YORKTON / SASKATOON - The CEBL season has ended and while the Saskatchewan Rattlers missed making the final four to play on the final weekend the 2022 season was a huge improvement by the team.
The Rattlers, after winning the inaugural CEBL championship had struggled mightily going 1-5 in the league’s 2020 bubble, and then again recording only one win but this time in 14 games in 2021.
So going 11-9 for fifth place in the now 10-team league this season, then finally losing in a playoff game 108-96 to the Scarborough Shooting Stars was a massive turn around.
Part of the reason for the much better performance was the play of small forward Malik Benlevi, the only multi-award winner when the Rattlers recently handed out their season-end accolades.
To begin, Benlevi was named Clutch Player of the Year, thanks to having three game-winning baskets this season – the most ELAM Ending game-winners on the team.
“He was known for his unique yet effective three-point shooting during crucial moments this season,” stated a release on the awards.
Benlevi was also named Mr. Saskatoon by the team.
“Get this guy a key to the city. Benlevi was a fan favourite on and off the court,” stated the release. “. . . He made time during the season to attend events, school visits, and autograph signings throughout the city.”
Benlevi said being named Mr. Saskatoon was special because it is about more than the performance on the court.
“I’m not just a basketball player,” he told Yorkton This Week, adding he is always trying “to do whatever I can on and off the court,” to help the team.
Benlevi said being involved with the fans and community is part of who he is.
“I love interacting with the fans,” he said.
On the season Benlevi averaged 10.9 points, 6.2 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 0.9 steals, and shot 46 FG percentage in 30.6 minutes per game.
As for his performance Benlevi said in spite of two team awards you can never be fully satisfied as a player.
“I’m pretty satisfied, but you can always play better, but I’m happy with it,” he said.
Benlevi also became a huge proponent of the CEBL through his first season in the Canadian league.
“It’s a great league. There’s great talent. It was my first time in Canada and I loved it,” he said.
While noting he had a great year, and “loved Saskatoon,” Benlevi added, “I loved Toronto. I loved Montreal – all the cities we played in.”
So while nothing is of course set in stone, don’t be surprised if Benlevi is back in Rattler ‘green and wheat’ in 2023.
In the meantime, Benlevi said he’s busy “working out” as he decides for a “couple of things on the table,” which is “the best situation,” in terms of playing this fall and winter.
“But I’m looking forward to next summer,” he added. “. . . I loved Saskatchewan, and all the fans. There’s good chance I’ll be back.”
Other award winners included Tony Carr being named Rattler MVP.
“It's a no brainer, he had a record year. Carr became the only player to record a triple-double in the 2022 regular season, the only player to record a postseason triple-double in league history, and holds the record for the most assists (15) in a single postseason game,” detailed the team release.Carr who is now playing for Bakken Bears in Denmark averaged 19.8 points, 6.5 assists, 6.1 rebounds, and shot 42 per cent from the arc while playing 35.3 minutes per game for the Rattlers. He led the league in assists per game, and sat in the 5th spot for points per game.
Canadian Player of the Year was Devonte Bandoo who is currently on the training camp roster for the Canada Basketball Sr. Men’s National Team in the FIBA Americup.
Bandoo was “back for year two with another great season. He was the best 3-point shooter in the league leading the league during the regular season in 3PT made while shooting 43 per cent from the arc,” noted the team release. He averaged 16.1 points, 2.0 assists, and 4.6 rebounds while playing 34.7 minutes per game.
Other awards included Jordy Tshimanga being named Defensive Player of the Year, with Mike Nuga the Breakthrough Player of the Year, and the Sixth Man of the Year going to Anthony Tsegakele.