Guelph Nighthawks 2020 Offseason Recap
Original Source: https://www.thenighthawks.ca/guelph-nighthawks-2020-offseason-recap
Guelph, ON – While fans of the Guelph Nighthawks patiently await the start of the second Canadian Elite Basketball League season, Head Coach & General Manager Charles Kissi and his staff have been working behind the scenes to carefully construct the team’s roster for the upcoming season. Free agency officially opened on February 1st , where the Nighthawks focused on re-signing key pieces of the 2019 team. Meanwhile on March 26th Charles Kissi led the team through his first CEBL U SPORTS Draft where the club selected three standout athletes from the OUA.
The Nighthawks opened free agency with the return of team-MVP Olu Famutimi. The veteran swingman proved to be an integral leader both on and off the court in 2019. At 6’5” Famutimi has the ability to play both in the backcourt or up front when Coach Kissi shifts to a small-ball lineup. But it is his work ethic, dedication and leadership where Olu will equally contribute to the Nighthawks this season. “His steady presence was influential as we started to mold the culture of our club in the second half of the season… and I believe being the first signing of the upcoming season is representative of his role as a core leader in 2020,” Kissi stated following his signing in February.
Coach Kissi followed up the re-signing of Famutimi with the announcement that Canadian products Jamal Reynolds and Kimbal Mackenzie would be returning to the club. Both players have spent the last seven months overseas in Spain, Mackenzie with C.B. Valladolid in the LEB Gold League and Reynolds with Circulo Gijon in the LEB Silver League.
Following his graduation from Bucknell University Kimbal Mackenzie joined the Nighthawks with seven games remaining in the 2019 season. He made an immediate impact on the club, stepping into the starting Point Guard role and leading the club in scoring with 21.0 points per game while dishing out 4.3 assists and shooting 43% from the 3-point line. Since leaving Guelph, Kimbal has helped lead Spain’s C.B. Valladolid to a league leading 18-6 record.
Reynolds was with the Nighthawks for the first half of the 2019 season, where he proved to be a slashing offensive threat, averaging 16.0 PPG, shooting 55% from the field and grabbing 5.2 rebounds per game. His scoring abilities were missed by the club in the second half of the season, and Coach Kissi immediately identified Jamal during the opening of free agency. Since his departure from Guelph Reynolds has put up 14.4 PPG and 5.8 RPG while shooting 52% from the field for Circulo Gijon in Spain.
On March 24th the Nighthawks made their biggest signing to date, literally. 6’10” American Michale Kyser was officially re-signed for the upcoming season following the conclusion of his NBA G-League season with the Lakeland Magic. The Texas native put up 9.0 PPG, 5.8 RPG while with Lakeland, but really made his presence felt on the defensive end of the court averaging 1.5 blocks per game. This was exemplified in a January game against the Raptors 905, where he blocked a staggering 7 shots. Kyser joined the Nighthawks with six games remaining in the 2019 season, contributing 8.6 PPG, 6.2 RPG and 2.3 APG in 28 minutes of action.
Earlier this week the Nighthawks announced the return of guard Tyrell Corbin, the son of long-time NBA’er and former Toronto Raptor Ty Corbin. As with Kyser and Mackenzie, Corbin joined the Nighthawks late in 2019 relishing in his role as the team’s sixth man of the bench averaging 11.3 points, 2.5 assist and shooting a sizzling 52% from beyond the arc.
With the return of Olu Famutimi, Kimbal Mackenzie, Jamal Reynolds, Michale Kyser and Tyrell Corbin, the focus for Coach Kissi is now on building out the balance of the roster. “Our primary focus as free agency opened was seeing the return of the key components of our 2019 roster. Now we pivot to a focus on new talent that can support these guys and continue to build on the positive chemistry that we concluded with last season,” said Kissi.
2020 CEBL U SPORTS Draft
On March 26th the CEBL officially unveiled the selections of the 2020 U SPORTS Draft, a three-round draft of both returning and graduating U SPORTS athletes. The Guelph Nighthawks held the third overall selection in the draft, along with the fifth selection in the second round and third selection in the third round.
The expansion Ottawa BlackJacks started the night by selecting Carleton Raven TJ Lall with the first overall selection in the 2020 Draft. The Nighthawks made their first selection two picks later selecting Carleton teammate and four-time U SPORTS Men’s Basketball National Champion Marcus Anderson. One of the nation’s top shutdown defenders and a two-time former U SPORTS Defensive Player of the Year, Anderson will bring a relentless work ethic and a winning reputation to Guelph.
In the second round the Nighthawks stayed close to home, selecting third-year standout guard Ali Sow from Wilfrid Laurier University as a designated U SPORTS Returning Player. Since joining the Golden Hawks in 2017/18 Sow has starred on the offensive side of the ball as one of the OUA’s top scorers each of the last two seasons. In 2019 Ali was named Wilfrid Laurier’s Athlete of the Year and in each of the last two seasons he was named to an OUA All-Star team, both times leading the Golden Hawks to within one win of the OUA’s Wilson Cup Championship Game.
The final selection of the 2020 CEBL U SPORTS Draft by Kissi was a return to his roots at Brock University, where he selected 6’7” Forward Mitch Saunders, a fifth-year senior from Oakville, Ontario.
Following his first CEBL U SPORTS Draft Coach Kissi remarked, “I’m excited to bring Marcus, Ali and Mitch into the Nighthawks program. They each offer a unique skillset that will add value to our club in pursuit of the 2020 CEBL Championship. Marcus Anderson is well-known as one of the top defenders in the country, while Ali Sow has been an electric scorer for Wilfrid Laurier the last three seasons. Saunders is a natural leader that will bring size to our team in the front court.”
The focus this offseason has been on developing a more consistent and cohesive group from the outset of the Nighthawks second season. 2019 was highlighted by both roster and coaching turnover.
“As we concluded last season we were just starting to positively transition the culture of our club, creating an environment of accountability… accountability to yourself and accountability to your teammate. Creating continuity with the re-signings of Olu, Kimbal, Kyser and Tyrell is critical in our pursuit to continue this transition,” said Charles Kissi. “Now the focus must be on signings that not only have the talent to elevate us to the next level but fit in to the culture we’re building here in Guelph.”
The Guelph Nighthawks will enter the second Canadian Elite Basketball League season with internal pressure to perform on the court. The club has made it clear their expectation is to qualify for one of the four spots in the CEBL Championship Weekend this coming season. As Coach Kissi said, now the question becomes, “can the Nighthawks elevate to the next level” in pursuit of becoming champions of the Canadian Elite Basketball League.
The Guelph Nighthawks 2020 training camp is scheduled to open May 1 st at the University of Guelph, with the 2020 CEBL regular season home opener against the Niagara River Lions on May 9 th at the Sleeman Centre.