On Monday afternoon, the Canadian Elite Basketball League announced that starting in the 2022 season, teams will have to have one player on their 10-man roster be an import player, or in other words, a non-American import player. Any player who has Canadian or American citizenship, even if they also have citizenship in another country, will be counted as domestic players and will not qualify as non-American imports.
“Basketball is a global game,” said CEBL Commissioner Mike Morreale. “If you look at the top European leagues, Asian leagues, what have you, they are proud domestic leagues that have import spots, generally reserved for Americans or Canadians. So, we kind of took that same approach, but tweaked it around.”
“We’re creating jobs. Our number one goal is to make our domestic talent better.”
It isn’t the first time a Canadian league has added a global initiative. The Canadian Football League does something similar, but it hasn’t been popular with the fans, at least not yet. Basketball could be a different story, however. Where Canada might be ahead of European or Asian countries in producing football players, those regions have historically been good at basketball and this new rule could allow for more impact players to be added to the league.
“These players are a different kind of talented,” said Hamilton Honey Badgers head coach Ryan Schmidt. “A lot of North American players are used to the athleticism and the physicality versus over in Europe you’re going to see more tactically sound basketball. We see big guys out hammering the ball a lot more and shooting three-pointers. I think that this addition by the CEBL going to be able to showcase another side of the international game that maybe a lot of players and even some coaches haven’t got the chance to experience.”
The CEBL’s structure allows players from other leagues around the world to play during the offseason. That could allow for some players to get some extra games in while their teammates are off the floor for the offseason and it could allow young players some playing time. Alternatively, it could allow players one more chance to make an impact on NBA or G League teams in hopes of playing full-time in North America.
“It’s a very unique situation because now you’re allowing this international player to come in and learn the Canadian culture,” said Ottawa BlackJacks general manager Jevohn Shepherd. “For the longest time, all these Canadian guys that are playing in the league, and even some individuals in front offices like myself and Jermaine Anderson, have been the international player, the ‘import’, when we’ve played abroad. We were the ones before who were assimilating to the culture, the language, the food while playing basketball. We gained exposure and now we’re able to offer that opportunity for our international counterparts.”
“But the fact still remains that once you toss that ball up, everybody’s going to compete to win.”
This move could be a great chance for young Canadian talent to go up against players who have been around in basketball, but it could also serve as another route for international players to find NBA homes. It should make the league more competitive, and it should give teams some options when it comes to building their roster.