Sports

Edmonton Stingers journey to defend title as 2020 Canadian Elite Basketball League Champions begins with a home stand against Hamilton Honey Badgers today

June 26th Game Preview vs Hamilton

The Edmonton Stingers journey to defend their title as 2020 Canadian Elite Basketball League Champions begins with a home stand against the Hamilton Honey Badgers Saturday June 26th 2pm MT. It is the first of 14 regular season games for both teams. Returning to homecourt at the Expo Centre in Edmonton, the Stingers return after a successful 2020 CEBL Summer Series, which saw the team finish 5-1 in round robin play including a 88-82 victory over the Honey Badgers. After a first round bye, Edmonton bested the Ottawa Blackjacks and the Fraser Valley Bandits to become the second team in league history to capture a CEBL championship. After a shifting tip off, travel delays, and quarantines, head coach and general manager Jermaine Small couldn’t be more ready for the CEBL 2021 tip-off. “I just feel thankful and grateful for another opportunity. I’m just so happy to see everyone and get back to work.“ Small returns in his position for his second full year after winning the CEBL Coach of the Year Award in 2020, and confidence remains high this year. “The last two years we’ve had a ‘game 7’ mentality, so we’re ready.” Despite the previous year’s success, Small and his team don’t feel any added pressure as reigning champs. “I don’t know if there’s going to be added pressure. Before we were the hunters, now we might be the hunted, but once again we are going to focus on ourselves and just keep the mindset of that ‘game 7’ mentality.”  The 2020 CEBL Canadian Player of the Year, Jordan Baker, shares his coach’s attitude. “I don’t think there’s any pressure. We’ve obviously brought back a large core of guys. We feel pretty comfortable around each other on the court” Baker, who started all 8 games for the Stingers in 2020, told reporters Monday. “We’re just going to take it day by day. Every season is a new season.” Baker played five years at the University of Alberta, where he finished his career as the all-time leader in career points, rebounds, assists, steals, and minutes played. Having played professionally in both Germany and Portugal, Baker is grateful to be back in his hometown, and no doubt his hometown is grateful for his return as Edmonton looks to retain their title of City of Champions.  “We’re glad to be back in Edmonton hoping to play in front of some Edmontonians very soon here” Baker said. Suiting up for his third year as a Stinger, Baker will look to continue dominating the paint this year with his stellar rebounding (a league best 9.4 per game last year) and excellent finishing (51% field goal shooting for his CEBL career).  Rejoining Baker are six other players from the championship roster, including regular starter Mathieu Kamba and sixth-man Adika Peter-McNeilly, as well as third-year Zac Overwater, and sophomores Kareem South and Sascha Kappos.  The final Stinger returning to the roster is two-time CEBL Player of the Year, Xavier Moon. A dominating two-way player, Moon rejoins Edmonton for his third season after a stint with Maccabi Hod HaSharon of the Israeli National League. His second Player of the Year Award came at the 2020 Summer Series after averaging 19.5 points per game—a mark good for second in league—propelling the Stingers to the highest scoring offense in the league. Proving he was more than just a scorer, Moon also dished out a league-best 4.5 assists per game and an impressive 1.8 steals per game. With his dominating 31 point performance in the 2020 CEBL Championship Game, the most by any player in a Championship Game, Moon was named CEBL Championship Finals MVP. Moon has already cemented himself as a CEBL legend in his first two years. Moon and the Stingers will look to continue their outstanding play this season, however their first test will not be an easy one, as the reloaded Honey Badgers come into this season seeking to make a name for themselves. The 3rd seed in the 2020 round robin, Hamilton’s championship dreams were cut short following a heartbreaking 76-75 loss to the Bandits in the semi-finals.  The Honey Badgers aim to begin the season with a victory over the reigning champs behind the play of 2020 First Team All-CEBL Jean-Victor Mukama. Finishing his 2020 CEBL rookie season as the team’s leading scorer with 14.1 points per game, Mukama showed out as a legitimate offensive threat, most notably with his perimeter scoring ability. His 47.6% three point field goal shooting (20/42) was good for second in the league behind none other than Moon. With his 6’8” frame, Mukama was also able to grab an impressive 6.3 rebounds a game. A Hamilton native, Mukama is one of only five players returning from the 2020 roster alongside second-year coach Ryan Schmidt. However, Mukama won’t have to do it alone. With the addition of a dynamite backcourt duo in Trevon Duval and Lindel Wiggington, the Honey Badgers appear to have reinvigorated their offence, which was second in points per game in 2020. Duval played one year for the Duke University Blue Devils before signing a two-way contract with the Milwaukee Bucks in 2018-2019, checking into his first NBA matchup on February 8, 2019. Wiggington comes to the CEBL fresh off a NBA-G League season where he averaged 17.1 points per game on 54.9% shooting for the Iowa Wolves.  Both teams come into this game boasting a multitude of offensive weapons, and fans may not be surprised to see a shoot-out as these teams look to start off the year with a statement win. While there may be some rust on opening night, expect the game to end up a high scoring affair from two explosive teams.  With the Stinger’s championship core intact, it may be easy to label them as the favourites, but the Honey Badgers’ new additions make them a legitimate threat to steal this one. For the Stingers, perimeter defence must be the focus, containing the trio of Mukama, Duval, and Wigginton. The Honey Badgers may be a step behind as the new lineup learns how to play with one another, and making open shots is a must. Although the stands won’t be packed, viewers at home are in for an exciting matchup to kick off the 2021 season. (PR)

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