By Justin Prince
Note: This story was originally published on NBLCentral.
After months of preparation, the National Basketball League of Canada’s signature event is underway.
The 2016 NBL Canada Draft Combine has officially started at the Athlete Institute in Mono, Ont. More than 90 athletes from across North America have come to take part in the league’s the first session of the two-day event.
This is the NBLC’s last combine before the start of training camps within the next two weeks.
“We’re excited to get the season going,” said London Lightning president Vito Frijia. “This is a big step for the league … we’re really excited for the season to start.”
Some of the notable athletes taking part in today include former NFL draft pick Dominique Franks and 2015 NBLC Draft selectee Derek Thompson. Many of the players are guards.
Many of the athletes had been invited to the Orangeville combine after their performances at the league’s other events during the offseason.
“Guys are competing and enthusiastic,” said Lightning head coach Kyle Julius. “It’s nice to see the interest and the energy and the desire to play in our league. It’s special. As someone who is a part of the league, it makes you feel privileged and honoured. It’s really good to see.”
Sports agent Ryan Mulvaney, who represents nine players at the combine, said he feels the event’s format is well organized and similar to the NBA’s draft system.
“I think the NBL is an excellent organization,” said Mulvaney. “I am a big fan of the league … The commissioner (David Magley) has been doing a lot of work, flying all over the United States for people and to give them an opportunity to play professionally, whether it’s here (in NBL Canada) for a few seasons or here and then elsewhere.”
The combine format features 10 teams playing multiple 20-minute games throughout the day. The players on the floor are then substituted out every five minutes, allowing league personnel to see how they work as a team as well as their skills.
Kitchener-Waterloo Titans general manager Stu Julius said he is also using the format to see who is in the best shape and who can handle multiple stretches of minutes.
“We’ll see how it goes when they play three or four games and see who’s fit,” said Stu. “That’s one of the things I look at is the fitness levels of a player. I also want to see who can play defense and who brings energy onto the floor.”
Kyle explained that he never enters the combine with a set list of types of players he wants. He also feels the team has already found some good players this offseason. Stu also mentioned it is too early to tell who stands out.
“I don’t necessarily come here with any powerful pre-conceived notion,” said Kyle. “I think we feel we found some great pieces and some great parts (this offseason). If there is anybody better than what we’ve had, we’ll look at them. If there’s anybody who can come in and make training camp more competitive, we’ll look at them. You kind of come in with your core values, and at the same time, you have to see what’s out there and play it by ear.”
The NBL Canada combine will continue until Sunday at 5 p.m. EST.