GUELPH, Ont. — The expansion Scarborough Shooting Stars and rapper J. Cole left as losers Thursday night in their Canadian Elite Basketball League debut.
The Guelph Nighthawks won 89-80 in their season opener with Ahmed Hill, an undrafted free agent who played four pre-season games for the Charlotte Hornets in the 2019-20 season, showing a hot hand in the final quarter.
Cat Barber led Guelph with 20 points while Hill and A.J. Lawson had 18 apiece.
Jalen Harris and Kam Chatman had 21 points each for Scarborough.
The 37-year-old Cole finished with three points on 1-of-4 shooting, all from distance, with one rebound, one assist and one foul in 14 minutes 49 seconds of action. Scarborough was outscored by nine points while he was on the floor.
Cole, whose full name is Jermaine Lamarr Cole, started on the Scarborough bench at the Sleeman Centre with Harris a former Toronto Raptor draft choice, and Xavier Rathan-Mayes, who saw action in five Memphis Grizzlies games in 2017-18, in the backcourt.
Harris played in 13 games for the Raptors, who drafted him in 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.
The six-foot-three Cole entered the game to cheers with 5:16 remaining in the first quarter and Scarborough leading 10-8. He shared a smile with Guelph's Barber, who pounded him playfully on the chest.
Cole's first shot attempt was a three-pointer that bounced off the rim. It was the only shot he tried in his first stint on the court, which featured some somewhat frantic defence.
He entered the game again with 7:08 remaining in the second quarter. His second shot attempt, also from behind the three-point line, was an air ball. Another corner three failed to go in.
Guelph trailed 25-24 at the end of the first quarter but led 43-42 at the half. Scarborough turned the ball over 11 times in the half — for 17 points — compared to four for Guelph (for five points).
The Shooting Stars pulled ahead and led for most of the third quarter, with Cole checking in with 3:24 remaining. He registered his first assist, swinging the ball to a teammate for an open three.
Scarborough led 66-64 going into the final quarter with Cole on the floor and collecting his first rebound. He then sank his first bucket, a three-pointer for a 69-67 lead with 8:37 remaining. He was on the bench for the business end of the game.
Back-to-back dunks by Hill off Scarborough turnovers gave Guelph a 79-76 lead with 3:51 remaining and the Elam Ending coming into play.
The CEBL uses the Elam Ending, a format where teams try to reach a predetermined score in order to win the game. The NBA uses a form of it for its all-star contest.
With Guelph up 79-76 with under four minutes to play, nine points were added to that three-point lead — making for a target of 12 points or the first team to reach 88 to win. The game clock was turned off at that point of the game, with the shot clock still in use.
Buckets by Lawson and Barber sealed the victory.
Cole played basketball 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.
The 37-year-old rapper also has a Grammy Award and 16 Grammy nominations on his resume
He won the 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.
Cole has already had an impact, shining a "brighter light" on the Canadian league, according to CEBL commissioner Mike Morreale.
Scarborough is one three expansion teams this season, along with the Newfoundland Growlers and Montreal Alliance.
The Nighthawks enter their fourth CEBL season. Last year they finished with a 5-9 record, losing to the Fraser Valley Bandits 104-84 in the quarterfinals.
The Shooting Stars are part-owned by Niko Carino, one of the co-founders of Drake's OVO label (October's Very Own).
The Scarborough 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 Centre, a legacy facility of the Toronto 2015 Pan/Parapan American Games.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 26, 2022