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What you need to know about COVID-19: August 10, 2020
You don’t often get another shot at a missed opportunity.
But Calgary’s Mathieu Kamba is happy to be taking his with the Edmonton Stingers in the Canadian Elite Basketball League’s Summer Series, which tipped off in St. Catharines, Ont., this week.
The six-foot-five, 209-pound guard out of Central Arkansas University was called away from the Stingers by his former club team in Spain just ahead of last year’s Championship Weekend.
“I had signed my contract, and in my contract they were supposed to let me play on Championship Weekend, then they had forced me to go to Toronto go get my visa,” Kamba recalled. “While I was there, it was supposed to be a one-day kind of thing where I would go, get it and then fly to Spain.
“But it ended up taking four or five days, and that’s time where I could have played in Championship Weekend and then flown to Toronto. So it was all kind of messed up with the timing.”
Fortunately, he’s picking up exactly where he left off last year, as the COVID-19 pandemic forced the postponement of the CEBL regular season, sending all seven teams straight into the playoff round robin currently underway at Meridian Centre.
While health and safety measures are in place, just don’t picture the same sort of bubble that’s happening back in their own downtown core, with Rogers Place and the surrounding area locked down as an NHL playoff site.
“It’s pretty well organized. We’re still allowed to go out and eat at places and all that stuff, we’ve just got to maintain the social distancing rules, wear a mask and they test our temperatures every day,” Kamba said. “So it’s pretty good. No one’s been showing symptoms or anything, so we’re good.”
Especially since it’s all lead to getting back on the court after such an unexpected off-season followed the CEBL’s inaugural campaign in 2019.
“Yeah, it feels good,” Kamba said. “A lot of people are happy to be back, it’s been a long time.”
Edmonton is 2-1, bouncing back after dropping their tournament opener to the Fraser Valley Bandits 113-100 on Sunday, before bouncing back against the Ottawa Blackjacks, 89-82, and Hamilton Honey Badgers, 88-82.
They face the Niagara River Lions on Friday (1 p.m. CBC Gem) before having a long awaited rematch Saturday (1:45 p.m., CBC Sports) against the same Saskatchewan Rattlers squad that knocked them out of last year’s semifinal round, before going on to win it all.
“That’ll be a big game,” said Kamba, whose down time in Toronto was made even less enjoyable by seeing his Stingers teammates fall just shy of a finals appearance. “If I was three, I think we would have won it.”
While Kamba will get a chance to put his money where his mouth is heading toward the 2020 championship final on Aug. 9, it’s a relief to see even a shortened version of the season this year, so the league doesn’t end up losing all the momentum from last year’s initial push.
“It’s super dope, we’re kind of like the pioneers head-starting this thing, allowing it to pick up steam and then just pushing it across the country allowing kids to have dreams because it’s a Canadian league that we can play in,” Kamba said. “You don’t necessarily have to go overseas right away. You can play in this league and then work and get a contract overseas, so it’s like a good outlet for a lot of people.”
The quality of product on display is turning into an exciting brand of basketball too, with the CEBL experimenting with the Elam Ending to basketball games, instead of sitting through the final two minutes cycling between fouls and free throws.
Named after Ball State University professor Nick Elam, the alternate finish sees the game clock turned off in the dying minutes, while the two teams still abide by the shot clock on their way to a target score.
“You could be up 15, but once there’s no time on the clock and there’s just the shot clock, you have to play defence and they have to score,” Kamba said. “So it’s all about your will and your heart at that point. You can’t wait for time to run out and say, ‘Oh, we survived.’ You’ve got to get to that target score before they do.
“So the Elam Ending’s kind of changed everything. Made the game more fun, definitely, but it’s a lot more intense. It’s good, because it kind of creates heroes every game. You’ve got to score and you’ve got to stop them from scoring.”
On Twitter: @GerryModdejonge
Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2020