A New Beginning: Pro Basketball’s Return to Hamilton

The return of professional basketball to Hamilton is just around the corner. The Canadian Elite Basketball League’s inaugural draft takes place this Saturday, March 16th. The city’s newest team, the Honey Badgers, holds the fifth pick in the six-team snake draft that will see 78 players sign CEBL contracts.

The draft will be closed to the public, with each team making their respective picks at team headquarters. The results will be revealed on March 23rd at the Art Gallery of Ontario in Hamilton. Per CEBL Chief Executive Officer Mike Morreale, the invite-only event will see league members “joined by celebrities and influencers, Canadian basketball officials, community leaders, media, and sponsors for a monumental night in the history of basketball in our country.”

Building a Foundation

Careful not to reveal draft strategy, Honey Badgers’ President John Lashway told the Sun that management is targeting players that match Hamilton’s hard-working identity. “First and foremost, we’re looking for players who are high-character people and high-performing players,” says Lashway, “we want players that work hard and are gritty like the city.”

Along with Head Coach and General Manager Chantal Vallée, Lashway has made a concerted effort to ensure that the team’s targeted players are poised to be leaders in the community. It’s all part of a value-based leadership approach that Lashway employs in all of his endeavours. He’s attempting to build a system of values within the Honey Badgers, and drafting high-character individuals is the catalyst to that.

Source: Hamilton Honey Badgers

Vallée has made a name for herself as a respected coach in women’s basketball with this same approach, and with her hire, it’s fair to assume the organization expects the same type of success. The team made history when they named her Head Coach and General Manager, as she is the first woman to hold both roles for a men’s professional basketball team. Lashway says that the Honey Badgers have gotten numerous calls and messages of appreciation from fans for putting a woman in a position so often reserved for men. As proud as he is of the decision however, Lashway remains adamant that Vallée was hired on merit. The new Honey Badgers bench boss holds a 351-93 record as Head Coach of the University of Windsor women’s team, leading the Lancers to five straight U Sports titles from 2011 to 2015.

It will take some time for Vallée to prove she has what it takes to lead the Honey Badgers to success similar to what she enjoys in Windsor, but her journey starts this Saturday. She holds the final say in all personnel decisions, making the draft her first test as the team’s architect.

Although the draft reveal is closed to the public, the league will be providing fans with a live-stream link to watch the event unfold in real time. The CEBL’s inaugural season kicks off in May, with the six teams scheduled to play 20 games. Should a seventh team enter the fold before season’s tip-off, that schedule will expand by four games.

Hamilton has made numerous attempts to build a legacy of professional basketball in the city, but have failed to find sustained success. To Lashway, the growth of the game across the country has made this the perfect time for a new beginning, and it’s his hope that the Honey Badgers and the CEBL are here to stay.

About Brayden Rowland 2 Articles
My name is Brayden Rowland and I'm a 22-year-old graduate student in Sheridan's New Media program. I've been writing for a few years now, with a majority of my focus on basketball and music. I hope to one day reach a point in my life where I can further explore the intersections of my passions of sport and music with that of feminist and black studies.