The highly anticipated Ottawa Blackjacks inaugural roster is released. The roster is full of big-time local names and some names that we haven’t seen in the CEBL yet. After a relatively slow start to CEBL free agency the Blackjacks decided to make a big mark and sign 4 players almost a month after training camp rosters were announced. The Blackjacks were the center of controversy when they announced that due to FIBA rules, they could not reveal their final four players until the status of their current contracts were determined. This was heavily debated, as no such rule can be found anywhere in writing. Despite this, Ottawa has put together a decent team that could stand with the rest.
Ottawa got things started by signing Jean Emmanuel Pierre-Charles. Charles is an Ottawa native who has played for UOttawa and Carleton University. Charles is a well-known name in and around Ottawa basketball, and has played pro in Mexico. Charles is a great scorer, a highly efficient shooter, and a strong rebounder. Charles is 6’8, and certainly checks off the box of local, and talented basketball players that the Blackjacks are looking for.
Eric Kibi was the next signing for Ottawa. Kibi is yet another Ottawa native who was born in Montreal. Kibi has played for the Ottawa Skyhawks, Ottawa’s defunct NBLC team, as well as the Saskatchewan Rattlers, in a short-lived tenure. Kibi is another example of the Blackjacks working to keep the talent pool local. Kibi provides the Blackjacks with more height, and with more rebounding and scoring. He has CEBL experience which will be very useful, as one of the two players on the roster to grace a CEBL roster.
The Blackjacks brought in Ottawa born and raised Yasiin Joseph in next. Joseph is another Carleton product, who can shoot, and score from all over the floor. Joseph is a 6’1 guard who is relatively young and joins the Blackjacks straight out of school. Joseph will provide the Blackjacks with a necessary reliable outside shot, as well as a solid ball handler with playmaking flashes.
The next name out of Ottawa is Munis Tutu. Surprise, Tutu is from Carleton University. This prodigal 6’0 point guard was at one time considered one of the most promising players in Canada. Tutu has found success through his impressive two-way game and quick hands. Tutu is someone who can compete for a starting spot on the Blackjacks, and is a great community ambassador for Ottawa.
Ottawa then moved on to the CEBL USports draft, where three players are drafted out of school with a chance to play pro ball while attending school. The Blackjacks selected Tajinder Lall, Lloyd Pandi, and Alain Louis. Shocking, all three of these players are current players with the Carleton University. It looks like head coach Dave Smart is looking to develop his Carleton talent into future CEBL stars. This is a great way to build local talent. Good on Ottawa for drafting local.
Chris Ware was the first signing with no association with Ottawa that we know of. Ware was born in Chicago and played college ball in Indiana. Ware is an experienced veteran that provides Ottawa with the leadership they need to get started. Aside from the limited playing overlaps in Carleton, this is a brand new squad, veterans like Ware will be asked to step up into leadership roles.
The only player on the Blackjacks to play significant time with another franchise is Shaq Keith, who played for the Hamilton Honey Badgers, and eventually won a championship on the Saskatchewan Rattlers. Keith is a multi-dimensional power forward who can muscle his way to the rim but has a soft touch from beyond the arc. He’s a great two-way player who can electrify the crowd with big-time highlight plays, and fiery effort.
It was at this point where the Blackjacks announced the signing of their final 4 players. Kaza Kajami-Keane was first, followed by Johnny Berhanemeskel. Both of these players are Ottawa products, and interestingly enough, 6’1 guards. These two Ottawa products will likely be battling it out with Yasiin Joseph and Munis Tutu for the primary ball handling duties, but they’re both capable of it. The Blackjacks also brought in Phillip and Tommy Scrubb. This brother duo is once again out of Carleton and finishes the roster beautifully. The duo provides the team with more chemistry and elite scoring. Phil is the better of the two, but Tommy is not to be messed with. They’re both elite players on both ends that should make basketball in Ottawa a thrilling ride.
Almost every single player on the Blackjacks has ties to Ottawa, whether playing at the Carleton University or UOttawa, or being born or raised in the city. Ottawa did a phenomenal job and keep a local talent pool on the floor, and gave the city of Ottawa every reason to support their brand new basketball franchise.