The Canadian Elite Basketball League (CEBL) just wrapped up its regular season and is full steam ahead towards the playoffs, which begin Saturday.
The 2021 CEBL Playoffs will begin with the quarterfinals as the Hamilton Honey Badgers host the Ottawa BlackJacks (Aug 14, 4 p.m. ET) while the Guelph Nighthawks will travel to Abbotsford, B.C. to take on the Fraser Valley Bandits (Aug 15, 4 p.m. ET).
Both quarterfinal winners will join the Niagara River Lions and Edmonton Stingers in Edmonton next weekend for the CEBL's Championship Weekend. The final four teams will battle in two semifinal matchups on Friday, August 20 with the winners set to square off in the Championship game on Sunday, August 22.
The best news is that Canadian hoop fans can catch each game either live on CBC TV nationally, streaming on the CEBL's OTT platform and CBC Gem.
If you've been paying attention all season long, you'll know that the Stingers, who should enjoy a homecourt advantage during the Championship Weekend, are the heavy favourites having lost just once in the regular season. But, a single-game elimination scenario opens up the door for an upset. Stringers' head coach Jermaine Small was able to help navigate his team to the title last season under difficult circumstances in the CEBL bubble, but going back-to-back in a highly competitive and balanced league would be the ultimate feather in his cap.
I'll have my predictions for who will make it through Championship Weekend next week.
In the meantime, the league announced the finalists for their seven year-end awards. The winners will be announced at the annual CEBL Awards ceremony on Aug. 18, but if you can't wait that long, I have my predictions on who should walk away with each award right here.
Clutch Player of the Year: Lindell Wigginton (Hamilton), Marlon Johnson (Edmonton), Xavier Moon (Edmonton)
Many desire it.- CEBL (@CEBLeague) August 13, 2021
Few have it.
It's more than just a trait.
It's a mentality.
Here are your nominees for Clutch Player of the Year 🏆#OurGame #CEBLAwards pic.twitter.com/5aV1wqcnBH
It's easy to look at the league leader in Elam enders and say they should win this award, but Lindell Wigginton earned it. Not only did he nail six game-enders this season, but he did it in pressure situations.
In a game the River Lions would probably love to have back, Wigginton came alive in the fourth period scoring 16 of his game-high 25 points including the game-sealing free throw.
He scored the final six points in a close win over the Bandits. Nailed a game-winning triple to break the Nighthawks' hearts and quickly made a game-winning layup against the Rattlers after Saskatchewan's Tevonn Walker had nailed a game-tying triple to avoid the upset.
Let's face it, the Elam ending was made for Lindell Wigginton. Wigginton was Mr. Clutch for the Honey Badgers this season and should get rewarded for his play.
U SPORTS Player of the Year: Lloyd Pandi (Niagara), Alain Louis (Ottawa)
It was a BIG year for U SPORTS players in the #CEBL, and it's time to celebrate that 👏- CEBL (@CEBLeague) August 13, 2021
You might like this one, @CURavens
Here are your nominees for U SPORTS Player of the Year 🏆#OurGame #CEBLAwards pic.twitter.com/M5KxbC6xBR
Only three players appeared in all 14 games for the River Lions this season - Lloyd Pandi was one of them. Pandi averages of 7.5 points, 3.4 rebounds in 22 minutes per game may not wow you but he was a reliable cog for head coach Victor Raso this season.
Pandi was also solid defensively for what is in my opinion the stingiest defence in the league. The second-round pick in the 2021 CEBL U Sports Draft averaged 1.5 steals per game and had six games where he had at least two steals. The 21-year-old also posted a defensive rating of 99.1 according to RealGM.
Pandi contributed to winning this year and deserves the award over his Carleton teammate.
Sixth Man of the Year: Adika Peter-McNeilly (Edmonton), Shaquille Keith (Fraser Valley)
The balance of power rests with the Sixth Man, and that's facts.- CEBL (@CEBLeague) August 13, 2021
Here are your nominees for the first-ever #CEBL Sixth Man of the Year 🏆#OurGame #CEBLAwards pic.twitter.com/GNjk6I85ag
This one is probably the hardest choice to make. Both Peter-McNeilly and Keith had terrific seasons for their teams in a reserve role but I'm going with Peter-McNeilly here.
Peter-McNeilly was Edmonton's true sixth man coming off the pine in all of his 13 appearances. His 10.3 points per game accounted for 47.4 percent of the team's bench scoring. He was a fairly high usage player for the Stringers this season and rarely coughed the rock up. He was reliable from 3-point range knocking down 39.2 percent of his triples.
Edmonton had the best offensive starting unit in the league this season, and when Peter-McNeilly entered the game there was little to no drop-off. For that, he deserves this award.
Defensive Player of the Year: Brandon Gilbeck (Fraser Valley), Javin DeLaurier (Niagara)
Grit and Grind.- CEBL (@CEBLeague) August 13, 2021
Heart and Soul.
Your competitive lifeline is rooted in defence.
Here are your nominees for Defensive Player of the Year 🏆#OurGame #CEBLAwards pic.twitter.com/wlLgEUG2FD
It's Brandon Gilbeck here for me. His ability to protect the rim for the Bandits this season had been invaluable. He finished the season averaging a league-leading 2.8 blocks per game - which was more than three teams averaged this year.
His length and intimidation inside change the game, period. It's almost as if you have to gameplan against what he does defensively. No disrespect to DeLaurier and what he's done all season, but we've seen the River Lions play without him to close out the season as he does a tour in the NBA's Summer League and there hasn't been that big a drop off defensively for them. If you took Gilbeck away from the Bandits it would be a completely different story. Gilbeck has my vote here.
Canadian Player of the Year: Lindell Wigginton (Hamilton), Jordan Baker (Edmonton)
Our way of celebrating the growth of this sport, in this country, through honouring the talent thats reppin' the flag in our scene.- CEBL (@CEBLeague) August 13, 2021
Canada breathes Basketball 🇨🇦
Here are your nominees for Canadian Player of the Year 🏆#OurGame #CEBLAwards pic.twitter.com/zy6SEgtnSN
I know what Jordan Baker brings to the Stringers, he's no doubt the heart and soul of that team, but I'm going with Wigginton here.
Wigginton has carried Hamilton and shown up for them time and time again throughout the season. Whether it's clutch play in Elam time or offensive explosions to lead a comeback, Wigginton has been that dude for the Honey Badgers.
Wigginton led Hamilton in points (22.9), assists (4.4) and minutes (32.6) per game. He shot 40.2 percent from three on 7.6 attempts per game.
He's been a must-see talent all year long. He deserves this award.
He also should get the call to suit up for Team Canada during the FIBA World Cup qualifying windows, which begin in November.
Player of the Year: Xavier Moon (Edmonton), Lindell Wigginton (Hamilton)
They first linked up on June 26th.- CEBL (@CEBLeague) August 13, 2021
From that day, you knew they'd be on a collision course towards this exact moment.
There can only be 1.
Here are your nominees for the CEBL Player of the Year 🏆#OurGame #CEBLAwards pic.twitter.com/tfJO2wiuBn
It's Xavier Moon. They're going to have to rename this award after him when it's all said and done.
Moon led the Stringers to the best record this season losing just one game along the way. He led the league in scoring averaging 22.8 points per game and did it uber efficiently posting shooting splits of .519/.500/.904. Yes, that's a 50-50-90 season.
He set a CEBL record for most points scored in a game when he dropped 39 on the Bandits earlier this season while shooting 62.0 percent from the field and 63.0 percent from three. Reading off some of his performances from this season will have you chuckling to yourself. Moon is putting up video game stats.
He's the best player in the league and deserves the Player of the Year award, again.
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