A first serious step towards the start of the Canadian Elite Basketball League (CEBL) and the Fraser Valley Bandits was announced today at a press conference at the Shark Club in downtown Vancouver. Peter Guarasci, a former Canadian Men’s National Team player and former head coach of the UBCO Heat, will be the team’s first Head Coach and General Manager.
“I think the opportunity was too good to pass up” said Guarasci on what attracted him to the role. “There’s amazing people behind this league and I think it has a real chance to go somewhere. The opportunity to be a part of it in its inaugural season was far too good to pass up.
My passion is to help Canadian players develop past university and be a part of the Canadian content piece was very important to me. To know that I’m going to be working with young, Canadian aspiring basketball players who want to further their careers, if I can help them get there, and our organization can help them get there, then I want to be a part of that.”
The Canadian content will be a major focus of the Bandits and the league as a whole. 70% of every team’s roster must be made up of Canadian players, with the goal being to give Canadian players further opportunities to develop.
And with a new league comes the question of if players will want to be a part of it. Guarasci however is convinced that the chance to continue one’s development will be a major selling point.
“I think the number one thing again is that they’re going to get development” he said. “ In my opinion, we’re competing for a championship but we’re also making sure that our players are put first and their development is the most important thing.
I think that’s a sell to players to know that you’ll have a facility, you’ll have a coach, you’ll have training periods, you’ll have a weight room, you’ll have all these things to access and have competition to continue to develop. You don’t to go search those things out on your own, it’s going to be provided. That will be a big piece.”
The team will play out of the Abbotsford Events Centre, with the capacity being just over 7,000. “You can pretty much take Rogers Arena, lower bowl and even the concourse area, soundproofing everything about it, and that’s the Abbotsford Centre” said Dylan Kular, Directior of Business Operations for the Bandits. He explained why Abbotsford was the ideal place for the team.
“If we enter the Vancouver market we have [to compete with] the Whitecaps, BC Lions, Canucks now the Vancouver Warriors. We’re in a market where people are looking for that entertainment value. A lot of families who maybe don’t have 150-200 dollars to spend on an entertainment night but have 50-100, they can spend that on the Bandits.
The Fraser Valley is a hotbed for basketball so not only will we have the basketball support but we’ll have families looking for that entertainment option.”
The CEBL doesn’t plan to be just a development league though. The goal is to put an entertaining product on the court and create “[an] excitement around it” in terms of pre and post game events said Lee Genier, President and COO of Western Operations for the league. He said there is more than enough Canadian talent out there to put on a show for the fans.
“If you look at the talent level out there [in terms of] Canadians playing in the NBA, NCAA, Pete is one of those prime examples of guys that have gone out there and go play in Europe.
Our model really speaks to the success of players coming back here and wanting to play. We’ve just had a ton of response from players that want to come play here from all levels so it’s very encouraging right now.”
The team’s first home game will be on May 9th against the Guelph Nighthawks. The team hopes to announce roster players and more corporate sponsorships within the coming weeks.
Written by: Nick Bondi