Guelph Nighthawks Photo

 

Nighthawks show off players and uniforms

GUELPH – The players who’ll wear the blue, white and black of the Guelph Nighthawks to start the Canadian Elite Baseball League’s inaugural season will all be in town this weekend.

“It’s definitely real now,” Nighthawks’ coach and general manager Tarry Upshaw said at the party to unveil the uniform and introduce the players Friday night at the E Bar.

The N-Hawks will have 18 players at their training camp that is to be held at the old Mitchell Athletics Centre gym at the University of Guelph. They were there Friday, but aren’t to get their first floor time until Sunday morning. Friday was for their physicals and to get their photos taken.

“We didn’t get a chance to get in the gym and practice yet, but I was talking to the trainers and the people who were doing the testing and they were like ‘Your athletes are off the charts here. These guys are impressive,’” Upshaw said. “I wanted to have a team that could rebound and defend. Everyone can score. At this level you can score, but if you can’t defend or rebound, well, you’re going to lose games. I’m excited. I think our size is good. I think we’ve got some really good leaders and I think with (Myck) Kabongo at the point and Isaiah Lewis as a backcourt guy, you’ve got a guy who started at Texas and a guy who started at Temple in your backcourt. That’s OK.”

“Anytime that you have a camaraderie with guys that are good guys, it goes a long way,” Kabongo said. “I think we have a chance to build something special here for the first year and bring a championship here. First we have to take the baby steps. Go to training camp a day at a time, but I feel we have enough here to have a great first year in this league.”

One of the toughest things for Upshaw will be to cut down the roster. The team’s allowed to carry 15 players – 10 who suit up for the games and five on a practice roster.

“That is going to be a tough job,” Upshaw said. “I’ll probably make the decision on the 10 that will be on the roster after our first exhibition game. We have an exhibition scrimmage on the 2nd (of May). There’ll probably be a couple of guys let go before then as there are guys in repetitive positions.”

A roster of 15 can be divided up to have a depth chart that includes three players at each position.

“Whoever plays plays,” Upshaw said. “Whoever can show that they belong to be here, they belong.”

“Any professional team is hard,” Kabongo said. “You’ve got different personalities. You have guys from different backgrounds and different places. It’s just a matter of meshing together in the system. I know coach knows the players that he’s bringing in and the staff knows who he’s bringing in. It’s just a matter of putting us in a position to succeed and we trust him with that. Also as players, we’ve got to take accountability on our own part and kind of reel it in together as well.”

Having players who are character people both on and off the court is important to the N-Hawks.

“One thing I’ve found with pros, you’ve really got to understand what they’re like off the court,” Upshaw said. “Guelph’s a great community and you don’t want anything that could go awry to happen and I’ve seen that happen, too. I think the men we’ve brought in are all quality guys and clearly it’s whoever can get it done is going to get it done.

“You really want guys who A, want to be here, B, want to work hard and C, understand that this is more than putting the ball in the hole. This is building a team, a league, everything – culture and increasing the ability of players who come after them to have the chance to play professionally in the summer in Canada. I don’t think they’ve really thought about that and I’m going to have that conversation with the team probably Sunday morning. It’s an opportunity and it’s history, really, so be on the right side of history and not the wrong side.”

For most of the players, they’re coming to Guelph straight from their winter league squad.

“It’s like I haven’t taken a day off yet,” said Kabongo who played 33 games with the Toronto Raptors 905 team of the NBA G League that’s based out of Mississauga before finishing the season with Al Nasr Riyadh of the Saudi Basketball League. “I’ve still been going so it doesn’t feel like an off-season yet for me. It feels like I’ve still been going. Usually I take a month off from basketball just to kind of get away from the game, but it’s kind of cool to still be in shape during the off-season. I’m having fun with it and I’m pretty sure the other guys will as well.”

One player who isn’t in town is Guelphite Connor Wood, the first-round (third overall) draft pick of the N-Hawks.

“Connor Wood played in Germany and he got picked up by a team in France, a pro B team, so he’s going to finish out the rest of the year with them,” Upshaw said. “I think Connor will be here in June. That’s my understanding with the last conversation we had.

“You really can’t turn a guy down. He’s looking for his future overseas and this is a great opportunity in the summer. Hats off to him because he’s looking for next year’s contract and right now he’s playing well to get that contract. I think it’s going to be a pretty good bump and it’s really hard to turn away money. He’s trying to be a pro basketball player and he’s done well because he went from Germany to a higher league in France in the same year. I’m very happy for him and very proud of him.”

The Guelph team’s regular-season schedule includes four games in May, six in June, six in July and four in August.

“I don’t worry about Connor. He’s a hard worker and hard-working guys are always easy to fit in,” Upshaw said. “I coached him for such a long time, I know what his strengths are. He’s going to know everything we run because I don’t change that much. We’ll make a little adjustment here and there, but he’ll be able to fit in seamlessly, I believe. I know what his strengths are and I know what plays to run for him. I run sets specifically for positional guys to shoot it and I’ll run the sets so that he’s one of the guys that will be shooting.”

Players with the N-Hawks include guards Marvin Binney, Myles Charvis, Trey Dickerson, Olu Famutimi, Kabongo, Lewis, Aaron Redpath, Jamal Reynolds and Jevohn Shepherd. Chris Johnson is a guard/forward while forwards include Montrell Dixson, Abednego Lufile, Chadrack Lufile, Meshack Lufile, Emanual Shepherd and Marvell Waithe along with U Sports players Malcolm Glanville of the Guelph Gryphons and Marcus Upshaw of the Acadia Axemen.

The N-Hawks are to begin the CEBL’s first season May 9 against the Fraser Valley Bandits in Abbotsford, B.C., and then host the Saskatchewan Rattlers at the Sleeman Centre two days later.

 

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