Inaugural Weekend for Montreal’s First Ever Professional-Amateur Basketball League Tips Off

A Ballers Echelon Debut to Remember

  • The inaugural season of Montreal’s Pro-Amateur summer basketball league kicked off last Friday night and was met with much praise. Courtesy Russell Chau

Last Friday night at Concordia University’s Loyola campus, Montreal’s first ever professional-amateur summer basketball league’s opening game took place. The event was led by a group of four brothers: Dwayne, Damian, Dwight and Dillon Buckley.

“We wanted to create something new, we wanted to bring something different to the city of Montreal,” said Dwayne Buckley.

All four brothers are very well known around the city, especially amongst the basketball community.

Damian and Dwayne were part of Concordia’s alumni basketball team, and Damian is presently an assistant coach with the Stingers Men’s basketball team. Dillon, the youngest of the group, played for the Sun Youth Hornets, an intercity team located in downtown Montreal.

In terms of how the idea of starting a league like this in Montreal came to be, Dillon proved to be the light bulb while his brothers sparked the fuse.

“I just told my brothers let’s get the best of the best to compete in a league and they were in,” said Dillon Buckley. “Their connections made this whole unprecedented experience possible.”

The Ballers Echelon league is an invite-only draft league that features National Basketball Association players such as the Orlando Magic’s Khem Birch and two-time NBA champion Joel Anthony, who were both raised in the city.

Other university standouts and notable professional athletes like Kevin Loiselle and Kyle Desmarais from the National Basketball League have also been selected to participate in the league.

Former Syracuse alumni and veteran Kris Joseph believes the draft league fills a distinct void for athletes who return home and crave intense competition.

“For me, it’s just something that allows me to play in solid runs,” explains Joseph. “I thought it was a good idea for what’s considered the best talent in the city all to compete in a [league] like this.”

“Guys like myself struggle to find one pick up game a week in the summer, so it’s great. As long as I’m in Montreal, I’ll be playing,” he continued.

Opening night was a success on and off the court. People enjoyed themselves and the athletes definitely came ready to play. However, the Buckley brothers are conscious of the fact that sustaining such a product won’t be a walk in the park. They are building from the ground up and most of the funding is coming directly from their own pockets.

Already established U.S. based summer leagues have welcomed great NBA talent in the past. Demar DeRozan and Chris Paul have both made appearances at the Drew, a prominent summer league founded by Alvin Wills in 1973.

Meanwhile, the Crown, a similar league, has seen Cavaliers forward Tristan Thompson, and former first overall NBA pick Anthony Bennett take to its wooden floors.

“Players are extremely happy about the league,” said Dwayne Buckey. “Talent in Montreal is only getting better so we really take pride in what we’re doing. We know along the way there will be obstacles to overcome but we’re not quitters and together we’re confident we can accomplish anything.”

The league is composed of six teams who will play at the Loyola campus athletics complex until the month of July.

First year McGill guard JJ Hamel, who played in the overtime thriller last week against the Eclipse could not be more grateful about this opportunity, as he believes the league will benefit the city as a whole.

“Often we are undervalued and I think with this league on the rise, the world can see that Montreal’s talent is something special,” said Hamel.

“My first game in the Ballers Echelon league was quite amazing. It was a great experience and I’m blessed to be a part of the selected players to play in the league,” he said.

While the league creates a platform conducive to growth, mentorship, development, and community involvement, the goal is to reach the same magnitude as the Crown League. Undoubtedly, this will take time and support, but it’s safe to say the Ballers Echelon is on the right track.

Week two’s double-header begins Friday night at 7:15 p.m. on Concordia’s home court, where the Storm will face off against the Eclipse. At 9 p.m. the Cyclones take on the Tsunami.

NCAA Div 1 star from Syracuse university Kris Joseph will make his debut appearance for the Eclipse alongside Max Joseph, a fundamentally sound guard from Valparaiso University.

This week there are no saturday games. Tickets for Friday’s night game cost $7 for adults and $5 for children ages 8-17. For children under the age of 7, admission is free.

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