The Saskatchewan Rattlers are back on home court.
The Canadian Elite Basketball League is returning to a more traditional schedule for its upcoming season after staging the CEBL Summer Series in St. Catharines, Ont., last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
That means the Rattlers will once again be able to play their home games at SaskTel Centre, where they won the first-ever CEBL championship in 2019.
“It was great to be able to play basketball last year, obviously. This year it’s very important that we’re on home soil so that we can have that brand back, effective in the city and kind of pull out all the stops as it was in 2019 and continue to build that momentum,” said Rattlers vice-president Brad Kraft.
With reopening plans progressing in the four provinces where CEBL teams are based, the league has been given the green light to proceed with a 14-game season starting on June 24.
The news couldn’t have come at a better time for the Rattlers, with training camp set to open in a week.
“All of our international players and coaches are in the city, so that’s great. Now we gotta get the rest of our guys here over the course of the next week so that we can have camp opening on June 17,” Kraft said.
American guard Avery Woodson is one of the Rattlers players going through a mandatory 14-day quarantine after crossing the border into Canada.
The Waynesboro, Miss., native is looking forward to playing in the CEBL for the first time but he’s not looking too far ahead.
“Getting out of quarantine and making it through training camp is what’s on my mind right now. I can set goals after that but as far as my mindset right now it’s just preparing myself to be in the best shape possible,” Woodson said.
Not only do the Rattlers get to play a more normal season this summer, but their fans will also get to be a part of it, too.
The team plans to host a small group of front-line workers for its first two home games on June 28 and July 4. With most, if not all, public health restrictions due to be lifted as early as July 11, the Rattlers are hoping to welcome paying fans back for their final four home games.
In between is a game scheduled on July 10.
“We’re really hoping that we can kind of get an exemption, if you will, for that game. But as it stands, even if it’s not July 10, we’ll have (fans) for the remainder of the season,” Kraft said.
Woodson, who spent the winter playing in Europe, hopes that will be the case.
“I just came from Sweden and we had no fans all year and that was a different sport to me, because sometimes you could show up to the gym and there’d be no energy,” he said.
There’s no shortage of energy now, though. After a long and uncertain year, it’s time to play basketball again.
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