TORONTO – The frequent flyer miles belonging to the Scarborough Shooting Stars must be something to behold.
Players on the Canadian Elite Basketball League expansion team have had stints in Argentina, Australia, Bahrain, Belgium, France, Germany, Greece, Israel, Italy, Netherlands, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Turkey and Ukraine.
There have also been some short stops in the NBA, in some instances.
Not to mention a Grammy Award and 16 Grammy nominations for 37-year-old rapper J. Cole who is returning to basketball with the Scarborough team. The six-foot-three guard played in high school in North Carolina and appeared in three games last year with the Rwanda Patriots in the Basketball Africa League before leaving for what was described as a family obligation.
Cole won his Grammy in 2020 for Best Rap Song (“A Lot” by 21 Savage featuring J. Cole) and has nine BET Hip Hop Awards. He also has six platinum albums and has produced songs for artists like Kendrick Lamar, Janet Jackson and Young Thug.
CEBL commissioner Mike Morreale, a former star receiver in the CFL, was impressed by Cole’s sincerity when they met and says he lived up to his billing.
“(The Scarborough team owners) reiterated to me that he believes he has an opportunity and he wants to take advantage of it. And certainly is committed to it, “said Morreale.
“He wants to be known as a basketball player,” he added. “It’s going to be hard to avoid the other stuff, obviously, but he’s going to get a legit shot. What he makes of that is really up to him. “
That could start Thursday in Guelph, Ont., Where the Nighthawks will host the Shooting Stars in their season opener.
The Shooting Stars are part-owned by Niko Carino, one of the co-founders of Drake’s OVO label (October’s Very Own).
Cole has already had an impact, shining a “brighter light” on the Canadian league, Morreale said.
“He works hard every single day,” said Shooting Stars coach Chris Exilus. He’s been consistent on both ends of the floor.
“I think what he’s showing out of everything that he’s doing is don’t let anybody put you in a box. If you want to be great entertainment and then you want to pursue professional basketball, why not? Why not turn your dreams into goals and if you have the opportunity to do so, go for it. I think for him that’s a testament to the kind of person he is. He’s a great person and he’s just really focused on having a great season and winning. “
Debuting in 2019, the CEBL is entering its fourth season with the Montreal Alliance and Newfoundland Growlers joining Scarborough as expansion franchises this year. Returning teams are the Fraser Valley Bandits, Edmonton Stingers, Saskatchewan Rattlers, Guelph Nighthawks, Hamilton Honey Badgers, Niagara River Lions and Ottawa Blackjacks.
For many of Cole’s new teammates, this season is a chance to play back home with seven of the 11 players on the current roster from the Toronto area, including Scarborough natives Kyle Alexander and Xavier Rathan-Mayes, and an eighth from nearby Hamilton.
“The mood is excitement but understanding that there is a big responsibility that we love to have, in terms of representing our family and friends who haven’t seen us play in so many years,” said Exilus. “But also the community that we play in. Scarborough is a very proud community. Proud people and that representation is meaningful. ”
Exilus is Scarborough through and through. It’s his home and he doubles as an athletic director at Scarborough’s Royal Crown Academic school where the Shooting Stars have been training since May 18.
The veteran on the squad is 38-year-old forward Olu Famutimi, a six-foot-five Toronto native who has traveled the world playing basketball. Famutimi, the first Canadian to play in the McDonald’s All-American Game, is entering his 17th season.
“A trailblazer in Canadian basketball,” said Exilus. “One of the pioneers. He’s done some great things. “
Jalen Harris played in 13 games for the Toronto Raptors, who drafted him into the second round (59th overall) in 2020. He was “dismissed and disqualified” from the league last July for violating the terms of the NBA / NBPA anti-drug program. .
Rathan-Mayes played Summer League with the New York Knicks and Los Angeles Lakers and made his NBA debut with the Memphis Grizzlies in March 2018 on a 10-day contract. Alexander played two games for the Miami Heat during the 2020 bubble season.
The Stars’ front office includes former NBA all-star Jamaal Magloire, who is the team’s vice-president and senior adviser, and former national team player Brady Heslip, the club’s GM.
Scarborough plays out of the Toronto Pan Am Sports Center, a legacy facility of the Toronto 2015 Pan / Parapan American Games.
Exilus believes the CEBL can serve as “catapult” to help get players to the next level, be it the NBA summer league, a high-level league in another country or the NBA itself.
“I think this league is a great thing for Canadian basketball,” he said.
Exilus went south of the border to pursue his basketball dream, turning heads at North Marion High School in West Virginia. He went onto play at DePaul, taking part in the NCAA tournament, and was the first Canadian to play in the Nike Hoop Summit which pits top US high school seniors against a world team made up of players 19 or younger.
He got his master’s degree in education and went into coaching and education, combining both his passions.
“A big part of coaching is leadership. But a big part of coaching is educating players at all levels, not just on the court but also off the court, ”he said. “So I’ve had a lot of experience in doing both, which I think is really going to help me this season.”
Shooting Stars Roster
Jalen Harris, G, Dallas, Louisiana Tech & Nevada.
Olu Famutimi, F, Toronto, Arkansas.
David Muenkat, F, Toronto, Trinidad State & St. Francis (NY).
Kyle Alexander, F, Scarborough, Ont., Tennessee.
Jean-Victor Mukama, F, Hamilton, Ryerson.
Xavier Rathan-Mayes, G, Scarborough, Ont., Florida State.
Jermaine Cole, G, Frankfurt, Germany, Terry Sanford High School, North Carolina.
Kameron Chatman, G / F, Portland, Ore., Michigan & Detroit Mercy.
Aaron Rhooms, F, Mississauga, Ont., Ryerson.
Kalif Young, F, Toronto, Providence.
Danilo Djuricic, F, Brampton, Ont., Harvard & Santa Clara.
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This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 25, 2022
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