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Oshawa basketball franchise tips off

Oshawa's new basketball team will begin play on October 30 in Quebec City. The team's first home game will be November 3 at the General Motors Centre against Moncton.

August 17, 2011

By Geoff Zochodne/The Oshawa Express

Canada is the only country in the International Basketball Federation’s top-30 rankings that does not have a professional basketball league.

Oshawa, as a member of the upstart National Basketball League (NBL) of Canada, will be part of the effort to remedy that fact.

No longer will Canada feel the, definitely imagined, national shame of not having a basketball league.

A recent press conference at the General Motors Centre introduced the city to its new professional basketball franchise.

“I think it’s long overdue,” says Drew Ebanks, director of public relations for the Oshawa franchise.

The press conference showcased the Oshawa ownership group intent on bringing professional basketball to the city, as well as inviting in a sizable group of supporters there to support the historic endeavour.

Sherman Hamilton, the former Canadian basketball pro who currently provides colour commentary for Toronto Raptors games, emceed the event.

“This league means a lot,” says Hamilton.

For young Canadian basketball players, he explains, there are not a whole lot of opportunities to continue playing after school.

“Once we finish university you have to go somewhere else to play,” states Hamilton. Now, with the NBL preparing to begin operations in the city, Hamilton admits it’s a worthy spot.

“Oshawa is a place that really embraces the culture of sport,” he says.

Gary Durrant, the team representative, and a former professional basketball player himself, emulated Hamilton’s perspective on the league.

“If we’re lucky enough to play we have to head overseas,” explains Durrant of the status quo, something that he and the NBL hope to change.

“I think the league will be of that calibre where it will attract guys,” he says.

Looking down at the floor of the General Motors Centre Durrant noted that he would “love to throw a couple down in this arena.”

On hand to show their solidarity with new team were members of Oshawa’s council, Oshawa MP Colin Carrie, and Mayor John Henry who offered a suggestion that the team be named “The Camaros,” as part of the franchise’s team-naming contest.

Also introduced was the Oshawa ownership group, which includes Canadian actor Mark Taylor and businessman Henry Chow, who cited James Naismith’s invention of the sport as proof of the need for a Canadian league.
“This is a wonderful, wonderful game,” says Chow, adding, “As it is a Canadian game, it is about time we had a league in Canada.”

The NBL will run a 36-game schedule from November to March. Other members of the league are Halifax, Moncton, Saint John’s, Prince Edward Island, Quebec City and London.
Oshawa will open the season playing the Kebs in Quebec City on October 30, followed by the franchise’s first home game on November 3 against Moncton.

The league’s salary cap will sit around $150,000 with a minimum player salary of $1,600.

“Which I must say…I think it’s a good start,” says Durrant.

The rep clarifies that the potential for growth will increase as the league grows, but that shouldn’t stop young players from seeking out a spot on an NBL roster.

“There are quality players that are attracted to this level of basketball,” he claims.

On Saturday and Sunday, the NBL will hold its inaugural combine and draft to fill rosters. Both events will be broken down into a international free agent and Canadian portions.

A coach has yet to be named for the Oshawa franchise, but the team does hold the first overall pick in the draft.

The door for expansion was also left open. While the new team is headquartered in Oshawa, it is currently being referred to as a “Durham” NBL team, and Durrant noted that there is the possibility that a team in somewhere like Ajax could be possible.

“First, it’s going to be a Canadian team,” Durrant assures.

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