Guelph’s Connor Wood first pick of Nighthawks

HAMILTON – The Guelph Nighthawks confirmed Saturday night at the Canadian Elite Basketball League’s draft party at the Art Gallery of Hamilton that they did the expected in the closed-doors draft a week earlier.

They took Guelph native Connor Wood, a 6-foot-4 guard who was the winner of the Mike Moser Memorial Trophy as the Canadian university player of the year for the 2016-17 season to cap off his five years of eligibility with the Carleton Ravens.

“It was the easiest decision ever. Obviously, Connor played for me at REDA (elite high school development team),” Nighthawks coach and general manager Tarry Upshaw said Saturday after all picks in the draft were revealed. “Me and Dan (Connor’s father) are really good friends, too, and obviously with him living in Guelph and being a Guelph guy and really setting the standard in Guelph for high school players to aspire to, it was simple. I wanted to put the poster up four months ago, but I wasn’t allowed to.”

Carleton won the national championship all five of Wood’s years and he turned pro last winter when he played with the Niagara River Lions in the National Basketball League of Canada and averaged 9.3 points, 2.9 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game.

This winter Wood is playing for the Paderborn Baskets in Germany’s ProA league, that country’s second-tier league. On the day when he was being announced as the top pick of the Nighthawks, Wood scored 10 points and had four rebounds in an 86-72 loss to the Nuremberg Falcons. Paderborn is tied for 13th in the 16-team league with one game left in its regular season.

Due to the CEBL’s draft rules, the Nighthawks were actually the first team to be eligible to select Wood despite drafting third overall. They were the first of the three Ontario teams to pick and the Ontario teams had to pick players based east of the Manitoba-Ontario border in the first four rounds.

The Nighthawks picked behind the Fraser Valley Bandits and Edmonton Stingers, but they had to select players west of the Manitoba-Ontario border in those rounds.

Given Wood’s history with the River Lions, who moved from the NBL to the CEBL, he might not have been available when Guelph picked in the second round. Niagara picked sixth and last in the first round, but also had the top pick of the second round as the draft was done in a snake-like manner – first to sixth in odd-numbered rounds and sixth to first in even-numbered rounds.

After the regional portion of the draft, the first four rounds, there were no restrictions on where players were based for the general draft rounds (5 through 11) or the U Sports draft rounds (12 and 13).

“I really like our squad,” Upshaw said. “We’re going to be big, we’re going to be athletics and we’re going to have shooting. I think we’re going to have great point guard play. I think we’re going to be pretty good. Now it’s just up to the coaching.”

The Nighthawks picked guard/forward Jevohn Shepherd in the second round and his cousin, forward Emanual Shepherd, in the fourth round. In between they took point guard Marvin Binney. All three are from Toronto.

They also selected guard/forward Chris Johnson from North Preston, N.S., forward Marvell Waithe from Scarborough and guards Myck Kabongo from Toronto and Jamal Reynolds from Pickering along with the Lufile brothers, all forwards, from Burlington – Abednego, Meshack and Chadrack. If this was hockey, you could have Lufile scoring from Lufile and Lufile.

In the U Sports portion of the draft, the Nighthawks picked guards Malcolm Glanville of the Gryphons and Myles Charvis of Ryerson, one of three Rams selected.

“They’re going to learn how to compete every day,” Upshaw said of the U Sport picks. “They’re going to learn what it’s like to be a pro and how to get your individuals done, get your strengths done and they’re going to learn the speed and why you rep.”

Glanville does have some school commitments at the U of G this summer and the Nighthawks are planning on picking up another U Sports player to take his spot during that time.

Of the players selected by the Nighthawks, four played university basketball in Canada — Wood, Meshack Lufile at Cape Breton, Glanville and Charvis — while the other nine played in the U.S. — Jevohn Shepherd at Michigan, Binney at St. Mary’s (Texas), Emanual Shepherd at Southern, Johnson at St. Bonaventure, Abednego Lufile at Arkansas Tech, Waithe at Arkansas, Kabongo at Texas, Reynolds at Canisius and Chadrack Lufile at Wichita State.

The picks stayed true to the goal that Upshaw stated when he was named the team’s coach and general manager last October.

“I like to play a certain way and I always have,” he said. “I like size. I like athleticism. I like guys that can defend and switch on screens and that. We want to be a tough team to play against. We don’t want to be the prettiest team out there. My favourite line is that I’d rather have an ugly W over a pretty L any day and I think we’ll get some ugly Ws where we have to scrap it out. But if you want to win a championship, you’ve got to be able to play both sides of the ball.

“We’ll start with defence. Most of these guys can put the ball in the hole, so I’m not worried about that. It’s just to be able to buy in defensively into a system and make sure we’re all accountable and make sure all 10 guys are ready to go every night.”

While the players selected in the draft will form the bulk of the Nighthawks for the inaugural CEBL season, their roster will also include free agents that Upshaw was hoping to start signing Sunday.

“We still have a few more guys coming,” he said. “We’ll have some free agents. We’re allowed to bring 19 to camp. Of the guys we’ve drafted, three of them can’t come until mid-May because of playing commitments. So we’ll bring some guys in and there’s a couple other Canadians that we’ll bring in for camp that are overseas and that are intriguing guys. I don’t want to say their names yet, but you’ll see when they come up.”

The Nighthawks are to open their training camp at the University of Guelph April 26 in preparation of their season opener against the Fraser Valley Bandits in Abbotsford, B.C., May 9 and their home opener at the Sleeman Centre against the Saskatchewan Rattlers two days later.

The Nighthawks will hold their training camp and their regular practices at the old Mitchell Athletics Centre gym at the U of G.


Nighthawks Draft Picks
1. Connor Wood, 6’4”, guard, Carleton
2. Jevohn Shepherd, 6’5”, guard/forward, Michigan
3. Marvin Binney, 6’3”, guard, St. Mary’s (TX)
4. Emanual Shepherd, 6’8”, forward, Southern
5. Chris Johnson, 6’5”, guard/forward, St. Bonaventure
6. Abednego Lufile, 6’7”, forward, Arkansas Tech
7. Meshack Lufile, 6’8”, forward, Cape Breton
8. Marvell Waithe, 6’9”, forward, Arkansas
9. Myck Kabongo, 6’2”, guard, Texas
10. Jamal Reynolds, 6’4”, guard, Canisius
11. Chadrack Lufile, 6’9”, forward, Wichita State
12. Malcolm Glanville, 6’3”, guard, Guelph
13. Myles Charvis, 6’0”, guard, Ryerson
  • Guelph Sports Journal