When it comes to professional basketball for Women, there is really only one good option, the National Women’s Basketball Association. As Canadian celebrities including Drake pine for a WNBA team to play out of Toronto, little has been suggested about a Canadian League rather than just one Canadian team.
The Canadian Elite Basketball League is set to return for its fourth season and has solidified itself as a legitimate developmental league for Canadian basketball players. Having already graduated multiple players into the NBA G League including Xavier Moon and Lindell Wigginton and expanding three times since it was created, the CEBL has begun working on what comes next.
The CEBL has set out to develop Canadian basketball talent whether that means getting them into other FIBA leagues, the NBA G League, the NBA, or helping the Canadian Men’s National Team win gold medals at the Olympics. You would have to call their venture successful so far considering a pandemic could have threatened their entire existence before the 2020 season, but there could still be more to do, specifically when it comes to Women’s basketball.
“Could there be other opportunities? There could,” said Mike Morreale, the commissioner of the CEBL. “There could be other models that we utilize under the CEBL banner that we could roll forward. That could be a second-division type model or other developmental ways or that could even be a women’s league.”
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“Those are all things that are part of the bigger planning. They weren’t and didn’t exist necessarily in our initial plans because our initial plan was to grow this league and to identify the spots and grow, but as we’ve moved forward and as the basketball ecosystem in this country becomes more interconnected, then that provides us with more opportunities to think about the next way of doing business under the CEBL banner.”
While there have been conversations about the possibility of expanding into women’s basketball, it doesn’t sound like it is going to be an immediate venture for the CEBL. Rather, it sounds like this will be a longer-term project should it materialize and become reality.
“It wasn’t part of the original plan, but it certainly has become something that we are well aware of,” said Morreale. “It’s something that we have discussed more in-depth. From a timeline perspective, I couldn’t put a number on that, but I do think that we believe there is a way to integrate the women’s game because the talent is there and for all those same reasons that we discussed for helping the men’s team and the national program and the grass-roots program can easily be replicated on the women’s side.”
“It takes a little bit more though process just because of understanding the landscape of our females that play internationally and getting a better idea, but I would say yes, it’s definitely been discussed, it’s definitely been more than just a topic of conversation. There are other things as well that would fall into those buckets, but again, you want to do it right because you only get one time to do these things. I would say that if you were able to replicate a similar league for women in this country that we have been able to do for men and we’d get comparable results, it would be a no-brainer to investigate that further.”
With the conversations about bringing the WNBA to Toronto, Morreale recognizes that there are plenty of benefits to having a women’s team play in Canada, but he believes that it might fall short in some areas that a league like the CEBL could do a better job with.
“There’s been a lot of talk about a WNBA team in Toronto and I think that’s fantastic, I think it’s warranted,” said Morreale. “Toronto maybe needs to realize there are probably more areas it could possibly go in Canada, it doesn’t just have to be in Toronto. Vancouver has been talked about, Montreal has been talked about, Calgary and that area has been talked about.”
“The only thing about that is that it’s one team,” he continued. “One would argue that the best females in the world play in the WNBA, whereas I’m not sure all the best men in the world play in the NBA. There are so many other dominant overseas leagues. I’m not sure that’s replicated internationally on the female side, so having a league that develops young women and having a league that showcases broadly female Canadian athletes I think would have far more reaching positive results on the landscape of female basketball in Canada than one team.”
“The one team could certainly drive the awareness and the excitement and the cool factor and all that stuff that the Raptors do on the male side, but I think it needs to be a little more involved than that.
While it shouldn’t be expected that there is a women’s version of the CEBL in the immediate future, there is legitimate interest from Morreale and the CEBL to eventually have a women’s league. When exactly that might come is unknown, but just knowing that it’s a possibility is encouraging for basketball fans all over the country.