For those of you who are unaware, the Guelph Nighthawks are a professional basketball team in the Canadian Elite Basketball League, Canada’s premier basketball league. The CEBL is in its second season, assuming the season kicks off on time.
The Guelph Nighthawks did not have a great first season and needed to revamp their roster. After going 6-14, and tearing apart their roster late in the season last year, the Nighthawks had a responsibility to their limited fans to be better this year. In my opinion, Guelph has done just that. While they’re not necessarily the best team in the CEBL, they are a solid team, that will be competing in the playoffs. They added a ton of CEBL players from other teams and filled many gaps in their roster. Their first big signing was resigning Raptors 905 assistant Charles Kissi as head coach. Kissi didn’t have much to work with last year, so it’ll be great to see what he can do with a real team this year.
As far as players go, the first Nighthawk signing was Olu Famutimi. Famutimi was one of the few Nighthawks who stood out last year. The 36 year old veteran was the Nighthawks MVP last year and was the only Nighthawk player to play more than 14 of the available 20 games (Famutimi played 19/20). Olu Famutimi was the only consistency for Guelph last year. His shooting and commitment to leadership were appreciated by the Nighthawks, enough so that they made sure they signed a 36 year old guard before any young players. Famutimi is deadly from the three-point line. Any CEBL fan knows the pain of seeing Famutimi heat up from three. When he gets going, there’s just no cooling him off. Famutimi is easily the most deadly player in the league when he’s hot.
Guelph’s next signing was 6’2 PG Kimbal McKenzie. McKenzie joined the Nighthawks for the last 7 games of the CEBL season, mostly as an experiment for the following year, as at this point Guelph’s season was pretty much done. McKenzie ended up leading the team in scoring, averaging 21 points per game, to go along with 4.3 assists. McKenzie is a strong ball handler for the Nighthawks and proved he’s an offensive threat. His speed and play-making ability make him one of Guelph’s focal points this season for sure. McKenzie will probably be starting opening day.
The Nighthawks also signed Jamal Reynolds the day after securing Kimbal McKenzie. Reynolds joined the Nighthawks for the last 9 games of the CEBL season. In this time, Reynolds was a top 5 scorer for Guelph, averaging 14.6 points per game and 3 assists. Reynolds is also a great perimeter defender that helped the Nighthawks force opponents to put up bad shots. Reynolds is not particularly a superstar, but he’s good at everything. He can do whatever is needed of him and has versatility in who he can guard, as a 6’4 guard.
The Nighthawks’ next signing was former Lakeland Magic NBA G-League player Michale Kyser. Kyser is a talented and experienced forward who knows what it’s like to play at the next level. Kyser is a great interior presence for Guelph. Last year Kyser played just 6 games for the Nighthawks, and struggled a little bit. Kyser averaged 8.9 points, 6 rebounds, and 0.8 blocks per game. While these numbers aren’t necessarily bad, Kyser really struggled to shoot the ball and find his place in the defensive scheme of the Nighthawks. This season, Kyser should have a better opportunity to mesh with his teammates and contribute to the extent he is capable of.
Next for the Nighthawks is there USports Draft, in which the team selected three Canadian University players to sign developmental contracts, to give them so pro ball experience before they return back to their university teams. The Nighthawks took Marcus Anderson in the first round out of Carleton University. Anderson averaged 6.8 points per game for the Ravens. In the second round, Guelph took Ali Sow out of Laurier. Sow averaged a whopping 26.6 points per game with 4 rebounds per game as Laurier’s primary scoring option. In the third round, Guelph took Mitch Saunders from Brock University. Saunders averaged 1.7 points per game for Brock.
A few weeks after the USports draft, the Nighthawks announced they had brought back Myles Charvis. Charvis is a young emerging point guard out of Carleton University. Charvis was Guelph’s best play-maker following Myck Kabongo’s departure. Charvis averaged 10 points and 5 assists per game for the Nighthawks and proved that he had the potential to compete for Guelph’s starting point guard position. While I believe Guelph will stick with Kimbal McKenzie, Charvis could surely enter the conversation. Charvis is a smart decision-maker who will make Guelph so much better of the offensive end. His height gives him a bit of a disadvantage on defense, at 6’0, but the hustle is certainly there.
Guelph’s next signing was the beginning of a new era, snatching up other CEBL teams’ players. It started with Tyrrel Tate. Tate was the Fraser Valley Bandits leading scorer last year. Tate is a pure scorer who makes the CEBL look like child’s play. Tate is an elite shooter, slasher, and finisher who always finds his way to the basket. He was one of two players on the Bandits to average at least 40% from the three-point line and was a solid rebounder and defender for the Bandits. Tate will surely be useful to the Nighthawks, who struggled to score the ball last year.
The Nighthawks managed to take away the other good Fraser Valley Bandit as well. Joel Friesen, the other Bandit who averaged 40% from the three-point line, signed with the Nighthawks shortly after Tate. Friesen and Tate were the only two players to play more than 14 games with the Bandits (both played 19). Friesen himself is an offensive weapon, however, he’s also a strong defender. Friesen is the Bandits version of Stingers F Mathieu Kamba, 3 and D.
The Nighthawks added a new face, Tre’Darrius McCallum. McCallum is the first new to the CEBL player to sign with Guelph. McCallum is yet another player with G League experience joining the CEBL. McCallum is an explosive 6’7 forward who proved with the Windy City Bulls that he has the ability to score in volumes. McCallum played two seasons for the Chicago Bulls G League affiliate and averaged 6 points per game in both seasons. McCallum was also a very strong defender for the Bulls and will solidify Guelph’s wing defense that really struggled last season to contain shooters.
The Nighthawks’ next signing was former Edmonton Stingers forward Akeem Ellis. Ellis is a knockdown shooter with NBA-Trae Young range. Ellis was the only player in the CEBL pulling up from the logo. While during the season, Ellis’ three-point percentage wasn’t phenomenal, he has proven in other leagues that this deep three is in his range. If Ellis gets that shot going again this season he’s going to be a serious problem. Ellis is also a phenomenal slasher and is great at drawing fouls in the paint. Akeem Ellis is also someone who brings energy and leadership to his team. A very vocal player, Ellis prides himself on being the loudest player on the floor. He can often be found hyping up his teammates and the crowd.
The Nighthawks’ next robbery was former Niagara River Lions big man Yohanny Dalembert. Dalembert was the River Lions certified 6th man. What makes Dalembert special is his insane efficiency. Nobody talks about how Dalembert led the CEBL in field goal percentage, converting on approximately 69% of his shot attempts. Dalembert played every game for the River Lions and finished with one of the most impressive stat lines on the team. In just 17 minutes per game, Dalembert averaged 8.5 points, 5 rebounds, and 1.3 blocks per game, on 69% field goal percentage 50% three-point percentage. His per 36 stats make him one of the most intriguing signings by the Nighthawks. Dalembert with appropriate minutes could be a serious threat.
The Nighthawks’ next signing was Detroit product, Flenard Whitfield. Whitfield is the definition of the meat department. Whitfield’s best player in comparison to me is Zion Williamson. A shorter, stronger player who gets rebounds and forces his way to the basket. Whitfield is one of the most promising rebounders the short Guelph team has. In college, Whitfield was an insanely good offensive rebounder, and there’s no reason to believe the 6’7 forward won’t carry that over to the Nighthawks.
The Nighthawks also brought in Tyrell Green. Green is yet another strong forward on the Nighthawks roster. Green spent some time with the London Lightning of the NBLC, where he averaged 8.9 points per game in about 17 minutes of action per game. Green isn’t great on the play-making side of things, but he is a strong shooter, averaging 52% from the field and 47% from three-point range with the Lightning.
The Nighthawks brought back 6’1 guard Tyrell Corbin (yes, the Nighthawks have 3 players named Tyrell spelled in two different ways). Corbin is another player with G-League experience, seeing time with the Stockton Kings and the Northern Arizona Suns. Corbin played just 6 games with the Nighthawks last year, where his shooting was put on display. Corbin shot a team-high 52% from the three-point line and proved he is a supreme talent in the CEBL. Corbin might get buried in the roster a little bit, but he could come off the bench and really make an impact for the Nighthawks.
The final signing on the Nighthawks was french guard Tidjan Keita. Keita, born in Paris, is one of the most intriguing signings in the CEBL. Very few non-north American players are in the league, so Keita becomes one of the first high profile players to come to the CEBL out of Europe. The young big man received NBA attention, earning a spot on the Raptors summer league team, and the Northern Arizona Suns of the G-League. Both of these ventures ended up without a long term signing for Keita, however, his potential is sky-high. Keita could be a superstar in this league, or he could get cut, so there’s a lot to be learned about what Keita can do for this team in training camp.
This roster is strong, but the only problem is that Guelph has 6 international players. In the CEBL, a roster can only hold 3 non-Canadian players. This means 3 international players will be cut in training camp. These players include Akeem Ellis, Tidjan Keita, Flenard Whitfield, Tre’Darrius McCallum, Michale Kyser, and Tyrell Corbin. All 6 of these players could easily make any CEBL roster, so when three of them are cut, it should be a dog fight to pick them up for teams like Ottawa and Saskatchewan.