By Justin Prince
Note: This story was originally published on NBLCentral.
Former Windsor Express forward Chris Commons is on the move.
The two-time National Basketball League of Canada champion has officially signed with the Niagara River Lions.
The six-foot-nine, 220-pound forward, who was seventh in scoring with 18.3 points per game and ninth in rebounding with 6.8 per game last year, was originally on Windsor’s protected players list for this offseason. The Express later traded the veteran’s rights to the Saint John Riptide for the rights to guard Doug Herring Jr.
Commons went unsigned by the protected player signing deadline yesterday. The River Lions then made a contract offer to him which the Riptide declined to match, per the team’s press release.
I'm excited to play for them," said Commons. "From what I've seen and heard, it's a very good organization. They were a very tough team in their first season last year ... I just felt it was time for a new page to be turned in my life as far as NBL Canada. I definitely feel that this was the team I needed to go to."
Commons left the Express as the franchise’s all-time leader in several statistical categories, including games played, points, rebounds and blocks. When Windsor made the deal, Chris’s wife Kyatta explained in NBL Canada Fans, a Facebook group created to discuss league news and games, that they thought it was time for a change. "I was blessed to win two championships in Windsor," said Commons when asked about the change of scenery. "There's always a saying of 'familiarity breathes contempt.' There's times where you no longer see eye-to-eye or things aren't exactly how they first started. It's always good to start anew and it was time." While Commons showed strong respect for the Express and its fan base, he also noted he had not planned to re-sign with the team. "After last season and how we (the Express) ended up finishing the playoffs, I was actually relieved when I saw my rights were traded," he said. "I didn't really want to have to let the City of Windsor down because there was a lot of great people I'm going to miss that and fans I wanted to play for." In addition to playing in the NBLC, the University of Findlay and University of South Carolina Aiken product has also had professional playing experience in Bahrain, Germany, Southwest Asia, Finland and the Premier Basketball League.
“Commons brings a great deal of league experience to our young program,” said River Lions head coach Grâce Lokole. “He’s one of the best scorers in league history and boasts a great deal of playoff experience. As a coach, I am extremely excited to have Chris’s offensive abilities especially leading games.”
The big man is one of many veterans the River Lions have added this offseason. The team has also signed former Moncton Miracles point guard Tyler Murray, former Express forward and 2015 NBL Canada Finals MVP Kirk Williams Jr. and former London Lightning star Tyshawn Patterson since the beginning of September. Commons said multiple times he was excited to play with the team and the talent on its roster.
“It is a privilege to be able to add a player to our roster with as much league experience as Chris,” said team president and general manager Jeffrey Sotiriou. “He will no doubt step into a leadership role on our team. We are thrilled to welcome him to Niagara.”
The River Lions started their training camp today in preparation for this upcoming regular season. They will start their preseason schedule Nov. 9 with an exhibition game against the NBA Development League’s Raptors 905.