YORKTON - In spite of last week’s snow dump, it is spring in Saskatchewan and that means the CEBL Rattlers are emerging from winter hibernation marked by a series of signings for the upcoming season.
Among the signings so far the Rattlers have added a Canadian ‘big’ with CEBL and international experience.
Forward Julian Roche returns to the CEBL for his second season.
Roche made his professional debut in 2022 signing with the Guelph Nighthawks – now Calgary -- of the CEBL playing 19 games and averaging 2.6 points, 3.1 rebounds, 0.4 assist, and 12.2 minutes per game. He tied a career-high of 15 rebounds in his very first professional game on May 26 against the Shooting Stars. He ranked top-five on the Nighthawks in games played (19), total blocked shots (8), and total rebounds (59).
After his time in Guelph Roche signed overseas with Swiss Central in Luzem, Switzerland for the 2022-23 season. Swiss Central plays in the Swiss Basketball League (SBL), the top-tier league in Switzerland.
So why the move to Saskatchewan?
Via Zoom Roche said it was a case of looking at CEBL options and deciding “the Rattlers were a great opportunity for my career.”
At just shy of seven-feet Roche should prove a force for Saskatchewan.
Roche said he certainly realizes his size is an asset he needs to use to his advantage.
“You can’t reach seven-feet,” he said, adding having players with length “... is a valuable asset for any team.”
And seven-foot players – Roche is just an inch shy -- just aren’t all that common either.
“Anywhere in the world they’re not very common,” said Roche, adding being Canadian makes him an even rarer commodity.
Now, he said he just needs to utilize the size to the advantage of the Rattlers, in a league he recognizes is a very good one.
“The CEBL is a very talented league – very well-coached – very high level of basketball,” said Roche.
With Swiss Central Roche was – at the time of the Rattler announcement -- ranked first on the team in blocked shots (19) and total rebounds (168), and second on the team in total points (290) and field goal percentage (58 per cent). Roche has played 45 professional games in his career while averaging 7.6 points, 5.0 rebounds, and 1.0 assists in 22.2 minutes.
Roche told Yorkton This Week his Swiss success is a foundation he hopes to build on with the Rattlers.
“I want to take a step further,” he said, adding his expectation is “to blossom even more” in terms of his game.
Roche said he feels Saskatchewan will be a good environment for that to happen.
“I know the team is very well coached, (Dean Demopoulos is head coach)” he said, adding he looks forward to arriving in Saskatoon. “... It should be a fun summer.”
It helps in that regard that the Rattlers have new natural rivals in the expansion Winnipeg Sea Bears and re-located and renamed Calgary Surge.
Certainly Rattler General Manager Barry Rawlyk likes the signing.
“Julian is a high motor, high character, big body athlete that addresses our need to add depth to our roster at the Canadian Forward position,” he said in a recent team release.
“He is a personable guy that will dive right into the community and become a fan favourite.”
Prior to his professional career, Roche attended Proctor Academy in Andover, New Hampshire. As a three-year starter, he averaged over 12 rebounds per game during his sophomore, junior, and senior seasons. He transferred to Simon Fraser University in 2018, As a junior, he played all 29 games in the season averaging 22.3 minutes, 8.3 points, 0.9 assists, and 6.0 rebounds per game. In his senior year, he averaged 30.2 minutes, 13.0 points, 1.7 assists, and 8.2 rebounds in 24 games. He was ranked first on the team in points per game (13.0) and rebounds per game (8.2). Simon Fraser recognized Roche as Male Athlete of the Year. He was named to the GNAC All-Conference Second Team and GNAC Men’s Basketball All-Academic Team. During three seasons with Simon Fraser, he averaged 11.4 points, 6.8 rebounds, 1.3 assists, and 26.6 minutes in 80 games.
The Rattler season begins May 31, hosting the Vancouver Bandits.