping me off and I was hoping to connect with someone, anyone who could even come close to replicating the type of friend I’d made at my old camp.

That all fell into place pretty quickly, thank goodness. During orientation games, someone made a poop joke and I affirmed it by stating “poop’s funny.” Just like that, I was the funny new kid. I became pals with some amazing  Camp Sebago veterans who brought me with them on runs into town, invited me to a Bible study group, and made me feel at home.

But it wasn’t all perfect. I distinctly remember waking up some mornings and prying myself out of bed with the self-assurance that this would be the furthest I’d be from returning to my camp-issued cozy red blankets added into my sleeping bag for warmth on the unseasonably cold and rainy mornings.

If someone were to ask me how to define depression, or where I maybe started to realize I had an anxiety disorder, that would be the answer right there.

It was odd, really. I was having a great time, and would return for each of the following 3 summers – including the month-long pre-camp and while inviting friends from college to come along and partake in the wonders of New England.

But on those mornings, I could not shake the feeling that something was very wrong deep inside me.

Which brings me to Bleach, the name of that obscure 90s Christian band.

I was able to travel home for a long break in August that summer, bringing a friend home who meant a great deal to me during those summers, although I didn’t realize how much too late. I picked a Bleach CD (congrats if you guessed that was the band) and had this song on repeat for days:

And I can’t wait to get out of here
And I can’t fake through this pain I’ll feel
It’s been too long, that I’ve been gone
But now I’m coming back, I’m coming back
So long, it’s gone, this burden that I carry
And I’ll give it all to you, to you
And I’ll give it all to you, to you, to you
And I wade out and the waves are bigger
I can’t sort through all this junk so I’ll surrender
And I’ve gone on, way too long
And now I’ve had enough, I’ll give it up to you
This storm is great, but you are so much greater
I’ll give it all to you, to you
And I’ll give it all to you, to you, to you
And I’ll give it all to you, to you
And I’ll give it all to you, to you, to you
And I can’t wait to see you standing there so bright and special
And all the waves that crashed around my head
Fall silent at the whisper of your voice.

20 years later, this incredibly mediocre tune still resonates. I’ve woken up with that familiar, nagging feeling during this period of physical distancing, and calling out to the Nest Mini for another spin of this tune has actually helped a lot.

No idea why I’m sharing that story today, other than I remembered I have a website and thought I should probably start using it again.

Take care of yourselves, friends.

2019 Book List

As has become tradition, here’s my reading list for 2019. My favourites are in bold!

  • How The Bible Actually Works by Pete Enns (review)
  • Your Future Self Will Thank You by Drew Dyck
  • The Brothers K by David James Duncan
  • The Tech-Wise Family by Andy Crouch
  • Washington Black by Esi Edugyan
  • Educated by Tara Westover
  • The Naked Now by Richard Rohr
  • Holy Envy by Barbara Brown Taylor
  • Comedy Sex God by Pete Holmes
  • The Parade by Dave Eggers
  • A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
  • A World Lost by Wendell Berry
  • Beating Guns by Shane Claiborne and Michael Martin
  • The Universal Christ by Richard Rohr
  • THIS by Michael Gungor
  • Jayber Crow by Wendell Berry
  • Finding God in the Margins by Carolyn Custis James
  • Finding God in the Waves by Mike McHargue
  • The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
  • The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon
  • The Magicians by Lev Grossman
  • The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead
  • The Magician King by Lev Grossman
  • The Magician’s Land by Lev Grossman
  • A Man Called Ove by Federick Backman
  • Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens
  • The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah
  • Miracles and Other Reasonable Things: A Story of Unlearning and Relearning God by Sarah Bessey
  • The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates
  • Fall of Giants by Ken Follett
  • The Faithful Spy: Dietrich Bonhoeffer and the Plot to Kill Hitler
    by John Hendrix
  • Winter of the World by Ken Follett
  • Christ in Crisis: Why We Need to Reclaim Jesus by Jim Wallis
  • 2/3 of The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

My Top Albums of 2019

Wow it’s been a while since I added anything to this website. Hosting a daily podcast will limit personal writing time, I guess.

We are nearing the end of the year, so I thought I would post my favourite albums of 2019. Before you judge my taste in music too harshly, yes I know I have a type and yes I know some of these choices aren’t cool for 2019. But I like what I like, dammit!

So here we go.

  • Phoenix – Pedro the Lion
  • NATIVE TONGUE – Switchfoot
  • Rattlesnake – The Strumbellas
  • Pep Talks – Judah & The Lion
  • Living Mirage – The Head And The Heart
  • People – Hillsong United
  • Fever Dream – Of Monsters and Men
  • i,i – Bon Iver
  • III – The Lumineers
  • Cause And Effect – Keane
  • Closer Than Together – The Avett Brothers
  • Surviving – Jimmy Eat World
  • Atlas: II – Sleeping At Last
  • Reworked – Snow Patrol
  • Everyday Life – Coldplay

If I have time, I’ll go back and list my favourites from the past decade but that seems pretty ambitious at this point.

What were you listening to this year?

Introducing Locked On Boston Bruins

As I’ve been pounding home ad nauseam on Twitter, I’m incredibly excited to soon be hosting a new daily Boston Bruins podcast.

I recently recorded a trailer, which you can listen to by clicking here:

LOBB

For the readers among us, here’s the transcript to help get you acquainted with what you can expect.

Hello and welcome to the Locked on Boston Bruins Podcast, part of the Locked On Podcast Network. My name is Ian McLaren and I am excited and honoured to be the host of this new daily podcast about all things Spoked B. You can follow me on Twitter @iancmclaren and the podcast @LO_BostonBruins.

Listen and follow for free on Apple Podcast, Google Podcast, Stitcher, Spotify, Pocket Casts or wherever you listen to podcasts, and you can play Locked on Boston Bruins on your smart speakers by saying play podcast Locked on Boston Bruins.

So what are we doing here?

Your favorite hockey team. Every Day. That’s the simple but powerful premise Locked On was founded on. Going forward, you can expect around 25-30 minutes on the latest in Bruins news,  and insights. And don’t worry – I won’t be going it alone every day. I’ll be connecting with talented folks who cover the team in person on a daily basis for their unique perspectives.

Why me?

I feel very fortunate to be able to host this show.n I have been following this team for 30 years or so, and the Bruins are without question my No. 1 sports love. 

I started writing about them several years ago for The Hockey Writers and SB Nation. That experience – and some other independent hockey writing – helped me secure a position as an NHL News Editor for theScore, which I held for 5 seasons. Through theScore, I was able to cover the league from afar on a daily basis, and I also had the opportunity to cover Mark Recchi’s Hockey Hall of Fame inductions and Toronto Maple Leafs practice.

I also hosted my own podcast, through which I was able to interview the likes of Rich Peverley, Kelly McDavid, and Canadian celebrities Jeremy Taggart and Jonathan Torrens.

Speaking of which, this won’t be an exclusively hockey podcast. As an avid pop culture enthusiast, you can expect references to TV, movies, books and music, and the odd dad joke as well.

But first and foremost, this is a black and gold zone, a daily Boston Bruins podcast where will we answer questions like:

  • How much gas does Chara have left?
  • Why is Patrice Bergeron so perfect?
  • Is it Zach Senyshyn season?
  • What 2nd line winger will Sweeney acquire before the trade deadline this season?
  • How good can Charlie McAvoy be?

I’m very excited to get started, it’s going to be a blast and I hope you all enjoy this first season with me. Please subscribe, rate and review, and tell your Bruins-loving friends about this great new show Locked on Boston Bruins.

It all gets started on Sept. 30, a few days before the season opener.

Let’s. Go.