Manitoba

Brandon University baller selected to play with pros in Canada this summer

A Brandon University men’s basketball player was selected to play professional ball in Canada this summer.

Anthony Tsegakele was taken 6th overall by the Fraser Valley Bandits of the Canadian Elite Basketball League

Anthony Tsegakele was selected sixth overall in the 2021 CEBL draft earlier this week. (Brandon University Athletics)

A Brandon University men's basketball player has been selected to play professional ball in Canada this summer.

The Canadian Elite Basketball League is a relatively new professional men's basketball league that runs in the summertime. The league features mostly professional players, but a number of highly-talented U Sports basketball players are also drafted to play.

With the sixth pick of the 2021 CEBL draft, the Fraser Valley Bandits selected Anthony Tsegakele of the Brandon University Bobcats.

"I'm all around excited and thankful," said Tsegakele.

"I'm really excited to get out there with the guys and with the coaches … and get to the really fun part which is playing basketball." 

Tsegakele, 20, is a six-foot-six forward originally from Gatineau, Que. His second year with the Bobcats was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but he was one of the best rookies in the country during the 2019-20 season.

Growing up, Tsegakele watched players like DeMar DeRozan, LeBron James and Kawhi Leonard. But his favourite was Paul Pierce, a Boston Celtics legend. (Brandon University Athletics)

Averaging 17.4 points and 11.8 rebounds per game, Tsegakele was a walking double-double as a rookie. His stats were impressive enough to win Canada West Rookie of the Year and be named to the U Sports national all-rookie team that year.

Unlike many elite players, who start playing basketball at an early age, Tsegakele didn't start playing ball until Grade 9. At first, he played because he enjoyed it. But by the summer, he wanted to improve his skills and compete for more floor time, he said.

"That's kind of when I knew I wanted to take it more seriously," he said.

While playing for Thetford Academy, a prep school in Quebec where Toronto Raptor Chris Boucher once attended, a former men's player from Brandon University scouted the hoop star and informed men's basketball head coach Gil Cheung.

"We had success recruiting out of that area … and he came and visited and the rest is history," said Cheung, who has coached at BU for 12 years.

Since coming to Brandon, Tsegakele believes he's developed mostly in the weight room, becoming a two-way player and figuring out his game.

Tsegakele finished second in the conference in rebounding in his rookie season. (Brandon University Athletics)

"I've always been a bit lighter than other players. But coming here, they really put an emphasis on us being in the weight room," he said.

"Then Coach Gil would get me to watch different kinds of players to see how I could play, and also just trying to get the rebounding potential out of me so I can play both ends of the floor."

Tsegakele's size lets him play down low in the post, but he's usually playing on the perimeter. He can shoot, rebound and run the floor on the fast break, said Cheung.

"He's exactly what they would need in the pro game," he said.

"I don't think they're drafting U Sports kids to go in there and score 20 a night. They want guys to come in, who can guard multiple positions, that can shoot the ball, get on the glass and get out in transition as well. So I think he checks a lot of boxes." 

Tsegakele is looking forward to joining his new club, particularly to be in an environment where he can compete again because public health restrictions have only allowed the BU players to practise, he said.

"I'm just really looking forward to getting back on the court playing and learning from the other guys," he said.

"Learning from the guys who are playing pro right now, learning from the coaching staff who are experienced in a bunch of different countries."

The CEBL should be a great experience for Tsegakele individually, giving him a glimpse at what he can achieve after earning his degree, said Cheung. 

But with regards to the Brandon University basketball program, Cheung hopes Tsegakele comes back more skilled and more confident.

"The biggest thing for him is I think he's actually going to start to realize how good he is and how good he can be," said Cheung.

"He's going to come back saying, 'Hey, there's a couple of things skill-wise I need to work on.' But I don't think anyone up there is going to outwork him, or be a better teammate, or more coachable than him."

The end-goal for Tsegakele is to play professional basketball at the highest level he can, and be able to provide for his family, he said.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Nicholas Frew is an online reporter with CBC Edmonton. Hailing from Newfoundland, Frew moved to Halifax to attend journalism school. He has worked for CBC newsrooms in Manitoba and Saskatchewan. Prior to joining the CBC, he interned at the Winnipeg Free Press.

With files from Marjorie Dowhos

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