The Saskatchewan Rattlers will be the final team in the CEBL to start their season when they get their first look at the 2023 Vancouver Bandits on Wednesday at 7 p.m. CT at SaskTel Centre.
The game will be available for streaming on TSN+, CEBL+ powered by BetVictor and on the CEBL Mobile app available on iOS and Android devices.
Saskatchewan enters the season without a pair of impact players from last season, Tony Carr and Scottie Lindsey. The duo led the team in scoring in 2022 by stretching the floor, while Carr also produced as a facilitator.
However, Anthony Tsegakele, Malik Benlevi, Mike Nuga and D’Andre Bernard all return to the Rattlers with head coach Dean Demopoulos for the 2023 season. Benlevi averaged over 11 points per game and 6 rebounds per game for the Rattlers in a 2022 season that also included some clutch game-winners. Nuga had a breakthrough 2022 for Saskatchewan and averaged 6.4 points during the campaign, while Bernard is the longest-tenured Rattler in franchise history.
The squad will look to fill the void left by Carr and Lindsey with an array of new signings. The Rattlers recently signed former NBA draft pick Justin Wright-Foreman to solidify their backcourt. The Utah Jazz drafted Wright-Foreman with the 53rd overall pick in 2019 and he made appearances for the squad in the NBA Bubble. He has gained experience in the NBA, NBA Summer League, NBA G League, USA Basketball, Germany, China, Turkey and France over a five-year pro career. He averages over 15 points per game in 142 pro games.
Drake Jeffries also comes aboard with Saskatchewan after one season with the Osceola Magic of the NBA G League. Additionally, the Rattlers added familiar CEBL faces in big man Julian Roche and forward Jermel Kennedy.
Meanwhile, Vancouver will look to the trio of DJ Steward, Giorgi Bezhanishvili and Nick Ward to shoulder the offensive load on Wednesday night after dropping their first game of the season last week 90-85 to the upstart Winnipeg Sea Bears.
Bezhanishvili and Steward each set Bandits records in their debuts with Vancouver. Bezhanishvili, a big man from Georgia, scored 21 points and snagged a franchise-record 18 rebounds in the loss to Winnipeg, Meanwhile, Steward’s 30 points were the most by any Bandits player in a season opener and tied the franchise’s single-game points record.
Former Michigan State forward Nick Ward also impressed in his Vancouver debut. The 6’9 big man netted 19 points and grabbed 9 rebounds against the Sea Bears. Over a 96-game pro career in the United States, Spain, Israel, Turkey, Canada and Bahrain, Ward averages 14.3 points and 7.2 rebounds.
Steward, Ward and Bezhanishvili combined for 82 per cent of Vancouver’s points on Friday and 71 per cent of their field goal attempts. The Bandits will look to other contributors such as retuners Alex Campbell and Malcolm Duvivier to step up while Vancouver awaits the arrival of Shane Gibson, Kur Jongkuch and Stefan Jankovic.
The Bandits have a 7-5 record against the Rattlers all-time.
Following Wednesday’s game, Vancouver will return to the Langley Events Centre for their home opener on Saturday night against the Calgary Surge. The Rattlers will travel to Niagara for a matchup with the River Lions on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. ET.
All CEBL games can also be streamed live on the league’s OTT platform, CEBL+ Powered by BetVictor and on the CEBL’s official app, CEBL Mobile, available on iOS and Android devices.
A league created by Canadians for Canadians with a mission to develop Canadian players, coaches, sports executives, and referees, the CEBL boasts the highest percentage of Canadian players of any pro league in the country with 71 percent of its 2022 rosters being Canadian. Players bring experience from the NBA, NBA G League, top international pro leagues, the Canadian National team program, and top NCAA programs as well as U SPORTS. Nine players have moved from the CEBL into the NBA following a CEBL season, and 28 CEBL players attended NBA G League training camps during October. The CEBL season runs from May through August. More information about the CEBL is available at CEBL.ca and @cebleague on Instagram, Twitter, TikTok, LinkedIn, Facebook & YouTube.