A new proposed Canadian professional basketball league has announced Guelph as its first franchise.
The Canadian Elite Basketball League said it plans to have a minimum of six franchises in a league that will stretch across Canada.
It will be a summer league, hitting the court from May to August, play under FIBA rules, have 50 per cent Canadian content on team’s 10-man rosters and initially some of the franchises, including Guelph, would be league-owned.
The Guelph team would play out of the Sleeman Centre.
But it’s not known when the league will start playing, where other franchises will be located or who the investors behind it are.
Mario Brazina, the league’s communication coordinator, said ideally the league would like to start playing in May of 2018, but is “not committed to a date.”
Brazina said the league wants to “make sure we’re prepared” and won’t rush into starting the league until the time is right.
He said the investors behind the league would be identified at a later stage.
“We have the financial backing to make this happen,” Brazina said.
The league would like to have at least eight franchises, would go ahead with six, and is close to finalizing three franchises, Brazina said. He added that there is interest in seven other locations besides Guelph.
Brazina said that investors for the league, which has been in the works for eight months, are in place.
“There’s going to be local owners coming out of the woodwork,” Brazina said. “We will not start without six territories.”
Brazina said the league is committed to being a true national league with franchises across the county and teams playing a divisional format, but with some crossover.
He said the league’s summer schedule will allow professionals playing in other FIBA leagues around the world, which typically play in the winter, to play in Canada in the summer.
“This allows us to access some of the best players around,” he said.
The Canadian Elite Basketball League is not to be confused with the Canadian Basketball League that had a franchise in Guelph last winter.
That league, which was run by former Toronto Raptors coach Butch Carter, has apparently folded after playing with four Ontario teams, including the Guelph team that played out of the University of Guelph.
That league provided a solid on-court product but, other than Guelph, struggled with attendance.
It also had marketing issues, a poorly-run web site, had players play for more than one team in the same week and played at least one regular season game after a playoff game.
Guelph’s other foray into professional basketball came in 2004 when some local entrepreneurs started the Ontario Professional Basketball League, which didn’t make it through its inaugural year.
At one point referees refused to start a game until they were paid in cash and – as the league wilted Guelph players asked a reporter to drive them to one of the league owners’ home so that they could “collect their money.”