Basketballers Xavier Ochu and Sascha Kappos teamed up with the Edmonton Stingers to win the 2020 CEBL (Canadian Elite Basketball League) Summer Series.
Currently in its sophomore season, the CEBL was forced to make some changes to its regular summer league game schedule due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The CEBL Summer Series was born and featured a 26-game schedule with all seven teams coming together to play in St. Catharines, Ontario, over the course of four weeks starting on July 25.
Ochu and Kappos reported to training camp on July 15.
“It was a pretty wild experience,” says Kappos. “The day to day life was pretty interesting. Each team had their own designated safe zones and we had to get used to wearing masks all the time. Guests weren’t allowed so we spent a lot of time together as a team, so we got close pretty quick.”
The Stingers got off to a bit of a rocky start, losing their first game, but Kappos used it as a growth opportunity.
“The speed was much faster than what we are used to at the U SPORTS level,” he says. “The physicality was also higher but, I think I adapted pretty quickly.”
Ochu highlighted the need to acclimate quickly with a limited number of practices before the round-robin portion of the summer series started.
“It was definitely a different training environment,” says Ochu. “Following all of the safety guidelines required a lot of focus, and we only had 10 practices together before we started playing.”
The team rebounded after that first loss to win five-straight during round robin action, clinching first-place in the league heading into playoffs. The Stingers continued their dominance in the semifinals with an 88-75 win over the Ottawa BlackJacks before meeting the Fraser Valley Bandits in the finals. They took home their first ever championship title with a 90-73 win in the final.
Despite the differences noted by both Ochu and Kappos, there was some commonality in the experience between both the Stingers and the Tigers.
“The culture and standards set out by both teams are very similar,” says Ochu. “Both programs have very high standards to achieve a winning culture. I think we (the team) all held each other to a higher standard, which I think made a difference in taking home the trophy at the end of the series. It was a really great experience for me.”
“It was an experience of a lifetime,” adds Kappos. “One of the highlights for me was getting to wear a jersey with my name on the back. It’s something I never really thought about until it actually happened. I’m very thankful for the opportunity – I learned a lot from the experience and look forward to using it to take my game to the next level.”
Ochu will be returning to the Tigers lineup for his fourth season this fall, while Kappos recently graduated with a Bachelor of Science and completed his fifth and final season with the Tigers.