Canadian Kyle Julius returning home to coach CEBL's Fraser Valley Bandits
Former professional basketball player envious of opportunity now available to Canadians
Canada didn't have its own professional basketball league when Kyle Julius retired from playing in 2009.
So while the 40-year-old is thrilled to be on the bench as head coach of the Fraser Valley Bandits next season, he can't help but be a little envious as well.
The native of Thunder Bay, Ont., was named the Bandits' head coach on Thursday, joining the seven-team Canadian Elite Basketball League he believes has put all the right people in place for success.
"It's about having obviously the capital but more importantly the passion," Julius said. "The way they've designed it, I think it would be successful in the winter as well. I really believe it could, because of the people they have in place."
The CEBL, which is unique in that it runs through the summer, tips off its second season on May 7 when the league's new expansion team — the Ottawa BlackJacks — travels to play the Niagara River Lions.
The league also recently announced a three-year broadcast partnership with CBC.
WATCH | Saskatchewan Rattlers win inaugural CEBL title:
Julius is coaching Taiwanese team Formosa Dreamers after two seasons as head coach of the Saigon Heat. Both play in the ASEAN Basketball League, and Julius sees similarities in Asia and what the CEBL could potentially become.
"When I was offered the job a couple of years ago in Vietnam, I did not think there was basketball in Vietnam, let alone a viable league and huge fan bases. The country gets behind each team, packed gyms, very competitive," said Julius, who played both NCAA Div. 1 basketball with Furman and in U Sports with the University of Guelph.
Canadian coaching experience
Julius coached in Canada's other pro league — NBL Canada — with both the Mississauga Power and London Lightning, leading London to the 2017 title and earning coach of the year honours.
Julius, who has deep roots in the Canadian game, has trained many of the players who were in the CEBL last summer and reached out to them for their thoughts on Canada's new league.
Unique opportunity for players
The CEBL, he said, is a unique opportunity for players to stay in shape in the summer while at the same time work on their games, make money and play at a high level at home.
"Fraser Valley we're talking about our athletic therapy and making sure that the guys that come in with the nicks and bruises get treated and injury prevention is taken care of," said Julius, who is married with two young sons. "And we'll study the players [winter professional] seasons and come up with a plan of what they need to work on in the summer, and try and build that into our offence and our system."
He can't help but think how lucky Canadian players are now.
"How amazing would that be to have in your off-season as a young player — or even older players — getting to play in front of friends and family. It's something they've never had the opportunity to do. I think it's so cool."
The Bandits are based in Abbotsford, B.C., an hour's drive outside of Vancouver, and play in the 7,050-seat Abbotsford Centre. The team struggled last season, finishing last in the league with a 4-16 record.