2023 SEASON Preview – OurSports Central
May 22, 2023 – Canadian Elite Basketball League (CEBL) – Ottawa BlackJacks News Release
Ottawa BlackJacks in training
After eight long months, the Ottawa BlackJacks are finally back on the basketball court.
The last time the team was together, they were taking part in the CEBL Championship Weekend festivities. While they won’t have the benefit of playing host this year, the group of freshly arrived players gathered on the first day of training camp are looking to make a return all the same.
The BlackJacks have made it to Championship Weekend in every year of their existence, and this year’s team is looking to extend that streak in Vancouver with even greater results. That goes for faces both old and new.
“I heard the past two years the BlackJacks have been doing pretty well, making it to the final four,” said Michael Flowers, one of the newest BlackJacks who joins the team after a collegiate career that saw him break Klay Thompson’s single season 3-pointer record at Washington State. “I know the CEBL is a growing league with a lot of good things going on, so I just wanted to be part of something special and something growing. I look forward to it.”
That same excitement carries all the way up to the team’s front office. General Manager and Vice President of Basketball Operations Jevohn Shepherd returns to oversee the team for his third season. He’s eager to showcase his experience from years prior to put together a team that can finally lay claim to the elusive championship title. He believes a large portion of that success will come from the continuity that comes from the returning players.
That continuity is something that the BlackJacks have historically lacked, never having more than two players from the year prior return to the team at the start of the subsequent season (though they have signed former players later on in the year). This year, however, will see several players from last year’s squad don the Black & Red once again.
“It’s huge,” Shepherd said of the ability to retain players from last year’s roster. “The league is such a short window, it’s a three-month season, so I think when you have continuity, it expedites that process of building that chemistry and that cohesiveness, and you can win two or three games with that. That’s an extra possession because guys know where they are, or a guy gets an open shot because there’s familiarity between guys. I think that is one thing we wanted to focus on too, just getting back guys. And credit to those guys, they wanted to be here. They pretty much committed even before the season was done last year. It’s a group of guys that, beyond basketball, they really get along well with each other. To bring those guys back, it’s an extension of how last year ended.”
One of those returning players is Maxime Boursiquot. The former Northeastern University and University of Ottawa product started his professional career with the BlackJacks last summer. He impressed early and quickly skyrocketed up the depth chart before an unfortunate injury put an end to his season. After continuing his career in Germany this fall, he is excited to return to his hometown and show off the new skills he’s picked up.
“The way they play over there is a lot different,” he said of his time overseas. “Here it’s more fast paced, there for sure it’s a lot more pick and rolls, a lot more strategy, the pace is a lot slower. I think a lot of that has definitely been implemented in my game, and definitely made a huge difference for me.”
“I think the objective is still the same, to come in and do my job, compete for a championship,” he continued. “Bring in the same type of mentality that I did last year and trying to implement it with the new guys that we have this summer, and hopefully fate is one our side.”
Also returning to the team, albeit on the sidelines, is head coach James Derouin. The University of Ottawa bench boss took over coaching duties early last year after an 0-3 start. Though they would struggle to a 1-7 record, Derouin was able to right the ship and finish strong with a 7-5 record in the latter part of the season. After returning to his school coaching duties and leading the team to an OUA title and a spot in the U SPORTS Final Four, he will undoubtedly look to continue his streak of success in his first full year in charge of the BlackJacks.
(It’s) huge,” Derouin said of the opportunity to start training camp in the head coach position. “… These guys getting to know me over the first two weeks. It took a little while last year, it probably took two weeks. We’re losing games and trying to figure it out, which essentially becomes a training camp with no practices. So, you get to put some things in, get to see what they’re able to do, and I think that’s huge going into a season.”
Like Shepherd, he too is excited to see a large portion of last year’s team return to the Capital.
“I think number one is the continuity… Not only have those guys played well for us last year, but they’ve stayed in touch over the year as well. They care about each other, they’re friends, and they were a real positive influence on the team last year. That part I’m excited about.”
With an established core led by returning star forward Deng Adel and a crop of new faces including the aforementioned Flowers and G League standout Elijah Pemberton, the BlackJacks look primed to make a serious run at title contention. It will mean going through a stacked eastern conference to punch their ticket to Vancouver for Championship Weekend, a challenge the team is looking forward to facing head on.
It’s sure to be a season filled with ups and downs, trials and tribulations, the joy of victory and the agony of defeat. It’s a wild ride as the team continues to grow both on the court and throughout the community, and one that you’ll for sure not want to miss out on.
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The opinions expressed in this release are those of the organization issuing it, and do not necessarily reflect the thoughts or opinions of OurSports Central or its staff.
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