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New Nighthawks are up to learn about Guelph

GUELPH — Connor Wood, the top draft pick of the Guelph Nighthawks and maybe to a lesser degree U Sports draft pick Malcolm Glanville of the Guelph Gryphons might have a few lessons to teach the 11 other players selected by the local squad in the inaugural Canadian Elite Basketball League draft.

Their new teammates might know a lot about basketball, but they admit they don’t know very much about Guelph.

“I don’t really know that much about Guelph,” fourth-round pick Emanual Shepherd of Toronto said. “I heard there’d a lot of friendly people and it’s a great city – a friendly city.”

“Not so much,” eighth-round pick Marvell Waithe of Scarborough said of his knowledge of Guelph. “I’m excited to be close to home, but still be in a new environment. I’m excited to be in Guelph. I’ve heard the environment is really nice and I heard the fans will come out and support you.”

“I know that it’s about 40 minutes from Mississauga,” 13th-round pick Myles Charvis said. One of the selections in the U Sports rounds, the member of the Ryerson Rams is from Mississauga. “They have the Guelph Gryphons. That’s about it. And now they have the Nighthawks.”

Of the 13 players picked by the Guelph side, Shepherd, Waithe and Charvis were the only ones in attendance at the CEBL’s draft reveal party at the Art Gallery of Hamilton Saturday night. The party was held a week after the league’s closed-doors draft and most of the other Nighthawks are currently playing in winter leagues.

While most of the new Nighthawks don’t know much about Guelph, they also realize that the CEBL and its style of play is also an unknown quality at this time.

“You don’t know what to expect, but that’s the good thing about it,” Shepherd said. “It can be an amazing league and have the fan support. The players will put on a show for the city and the fans. It’ll be great.”

“This is a great day,” Waithe said. “It’s a new beginning for everybody. It’s a good deal and I can’t wait to get this started. It’s always exciting to be a part of something new. You get to kind of put your stamp on something special. You embark on something special and you get to set the tone for the future.”

“This is a crazy opportunity,” Charvis said. “The future, we don’t know what it’s going to hold, but this is amazing. This is the first year for the league and it’s looking pretty bright. Everything that’s been put together is amazing.”

Some of the players do know each other and some have played together in the past and that could help the Nighthawks develop their team chemistry quickly.

“I know some of them,” Shepherd said. “Actually, (second-round pick) Jevohn Shepherd is my cousin so there’s a connection there. I was actually surprised when I saw his name come up.

“I wasn’t really expecting that, but it’s going to be a great experience.”

The Shepherds have never played on a team together as there is a bit of an age difference. Jevohn, who has played 22 games for the Canadian national team, is nine years older than Emanual.

Waithe has played with several of the Nighthawks before as the 29-year-old has played professionally in Denmark, Mexico and Canada. He lists new teammates Wood, Jevohn Shepherd, ninth-round pick Myck Kabongo and 10th-round pick Jamal Reynolds among the players he’s been teammates with before.

“A whole bunch of these guys are either my childhood friends or guys I’ve played with or guys I’ve been around growing up,” Waithe said. “Bringing in something new and having that camaraderie of something new … you’ve got a head start on everybody.”

For Charvis, his time with the Nighthawks will be a chance to learn about what it takes to compete in the sport at the professional level.

“I’ll be with a lot of guys who have played all over the world,” he said. “To start in a league like this is amazing. I’m going to soak up every information that I get to make sure I start my pro career on the right foot.”

Being with the Nighthawks, Charvis will now have to love Guelph. As a member of the Ryerson Rams in Ontario university play, loving Guelph isn’t something that will come natural.

“(The Gryphons) are a cross-town rival a little bit,” he said. “They’re in the same league as us so we play them a few times. You’ve got to welcome that city and embrace it because they do have some great fans in Guelph.”

The Rams and Gryphons play once during each regular season as the Gryphs are in the West Division and Ryerson is in the East. However, they could meet in preseason tournaments and in the OUA’s Final Four tournament in the playoffs.

Charvis could also have to go up against a pair of Ryerson teammates in CEBL play as Fil Vujadinovic (brother of Gryphon women’s player Ivana Vujadinovic) was taken by the Niagara River Lions and Jean-Victor Mukama was picked by the Saskatchewan Rattlers.

“That’s going to be different,” Charvis said. “We go against each other in practice and whatnot and I’ve been together with these guys for years now. It’s pretty crazy that everyone is taking their next step in their basketball journey. I’m just happy for all my guys because we all want to make it.”

The three Nighthawks players who were at the reveal party do figure they have work to do before the team opens its first ever training camp at the U of G April 29.

“I’m training,” Shepherd said. “I’m training almost every day. Improving on my game, getting better and staying in shape. I’ll be keeping in touch with the coaches getting ready for the season coming up.”

“I’ll get ready for camp and make sure I’m in the best shape – better shape than everybody,” Waithe said. “I’ll make sure I’m ready to go and ready to improve and have my body right so I can prevent injury. It’ll just be getting mentally and physically ready and contacting the guys making sure everybody’s ready, too.”

“I have to start off with exams and finish the school year off strong and then just get in the gym and get stronger,” Charvis said. “The main goal is just to put on some muscle and some strength.”

As to be expected on draft reveal day, all are thrilled to be picked and can’t wait for the season to begin.

“I’m excited, really excited to be playing for the city of Guelph,” Shepherd said. “There are big things coming. It’s a great team. I’m ready to give my all to the team and to the city.”

 

  • Guelph Sports Journal