For those unaware, the Saskatchewan Rattlers are a professional basketball team located in Saskatoon, Canada. The Rattlers play in the Canadian Elite Basketball League, Canada’s premier basketball league. The CEBL is entering its second season.
The Rattlers had tough shoes to fill this season. After winning the CEBL championship as the heavily under favored team, winning with the lowest seed, the Rattlers had a big task ahead of them. The Rattlers knew they were losing some players like Michael Linklater and Bruce Massey, so refilling the roster and rebuilding from the bottom up seemed likely. The Rattlers started off slow, and had Rattlers fans begging for a good signing, however, late in free agency, the Rattlers really pulled it together and built a respectable roster. So now, let’s dive into it.
The Rattlers started things off by announcing the appointment of a new head coach. Following Greg Jockims departure for undisclosed reasons, Chad Jacobson steps in as the second head coach in franchise history. Jacobson was an assistant coach for the Rattlers and was promoted to follow in Jockims footsteps in hopes of repeating a championship.
The Rattlers got things started by signing forward Kenny Ejim. Kenny Ejim is the younger brother of former Saskatchewan Rattler and current Niagara River Lion Ryan Ejim. Kenny most recently played for Zornotza Saskibaloi Taldea in Spain. As far as what we can expect from Ejim, my bet would be something along the lines of what his brother Ryan Ejim brought. Kenny Ejim will be a great interior presence for a Rattlers team that lost Marlon Johnson. Expect Ejim to be a strong forward who can play both ends of the floor.
The second signing announced by the Rattlers was the return of Jelane Pryce. Pryce returns to the Rattlers after being a part of their Championship run last year. Pryce played 19 of the available 20 games fro the Rattlers last year. In these 19 contests, Pryce played around 15 minutes per game and averaged 4.6 points per game. Notably, Pryce led the team in blocks per game, averaging 0.8 blocks per game in his 15 minutes of play. Pryce is a great role player, and while he may be considered expendable, it was nonetheless a strong pickup by the Rattlers.
Negus Webster-Chan also resigned early with the Rattlers. Webster-Chan was one of the Rattlers’ primary shooters last season and was an integral part of their Championship victory. Webster-Chan averaged 12.6 points per game, and 4 rebounds. What really makes Webster-Chan special is that he’s 6’7, and a shooting guard. This makes him virtually un-guardable. There are some centers in the CEBL who are not much taller than 6’7 and some shooting guards who are just 6’0. Webster-Chan is an offensive weapon who can guard 1-5, making him one of the most useful players on the Rattlers.
Shayne Osayande was the next announced signing from the Rattlers. Osayande is another returning Rattlers player who played a key part in the Rattlers’ big season. Osayande was one of 9 Rattlers who averaged at least 10 points per game throughout their time on the roster. Osayande played an integral part in developing the Rattlers’ chemistry and was often making big-time plays that got Rattlers fans into the game. Osayande was also an incredibly efficient shooter, being one of the only Rattlers players to average above 50% from the field. Osayande also proved his defensive capability, swiping 1.4 steals per game, and grabbing 6.1 rebounds per game.
The Rattlers went with Lawrence Moore for their next signing. Moore was the only player the Rattlers chose to sign to a player option, meaning he was protected for one month of free agency, and teams were not permitted to talk to him until that month was up. Moore only played in 6 games for the Rattlers, where he averaged 5.8 points per game in 12 minutes of action per game. Moore is a Saskatchewan raised player, so it makes sense that the Rattlers went with some hometown pride on this one. Moore was a smart shooter and will make for a solid bench guard for Saskatchewan.
The Rattlers’ next big signing was the return of Championship Finals MVP, and team captain Alex Campbell. Campbell led the Rattlers to their title and played phenomenal in front of the home crowd to secure the victory for the Rattlers. Campbell was one of the top scorers on the Rattlers, averaging 15.4 points per game. Even more impressive was that in all 21 games Campbell played, he averaged 5.4 rebounds per game as a 6’2 point guard. Campbell was finally someone Rattlers fans could get excited about, after a relatively slow start to free agency.
Next up for the Rattlers front office was the CEBL/USports Entry draft, where 3 university players are selected to play for the Rattlers before returning to their universities. The Rattlers were one of the only teams who brought back a USports player from the year before. Chan De Ciman returned to the Rattlers with a first-round selection. While he didn’t play last year, he was always on the sidelines and was the certified team mixtape maker. The Rattlers also took Rashawn Browne out of the University of Manitoba, and Alexander Dewar out of the University of Saskatchewan.
The Rattlers followed up the draft by bringing in a new player from outside the league. The Rattlers signed Kemy Osse. Osse played on the University of Arkansas in 2016, the team that upset the Purdue Boilermakers in the March Madness tournament. Osse is a 6’1 strong guard out of Montreal. Osse adds to a long list of short guards, so it’ll be interesting to see how the Rattlers go about getting all their 6’0-6’2 guards sufficient minutes.
The next Rattlers signing was Saskatchewan native Kai Williams. Williams is a 6’6 forward from Regina, Saskatchewan. The Rattlers brought Williams in with hopes that he will provide the Rattlers with “size and length”. Williams has averaged 9.6 points and 4.5 rebounds per game throughout his 9-year pro career. Williams has played pro in Britain, Cyprus, and Sweden throughout this time, and this will be Williams’ first time playing pro back in Canada.
The Rattlers looked international for their next prospect and went with Robinson Opong, a 6’3 Ugandan guard. Opong has dual Canadian citizenship, making him eligible for the Canadian status requirement on the Rattlers. Opong played in the Afrobasket tournament in 2017, where he led Uganda in minutes and points per game (15.3 points per game). Opong also has some experience playing limited minutes in the NBL Canada.
The Rattlers next signing filled an important gap in their roster. Saskatchewan brought in Denzell Taylor. Taylor is considered one of the best defenders in the country, making the NBLC All-Defensive first team during his three-year stint with the Moncton Magic. Taylor averaged 5.9 points and 7.1 rebounds per game with the Magic. This 6’7 forward will be a great addition, and while he could come off the bench, he will certainly see some solid minutes on the wing.
The next Rattlers signing was maybe the most surprising. Tavrion Dawson returns to the Rattlers. Last season, both scoring leaders on the Rattlers, Tavrion Dawson and Bruce Massey left the team for personal reasons. It was rumored that this was because of issues Dawson and Massey had with the team. Dawson resigning was completely unexpected. Dawson is a phenomenal scorer who led the CEBL in points per game last year. Dawson will obviously start for the Rattlers, and will probably be one of the Rattlers’ primary scoring options, much like he was last year.
This next signing was another turning point for the Rattlers. The Saskatchewan Rattlers somehow brought in NBA G League standout Armoni Brooks onto the team. Brooks spent the NBA pre-season with the Atlanta Hawks, before being let go just before the season. Brooks was the sixth man of the year in his senior year in college and is easily going to be one of the deadliest players in the CEBL. Do not be surprised if Brooks takes control of this team and leads them to the promised land. Brooks is an incredible talent that we may get to see in the NBA soon, so watch for him when your team plays the Rattlers, he’ll be hard to miss.
Once the hype around Brooks died down a little bit, the Rattlers announced they’d signed 6’1 guard Evan Ostertag. Ostertag was with the Rattlers last year but didn’t see any court time. With the depth the Rattlers have at guard, the Saskatchewan product likely won’t see much court time. He will have this season to continue to develop and learn from the other players, and maybe contribute some leadership and community spirit.
The final signing made by the Rattlers was the return of big man Chad Posthumus. Posthumus is extremely underrated, and has G-League experience under his belt. While last year Posthumus claims he dealt with injury, he’ll be asked to take on a heavy role this season. With Marlon Johnson gone, the 6’11 Posthumus is the only center on the roster, and the only player taller than 6’8. This was obviously a fantastic signing by the Rattlers, as Posthumus reportedly was torn between the Rattlers and Stingers. The fact that Posthumus went to the Rattlers over the Stingers makes this one of Saskatchewan’s most important signings. The Rattlers can only hope he’s healthy and ready to go for the season, if he goes down the Rattlers will be forced to play small ball. With teams like the Stingers, River Lions and Honey Badgers in the league, it’ll be difficult for the Rattlers to work inside. Posthumus might just be the most important player in the CEBL.
The Rattlers look like a low-end playoff team right now, but with players like Armoni Brooks, a healthy Chad Posthumus, and Tavrion Dawson, they’re one of those teams that could really do something special this year.