YORKTON - If you are a sports fan in Saskatchewan hopefully you have began following the CEBL Rattlers.
The Rattlers and CEBL offer up a really entertaining brand of basketball which, much like our beloved CFL, give a lot of Canadian players a place to ply their trade.
This year is particularly exciting for Prairie basketball fans with the CEBL transferring a franchise to Calgary and adding an expansion team in Winnipeg which essentially puts the CEBL in all four Prairie CFL cities. (They are in Vancouver too so the west division of CEBL mirrors the CFL).
Certainly, the rivalry our Roughriders have with the dreaded Winnipeg Blue Bombers is legendary – cue the banjo music.
Now we have the Winnipeg Sea Bears – the name traces its roots to Manitoba’s northern polar bears – ready to launch and should quickly form a rivalry with the Rattlers.
At least Sea Bear head coach and general manager Mike Taylor expects that to be the case.
“I think it’s fantastic for sports fans,” he said, adding there is the precedence of the CFL rivalry that should transfer to fans of the CEBL easily.
In that regard Taylor said the CEBL has made developmental strides headed toward the 2023 season.
“I really like the direction of the CEBL,” he said, pointing to the Sea Bears and Calgary Surge as teams in major Canadian cities, creating a western division. “. . . There’s a lot to be excited about. A lot to build on.”
In general terms Taylor said it’s a big step for Winnipeg and for him as coach.
“I’m really excited about it. I love the CEBL,” he said, adding he grew to appreciate the league as head coach with the Fraser Valley (now Vancouver) Bandits.
“I’m looking forward to the challenge in Winnipeg.”
Taylor has a long resume, which includes coaching the Polish national team from 2014 to 2021, bringing their world ranking up from #42 to #13. He also led the team to a top eight finish at the World Cup in China in 2019 and three EuroBasket appearances in 2015, 2017 and 2022.
Taylor also left his mark on the German basketball scene, coaching 11 seasons and leading three organizations to promotion (Hamburg Towers, Ratiopharm Ulm and Niners Chemnitz (formerly Chemnitz 99ers). Prior to this, he led the Maine Celtics (formerly Maine Red Claws) of the NBA’s G League to the organization’s first playoff appearance and coached the league’s all-star game in 2013.
Taylor is currently acting as associate head coach with the 2022 CEBL Champion Honey Badgers, who are representing Canada in the FIBA Basketball Champions League Americas (BCLA).
Taylor said having coached in many situations will help him in his role with the fledgling Sea Bears.
“The experience is something I’ll really rely on,” he offered.
One thing Taylor does expect is that the Sea Bears will find fans in the Manitoba city.
“I think it’s (Winnipeg) a great city for sports,” he said, pointing to the Bombers, NHL Jets and independent baseball’s Goldeyes. “. . . We want to add into that culture with basketball . . . And, there’s a lot of interest in the Sea Bears.”
That interest extends beyond fans to Manitoba players too. Taylor said the team is certainly hoping to attract players with a connection to the city and province as a way to build connections and community.
“We want to build a team connected with the city,” he offered.
That said, he added a player’s address is not enough to be on the team of course, as he will need players of character and skill to put a competitive team on the court – but Canadian talent has to be part of the mix.
“We all understand how competitive the CEBL is,” he said.
Of course building a team is part of the challenge Taylor faces.
“We’ve got a blank page,” he said, adding when starting from square one bringing in players with the right character to build the right chemistry will be a huge part of what he must do.
As for the style of player Taylor will look for, he said the CEBL is a league where players “really try to attack the basket and score.”
With that in mind players such as the Rattlers’ six-foot-five guard Tony Carr and six-foot-eight Scottie Lindsey are sort of prototypical of what the CEBL is all about.
The CEBL season is expected to kick-off in May but the schedule has not yet been released.