It’s roasting outside, and summer is in full swing, which also means the action at Nike Crown League is heating up as we near the halfway point of the 2017 season.
The league has been as strong as ever in its third season, as each team is stocked with professional players from the G-League, NBL Canada, countless foreign leagues of all levels, as well as some of the best collegiate talent this country has to offer from their top U SPORTS programs. The major addition to Crown’s talent pool this year has been the approval of the run as an NCAA sanctioned event, which has led to some of Canada’s next young stars such as Oshae Brissett, Ignas Brazdeikis, Nickeil Alexander-Walker and Andrew Nembhard getting a chance to showcase their game against the big boys.
Before Week 3 of games tips off on Friday night (Reserve your seat here, it’s free!), here’s how the hierarchy in the race for the Crown stands, from worst to first.
6. 1 Love T.O.
No team looked more dependent on a single player than 1 Love, as Brady Heslip carried them to win with a spectacular shooting performance (Stackhouse didn’t lie when he called him the best shooter in the world on the Lowe Post) in week one, and with Heslip at Summer League with the Bulls, they were at a loss for offence for most of week two’s loss to CIA Bounce. Kitchener’s Murphy Burnatowski is their de facto go-to guy, as he did the heavy lifting with 23 points against Bounce, while no other player on the squad topped 14 points. To stay competitive in the coming weeks, 1 Love is going to need the supporting cast of guys like Tut Ruach and Tramar Sutherland to look for their shot and get hot. On the flip side, 5’7 PG Steven Bennett is a treat to watch dribble around the towers in the paint.
5. Northern Kings
The Kings came back from a disappointing loss in week one with a nail-biter of a W over the battle tested M.A.D.E. squad last Friday, and things seem to be trending upward for the squad made up of the AAU Program’s alumni. Scarborough high school legend and current 905er Negus Webster-Chan took to the floor after missing week one, and looked very much the part of pro-am superstar, as the D-League rotation man took over the game scoring 21 points, grabbing eight boards and dropping five dimes in the 3 point win.
“Those are a lot of vets on M.A.D.E., just play hard and give it all you got, I wanna see guys diving on the floor — I don’t care if it’s Pro-am or Summer League — we want everybody just working hard and showing the crowd that we’re not just here to have fun, we want to win” said Webster-Chan after the win. With Webster-Chan on his LeBron-ish, and players like Duane Notice and Nick Lewis in tow, the Kings can continue their rise up the ranks.
4. 6 Man
The sky is the limit for 6 Man, as they possess the most athletic and versatile roster in Crown, with guys who can shoot the three and soar above the rim like Christian Kabongo and Richard Amardi that make blogger jaws drop to the floor. Unfortunately for them, they also wear their emotions on their sleeve, and things tend to snowball when the offence breaks down, as they checked out of the game against ACE last Friday with seven minutes left in the 2nd half. That being said, they still have the ability to dominate on any given Friday, and have no shortage of scoring with Kabongo, Amardi, and potential U SPORTS All-Canadian and scoring champion Manny Diressa runnin’ and gunnin’ at the point.
3. CIA Bounce
Bounce could very well be ranked #1 in the next iteration of these ranking, due to the shear advantage that legendary coach Tony McIntyre possesses in recruiting talent, as the pool of former players who could show up on any given week is crazy good. This past Friday was a perfect example, as two players who weren’t on the floor for opening weekend led Bounce to the romp over 1 Love. Syracuse-bound Oshae Brissett put on a clinic inside, getting to the line 12 times en route to a 25 point night, and Xavier Rathan-Mayes put up a triple double 10 points, 11 boards and 10 dimes fresh off an Orlando Summer League (and now training camp invite) performance with the New York Knicks. With NBA free agency in its waning stages, look for Bounce to add even more talent in the next two weeks as we move towards the playoffs.
Led by longtime trainer and coach Sheldon “Funda” Cassimy, this team has all the tools and the experience to win the title in a season of revenge over ACE. Canadian legend Jermaine Anderson is the floor general, and he’s flanked by names very familiar to basketball fans in this country like Junior Cadougan, Kyle Johnson, Aaron Best and Dyshawn Pierre. They also have the unofficial face of Crown, Big Mike Fraser, holding things down in the middle.
Without a doubt this is the most entertaining team in the league, and they deserve your full attention.
They’re the defending champs, and came back loaded with even more talent this season. Myck Kabongo runs point, and his steadying presence is the driving force behind their success. They have guys who can fill every role; Kaza Kajami-Keane & Cavell Johnson are gonna give you unrelenting effort and gritty defence, James Siakam and Johnny Berhanemeskel can get buckets on buckets, and their frontline of defence is super mobile and switchy through Warren Ward, Tyrone Watson and Kirk Williams Jr.
Look for ACE to put on a show against 1 Love tomorrow night, to send a message that they aren’t giving up the Crown without a hell of a fight this year.
Week 3 of Crown League tips off Friday night at 6:30 inside Ryerson University’s Kerr Hall Gym.