Hamilton has really emerged as a basketball hotbed. The city certainly has plenty of basketball talent and fans — a fact the owners of the Hamilton Honey Badgers are banking on.
Let’s consider more facts. Hamilton-grown talent includes tenth round pick in the 2018 WNBA Draft, Kia Nurse. In March, McMaster women’s basketball team claimed their first national title over the Laval Rouge. And as of last month, Hamilton has a professional basketball team, the Honey Badgers, part of the Canadian Elite Basketball League.
On May 12th, I joined families and basketball fans alike for the inaugural home game of the Hamilton Honey Badgers during the inaugural season of the Canadian Elite Basketball League (CEBL). The Honey Badgers faced off against the Edmonton Stingers — one of the other six teams in the league. Arriving early was a smart play – the CEBL and FirstOntario Place were prepared to cater to the families attending on Mother’s Day and the atmosphere was celebratory. There was live music in the concourse, Disney characters to pose for pictures with, free portraits by caricature artists, and Honey Badgers merch hot off the press.
There was an anticipation in the air — the crowd didn’t know what level of play to expect but it was clear within seconds of tip-off that a good game was ahead. The game was played at a fast and exciting pace; the Badgers ran the court well and were adept in moving the ball. Key to any developmental league, they gave all team members equal time on the floor and equal opportunity to handle the ball. The Hamilton Honey Badgers easily handled the Edmonton team with a final score of 106 to 83. Despite the 23 point win over the Stingers, the game was thrilling to watch.
The team, much like the rest of the CEBL, is full of young talented players still just beginning or in the early stages of their professional careers including McMaster alum Connor Gilmore who chipped in with 11 points on 4 for 6 shooting including 3 for 5 from three point range off the bench. Starter Justin Edwards led all scorers with 24 points while Demetrius Denzel-Dyson had 21.
A twelve-year international DJ kept the crowd hyped throughout the game, and a garbage-can drumline pumped us up for the various contests during timeouts and quarters. The free caricature was extra incentive to get me back to another match, too! But in all seriousness, the game experience was awesome, with a level of play that was competitive and exhilarating.
There’s now professional basketball in Steel City and I couldn’t be happier about it. Go Honey Badgers!