WINNIPEG – The Winnipeg Sea Bears of the Canadian Elite Basketball League announced the roster with which the team will open the 2024 season. The Sea Bears travel to Saskatoon today for the first game of their sophomore season against the Saskatchewan Rattlers tomorrow night at 8:30 p.m. CT. Fans can catch the game on CEBL+, TSN+ and 680 CJOB.

All announced and professional signings aside from David Muenkat have been named to the team's season opening roster. Muenkat remains with the Fraport Skyliners of the German Pro A league as they continue their playoff run and will join the team when Skyliners' season is complete.

New to the team is Daren Watts, a member of the Manitoba Bisons, who has made the team's 2024 season opening roster after a successful training camp. Brandon Bobcat Elisha Ampofo, Winnipeg Wesmen Donald Stewart and local U SPORTS players Noah Simpson and Lamar Everd will remain with the team as practice players. Due to injury, draft pick Tyler Sagl has also been placed with the team's practice squad.

Per CEBL policies, the club can make a maximum of eight roster transactions throughout the 2024 season (up until 24 hours prior to tip-off of the team's 16th game). This includes adding or removing players as well as moving athletes to or from the practice squad.

After the Sea Bears' season opener in Saskatoon, the team will return home to face the defending CEBL champions, the Scarborough Shooting Stars on Friday, a match which has sold out. Tickets for the team's nine remaining home games can be found HERE.

Mike Taylor and his Winnipeg Sea Bears didn’t know how to feel as they walked through the tunnel at Canada Life Centre for the final time last summer.

An unknown commodity just four months prior, the Sea Bears had defied expectations in their inaugural season. They had won the most games of any expansion team in CEBL history. They had been met with incredible support from the city and multiple record-setting crowds. But with a play-in loss to the Edmonton Stingers on Aug. 4, 2023, they had fallen short of their goal to compete for a league title at CEBL Championship Weekend.

As disappointing as the abrupt end to their season was, Taylor knew that it was only the beginning. The buzz around Winnipeg’s new professional team was spreading through the larger basketball world. As the team’s head coach and general manager, he had something to sell now.

“We had a lot of unknowns last year,” he said following the opening practice of the team’s pre-season training camp last Monday. “When I got in front of players and coaches last year, I talked about the idea of what Winnipeg would be. Now, you can see the great support we have here in Winnipeg – it’s helped us attract the players we have now.”

After inking a two-year extension to remain with the Sea Bears through 2025, the reigning CEBL Coach of the Year went to work building on top of the foundation that his team had set in their first season. That started with bringing back league MVP Teddy Allen.

The 6-6 guard from Phoenix, Ariz. was the centrepiece of the Sea Bears’ offence in 2023, averaging 27.6 points per game and tying the league’s single-game scoring record with 42 points June 2 against Scarborough. “Teddy Buckets” became a Winnipeg fan favourite on the court and in the community.

Allen, who re-signed with Winnipeg as one of their protected players in February, said he didn’t think twice about returning to continue what the group started last season.

“It just felt like a family,” he said. “A lot of the time in pro sports, there’s a lot of turnover. So, when you have a great relationship with an organization and a community, it’s just something you want to build on.”

Taylor says that Allen’s early re-signing gave him and his staff the time they needed to find the best talent to play around him.

“Once we signed Teddy, we knew teams were going to be focused on stopping him. He set scoring records, earned the MVP and was such a big part of our success last year. But we wanted to try to put players in place around him that complement him.”

Taylor had more than just an idea of the Winnipeg Sea Bears to pitch to free agents this time, and it showed. He added Canadian professional veterans Jarred Ogungbemi-Jackson, Alex Campbell, Mason Bourcier and David Muenkat alongside two NBA-experienced big men in Byron Mullens and Darius Days. The new additions bring a combined 40 years of professional experience, something Taylor says has helped the group to hit the ground running.

“We’ve got more experience on the roster this year, and you can feel it. They’re picking things up quickly, and we’ve made a lot of progress in our system,” he said.

Quarterbacking it all is Ogungbemi-Jackson, a local product who has played more than 300 professional games in Europe over the last decade. The former University of Calgary guard has averaged double-figure scoring in all nine of his pro seasons, and hopes that his veteran savvy will help him bring a steady leadership to the team.

“At the end of the day, it’s basketball. Once we get on the floor, I think that’s when my experience will come into play, and it’ll happen naturally,” he said. “I’m just trying to lead where I can and be myself, and the guys are accepting me with open arms.”

Though he’s seen his share of action overseas, this will be the first time as a pro that Ogungbemi Jackson runs through the tunnel to the roar a hometown crowd.

“I still don’t know what that moment is going to be like, but I’ve been dreaming about it,” he smiled.

Ogungbemi-Jackson joins Winnipeggers Chad Posthumus, Simon Hildebrandt and Shawn Maranan to form a strong local contingent on the Sea Bears.

“We feel like we’ve upgraded the Canadians and the import players,” Taylor said. “The Canadian pieces on the perimeter gave us the opportunity to use the import spots on frontcourt three-point shooting and playmaking.”

The ability to stretch the floor at all five positions figures to add new depth to the Sea Bears’ offence around Allen. Mullens and Days both logged marks better than 35 per cent from distance in 2022-23.

“We wanted to make our offence multi-dimensional and more difficult to guard,” Taylor explained. “Byron is a great three-point shooter as a five man, so he’s a different matchup for a lot of teams in the league. Darius also has an outstanding three-point touch and can score inside and out.”

The scouting reports showed complimentary skillsets, but the roster was only a sheet of paper until the team tipped off training camp on May 13. Allen says that the team’s veteran additions have meshed well with the returning players since hitting the floor together.

“It starts on a personal level,” he noted. “You have to try to get to know each other personally so that you can have better chemistry on the court, and I think that so far, we’ve done that,” he said.

“It’ll be a match made in heaven with all the new guys,” he added.

Days, an LSU graduate who has spent his two professional seasons on a two-way contract with the Houston Rockets, is also impressed with how the group has gelled in camp.

“We’re going to be really good,” he said. “I’ve played on a couple really good teams, and I’m excited about this team.”

“We love the roster on paper, and what training camp has shown is that these guys have a willingness to work together,” Taylor said. “They’re all committed to the system and making the game easier for each other.”

Winnipeg will begin their season on the road Wednesday, May 22 in a prairie matchup with the Saskatchewan Rattlers. The Rattlers bested Winnipeg 99-96 in their last meeting July 11, and have added NBA G-Leaguers Jalen Harris and Elijah Harkless ahead of the 2024 season.

“It’s a natural rivalry,” Taylor acknowledged. “It’ll be an improved Rattlers team, and in those rivalry games, anything can happen. We want to get off to a great start, and that game is dominating our focus right now.”

After that lone road matchup, they’ll return to Canada Life Centre to face the defending league-champion Scarborough Shooting Stars in a sold-out home opener on Friday, May 24. Scarborough has re-signed the CEBL’s all-time leading scorer in Cat Barber while also bringing over veterans Kadre Gray and Jackson Rowe, two players who made the league All-Canadian team last season.

“When you play the defending champs, you want to show what you can do,” Taylor said. “We know there are good teams who have improved, but we feel like we’ve improved.”

“What we’re really excited about is the fan support here,” he added. “Winnipeg has been so good to us, and we’re really excited to get into Canada Life Centre with a brand-new court and sellout crowd and take on the defending champions in that home opener.”

With CEBL Championship Weekend moving to the Eastern Conference in Montreal this season, the Western Conference’s top seed will receive an automatic bye to the championship semifinals. Taylor says it’s hard for his team to ignore the opportunity to punch their ticket during the regular season.

“Our organization’s dream goal is to win a CEBL Championship. We want to earn the right to go to Montreal and give ourselves a chance, and that’s the easiest way to get there,” he said.

Winnipeg’s chance at the coveted top seed will likely come down to the final contests of the regular season. The team’s schedule ends with a stretch of seven straight games against in-conference opponents.

“We know we have a lot of work ahead of us, but these are the things we’re setting out for.”

From the buzz around training camp, one thing is clear: this year’s Sea Bears squad looks poised to take the next step toward that dream goal.


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