As Lee Genier and friends move through the tough task of building a basketball league, they count their blessings, one by one.
“You’re trying to move mountains, and do it very quickly,” Genier — the Canadian Elite Basketball League’s president and chief operating officer for western operations — said Thursday.
The six-team CEBL, which includes a franchise in Saskatoon, plans to play its inaugural season starting May 9. On Thursday, they announced a collaboration with Canada Basketball, as the national governing body’s “official first-division professional league partner.”
“We’ll work together on all matters related to the sports, from coaches, to developing our players, to building a game plan so we can compete at the highest levels,” says Genier, who was the president of the National Lacrosse League’s Saskatchewan Rush until February 2017.
“This announcement really helps validate us, not only nationally, but internationally, as well. Every day is a step forward.”
The fledgling league, which also includes teams in Abbotsford, Edmonton, Guelph, Hamilton and St. Catharines, announced earlier in the week that they’ve reached a five-year apparel deal with New Era for both on-court and off-court product.
Genier said the deal is a big thing in terms of getting the Saskatchewan Rattlers’ brand out into the broader community. They still have no on-court presence, with the season five months away, and Genier said the team plans to introduce a new head coach and general manager in early January.
He has three candidates on the short-list, he says, and the league continues to receive interest from prospective players.
“Players from U Sports, to playing in leagues across Europe, from U.S. players, you name it,” Genier said. “We’re taking 10, 20 calls a day just from players and coaches who are interested in the league, (and that’s) been happening for the last several months.”
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