The CEBL held their second annual U Sports entry draft in late March, a three-round draft that saw each of the league’s seven teams selecting players from U Sports basketball programs around the country. This allows for U Sports athletes to get experience with professional teams while still retaining their eligibility.
The hometown Niagara River Lions used all three of their picks on Badgers, selecting guard Emmanuel Owootoah in the first round (fifth overall), forward Daniel Cayer in the second round (10th overall) and guard/wing Kascius Small-Martin in the third round (19th overall).
Owootoah missed all of 2019-20 due to a broken right foot he suffered before the Badgers regular season, which allowed him to redshirt the year and retain his final year of eligibility. He is set to play his senior year with Brock in 2020-21, and has a wealth of basketball experience for a U Sports athlete. He spent two seasons playing Division I ball with the Fresno State Bulldogs, averaging 23 minutes per game during his second year. He then transferred to Carleton, where he played an additional two seasons and won a national championship, before coming to Brock along with head coach Willy Manigat, who was an assistant at Carleton with Owootoah.
Cayer just finished his fourth season with the Badgers, averaging 12.9 points and 10.1 rebounds on 48 percent shooting. Cayer is one of the best defenders and rebounders in the OUA and has been a constant on the Badgers frontline over the past four years.
“It’s an honour to be able to represent Brock and U Sports,” said Cayer. “The CEBL and the River Lions present opportunities that have never been there before and it’s a great feeling getting the chance to be a part of the growth of Canadian basketball.”
Small-Martin, who just finished his third season with the Badgers, put up career-best scoring numbers this season averaging 15.5 points per game, up nearly eight points from the season prior. However his production was limited as he only played in 10 games due to a broken left hand. There were flashes, though, of Small-Martin’s ability as a high-volume scorer: he had a four game stretch in November where he scored over 20 in three of them. He was the Badgers go-to option on offence when healthy this season.
In addition to the three Badgers selected by Niagara, the Guelph Nighthawks, who are run by former Badgers head coach Charles Kissi, selected Badgers big Mitch Saunders with the 17th overall selection. This past season was Saunders’ fifth and final year with the Badgers; he played his first three under Kissi.
The River Lions finished the 2019 CEBL season — the league’s inaugural season — with the best record in the league before falling by one point to the Hamilton Honey Badgers in the semifinals. The River Lions have brought back many of their key pieces from last season, including the reigning Canadian Player of the Year and First Team All-Star Guillaume Boucard, as well as fellow All-Stars Sam Muldrow and Trae Bell-Haynes.
Tyler Brown, who also just finished his fifth and final year with the Badgers, was selected as the River Lions U Sports athlete last year, and put up career numbers across the board for the Badgers this past season.
While it is still unknown when or if the 2020 CEBL season will commence due to the coronavirus pandemic, opportunities like the U Sports draft continue to help grow the game of basketball in Canada. The season is supposed to start in early May, but as of now, the future is unclear.