Nighthawks deal with travel schedule to start season
GUELPH – Travel wise, the Guelph Nighthawks don’t have the easiest start to the Canadian Elite Basketball League’s inaugural season.
They traveled to the west coast Wednesday, a day before their very first CEBL game against the Fraser Valley Bandits at Abbotsford, B.C., Thursday night. They then flew back to the Munro airport in Hamilton Friday and are to host the Saskatchewan Rattlers Saturday night at the Sleeman Centre.
“That’s the pro life,” Nighthawks coach and general manager Tarry Upshaw said. “All these guys, at least the guys who have played professional before, it’s not the first time they’ve got off a plane, practise and then play a game. Rest will be good for us. We just have to make sure we have the energy.”
“It’s tough,” Nighthawks centre Zeke Marshall said. “I’m a veteran so to me it’s normal. You have to be able to do that. That’s what we’re paid to do. You’re going to have those away games where you have one game away and then you have to come back and get ready for the next game. You have to know how to eat right and take care of your body.
“It’s how you prepare. It’s going to be hard, but I think we’re going to be fine. I think we’re going to be really fine.”
While the Rattlers also played Thursday, their game was at home and that meant no flight there. The Niagara River Lions flew west, too, but they played two games in two nights — they lost 118-105 in overtime to the Edmonton Stingers Friday night after a 99-97 win over Saskatchewan Thursday. Their next game is at home Thursday night.
After a 10-day training camp at the University of Guelph’s Mitchell Gym, their practice gym, the Nighthawks feel they went into the opener as cohesive a group as they could be for the beginning of the season.
“The biggest thing is that they buy in,” Upshaw said. “They all work together and they communicate.”
“You’re seeing people come together and hang out a little more,” Marshall said. “That’s a very big deal if you want to win at the end of the year. You need to have trust in your whole team to have a championship run.”
The Nighthawks also went into the opener a little blind as they didn’t know anything about the Bandits. For the home opener they will have studied the broadcast of Saskatchewan’s loss to Niagara to see what the Rattlers do on a regular basis.
“By the time we see Saskatchewan, we’ll be able to prep for them,” Upshaw said. “It’s going to be tough. We’re going to try to prep for them after coming back from B.C.”
The Nighthawks squad that takes to the court Saturday night will be a little different from the one it looked like they were going to field following the league’s draft
Of the 13 players the Nighthawks selected in the draft in March, four (Myck Kabongo, Jamal Reynolds, Chris Johnson and U Sports pick Malcolm Glanville) are on the active roster, three (Myles Charvis, Abednego Lufile and Emanual Shepherd) are on the practice roster and four (Connor Wood, Chadrack Lufile, Meshack Lufile, Jevohn Shepherd) are on the inactive list.
Of those on the inactive list, the Lufiles were expected in Guelph this week after the Halifax Hurricanes were eliminated from the NBL Canada playoffs while Wood and Shepherd are playing in France.
The Nighthawks also have eight players they signed as free agents on their roster. They’re guards Olu Famutimi, Aaron Redpath and Marcus Upshaw, guard/forward Montrell Dixson, centres Marshall and Jabari Craig and forwards Robert Nortmann and Chris Ware. Famutimi, Dixson, Redpath, Craig, Nortmann and Marshall are on the active roster while Upshaw is on the practice roster and Ware is on the inactive roster as he’s playing in Brazil. Upshaw becomes a U Sports pick after Charvis graduated from Ryerson, making him ineligible to be a U Sports pick. U Sports picks have to be players who will be returning to their university team for the 2019-20 season.
Some of the cohesiveness of the Nighthawks roster might come from the fact that four of the players played together in the NBL Canada with the Cape Breton Islanders – Famutimi, Reynolds, Redpath and Johnson. All are on Guelph’s active roster.
“I like our group,” Upshaw said. “I think we’ve got some automatic leaders and I think we have some guys that are going to show more than they have. I think when push comes to shove and we play with speed, we look good. We’re not a cumbersome, slow down grinding team. We’re up and down and that’s why I went with a lot of athleticism.
“I truly believe our defence and our athleticism is going to win games.”
Saturday’s home opener at the Sleeman Centre against Saskatchewan is to start at 7 p.m.
- Guelph Sports Journal