National Basketball League of Canada holds its first draft



Last Sunday’s inaugural National Basketball League of Canada’s (NBLC) draft was very modest compared with the National Basketball Association’s (NBA) draft-day hoopla with soon-to-be millionaires dressed in expensive suits surrounded by their families and their posse.

In stark contrast, Morgan Lewis, clad in casual wear, was elated to be the Oshawa Power’s first overall pick in the draft at Rogers Centre’s Summit Suite. He’s also delighted to be playing close to his hometown after spending the past two seasons in Europe.

The 6′ 4″ 210-pound shooting guard from Painesville, Ohio was the fourth leading scorer in Germany’s Pro “A” league last season, averaging 18.1 points. He also grabbed 8.6 rebounds while shooting 57.5 per cent in 16 games with ETB Wohnbau Baskets.

Lewis posted 20.3 points and 5.6 rebounds in 12 games with Iceland’s KR Reykjavik in 2009-10 after helping the University of Findlay win the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division Two national championship two years ago.

He says he’s looking forward to showcasing his talent in Canada.

“It means a lot to be drafted number one,” he told Share. “I am just glad to be given the opportunity to come down here and play well in front of a lot of people who are just excited to see the league get started.

“I will bring a lot of hustle and excitement to the floor, In addition, I take a lot of pride in playing good defence. I am a hard-nosed player who will go out there and do whatever it takes to get the job done.”

Lewis, 24, said he’s anxious to get acquainted with his new basketball home.

“The only time I have been to Canada is when my parents took me to Niagara Falls when I was a kid,” he said. “I have heard a lot of good things about this country and I am really eager to get a feel for this place.”

The first round was a free agent draft without limitations while the second and third rounds required the selection of Canadian players.

Oshawa used its first pick in the second round on C.W. Jefferys Collegiate Institute graduate Kevin Francis who averaged 21 points and 10 rebounds as a high school senior and 14.7 points and five rebounds as a freshman at North Dakota School of Science. He came off the bench at Vincennes Junior College in his sophomore year, averaging seven points and four rebounds before joining Cleveland State.

The powerful 6′ 8″ forward has played professionally in Finland, Saudi Arabia and Argentina.

Oshawa is one of seven Canadian franchises that will compete in the new league that requires at least two Canadians on each roster. The other teams are located in Halifax, Quebec, Saint John, Moncton, Summerside and London.

Former NBA player Mark Strickland, an assistant with the NBA Development League’s Baskersfield Jam last season, will coach the Durham side which will play its home games at the General Motors Centre.

Each club plays 36 matches with the top four teams advancing to the playoffs next March.

The season starts on October 29 with Quebec hosting Moncton. Oshawa makes its debut the following night in Quebec at Laval University.

Each franchise has a Can. $150,000 salary cap to work with.

Isaac Olowolafe Jr., who last year pledged $25,000 to set up the University of Toronto’s largest endowment fund for students in the African Studies program, and Scarborough-born actor Mark Taylor are part owners of the new Oshawa franchise.

A 2007 U of T economics graduate, Olowolafe is chief executive officer of Dream Fund Holdings which he established last year. The company issues real estate investment opportunities in the form of debentures. He and his father also co-own a real estate firm.

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