A Breakdown of Mathieu Kamba’s Semifinals Performance

Mathieu Kamba came into the 2020 Summer Series severely underrated. He had an absolute monster season for the Edmonton Stingers and in my opinion was the biggest snub for an All-CEBL Team. He was the 2nd leading scorer on the team, played an incredible game vs the Ottawa BlackJacks in the semifinal and was responsible for Edmonton’s first ever Elam game winner.

Here’s a bit of backstory before I jump into the clips. In 2019 Kamba unfortunately had to miss the Stingers semifinal. They lost by 2 to the eventual inaugural Canadian Elite Basketball League Champions the Saskatchewan Rattlers. Defensively or offensively, Kamba affects that game more than 2 points in either direction. There definitely would have been a different outcome.

Fast forward to 2020 and it feels like Kamba was looking for some retribution for his previous absence. Kamba was the player of the game vs Ottawa. Let’s break down his performance.

His first basket of the game came on an inbounds play. There’s a couple soft screens set by Daniels and Kamba. By the time Kamba gets the ball at the top of the arc, all four of his teammates are outside the 3-point line. There is no help defense at all. Kamba’s first step is quick, he gets right around Shaquille Keith and gets to the rim for an and-1 play. (He also made the free-throw!) 

All GIFs via CBC and the CEBL

Here we see Kamba’s first steal of the game. Kamba is watching Olivier Hanlan try and break down Jordan Baker on the wing. (Maybe a little too eagerly, Lloyd Pandi slips behind him) He sees Baker poke the ball away from Hanlan and Kamba is first to the loose ball. That earlier Pandi slip actually benefits the Stingers as Munis Tutu is the only defender in a 3-on-1. Kamba gives it to Moon who lobs it back to Kamba for an early double digit lead.

Kamba spends most of his time in the corner. On this play he’s on the weak side. His defender, Johnny Berhanemeskel, moves all the way inside the key as a help defender as Mambi Diawara drives the ball. (To help on Baker in case Scrubb had to help defend.) This puts Johnny way too far away from Kamba. Diawara identifies this and throws it across for an easy 3. Johnny “Buckets” had no chance to recover.

On this play, Kamba gets just enough body on Hanlan (and Baker help defends really well) to discourage a drive to the hoop. Hanlan pulls up and misses the shot and the Stingers quickly head the other way. Kamba runs to the corner where he usually sets up shop and the Stingers get a quick 3-point attempt from the other side. I’ll highlight this last part, sometimes the defenders forget about him and don’t box him out. Kamba loves to earn offensive rebounds this way. He slips by Hanlan for the board and gets mugged in the process.

Kamba is in the corner again. Travis Daniels has the ball on the opposite block. When he gets doubled by Moon’s man, Scrubb, Daniels kicks it out. The Blackjacks are forced to rotate men to prevent an open 3, but the Stingers swing the ball too quickly to Kamba on the other side. Scrubb has to recover all the way to Kamba, who just sidesteps the defender and shouts “TATUM!” as the ball falls through the hoop.

The Stingers kept switching defenses every few possessions. Here they were in a matchup zone. Hanlan tries to force a drive by Moon and through Kareem South but he loses the ball. Kamba recovers it and earns an assist as South finishes nicely with a couple defenders around him.

Once again, Kamba is in the corner ready to strike. A lot of action is happening on the strong side. Eventually Brody Clarke starts backing down his man on the opposite block. Kamba cuts from the corner up to the wing. This will either pull his man further away from helping or give a better angle for an outlet pass. I  this case Johnny follows but stays close to the key (Johnny always seems to help too far off of Kamba in this game.) Clarke kicks it out to Moon who chucks it over to Kamba for another 3 over the shorter defender.

A turnover by Ottawa in the backcourt causes some mismatches in this halfcourt set. Kamba is (salivating) in the corner. TJ Lall doubles Travis Daniels on the far side. When Daniels passes to Moon at the top, Lall doesn’t recover and both him and Hanlan stay with Daniels. This causes the defense to rotate. When the ball is swung over to Kamba, it’s Kyle Landry there to defend him. Kamba easily bursts by him on the baseline side and rises for the dunk. (Also notice the seal by Clarke in the key.)

The Stingers use Kamba as their defensive weapon. His main assignment most of the game was Tommy Scrubb, or when he was off the floor then it became Johnny Buckets. On this play he has perfect defensive positioning. He uses his chest to prevent any progress from Scrubb, and he doesn’t reach. Scrubb is forced to throw up a tough turnaround jumpshot that goes off the front of the rim. I absolutely love watching defensive execution like this, I jump out of my seat JUST HYPED as my family stare at me in confusion.

Clarke eventually gets the rebound here. Peter-McNeilly leads a bit of a slow break. There are defenders all around Moon and Daniels but nobody picks up Kamba. He buries the 3 from the wing while shouting “HIBACHI” probably.

Kamba doesn’t do anything exceptional on this play, I just want to talk about Peter-McNeilly for this one. Kamba creeps up from the corner to the wing. There is a lot of action on the strong side of the floor. Kamba gets the ball for a second before earning an assist. Peter-McNeilly comes around the top of a Clarke screen to bury a deep 3. Even though his shooting percentages were down a bit from the 2019 campaign, Adika Peter-McNeilly loves to chuck from downtown. He actually has the most 3 point makes out of anyone in a Stinger jersey all-time. I’m glad to have our 6th man back for 2021!

Here’s another fantastic defensive clip. Berhanemeskel runs from one corner and above the arc to the other corner anticipating a hand-off. Kamba shadows him the whole way and vehemently prevents that from happening, Johnny doesn’t touch the ball on the possession. Instead, Keith does an iso but Adika discourages any path to the rim, allowing him to instead throw up a difficult (and very poor) attempt from the top of the arc. Defensive stats can be overrated and misleading. Plays like this are what matters.

Tutu has the ball on a bit of a quick half court set for Ottawa. He drives into the key and puts up a shot around a few yellow jerseys. Kamba probably should have blocked out Keith from getting around him, but with rebounding machine Baker under the basket he decides to leak instead. It pays off because Baker gets the board and throws a long pass down the court. Kamba finishes the play with an athletic layup around the smaller Hanlan.

Just like all game Kamba is in the corner. (At the top of the GIF this time.) Once again his defender seems to forget about him. When Adika puts up the 3, Kamba runs right around Scrubb as he hunts for the offensive board. For the 2nd time this game he’s fouled on the rebound attempt.

The Elam Ending is approaching and the Stingers push their lead. Keith gets the rebound on the Stingers miss but Kamba decides to pick him up full court. Keith is caught focusing a little bit too much up court and Kamba swats the ball away. He earns his 3rd steal of the game and gets it to Moon before falling out of bounds. Moon gets it to Baker for another easy score!

Kamba’s teammates do most of the damage in Elam time. Edmonton is 5 points away from victory at this point. Off the rebound, Ottawa’s defensive focus is a bit poor. Hanlan allows Kamba to jog right by him. He just forgets he’s there. Baker just easily throws an alley-oop to Kamba who gently places the ball into the basket.

On the very next offensive possession Moon hits a 3 to end the game. The Edmonton Stingers defeated the Ottawa Blackjacks 88-75 and earned their first ever playoff victory!

Kamba finished with 26 points on 9-12 shooting (4-6 from 3, 4-5 from the line), 3 rebounds (2 offensive), 3 assists, 3 steals and 0 turnovers. Mathieu Kamba also.had the biggest jump in points per game put of all player that returned from year 1 (7.7 to 12.9) He’s a man of few words but he lets his play do the talking. He looks more than ready to cement his place as an elite defender AND scorer in this league. 

Watch for Kamba and the Stingers to defend their title. The season is only a couple weeks away!

Your 2021 FC Edmonton Primer

The last time FC Edmonton played in a single site tournament, they earned the right to select Thomas Gardner with the first overall draft pick. The last time an Edmonton team played consecutive games in Winnipeg, they left empty handed. Fans, things can only get better!

The Canadian Premier League is adamant that the 2021 season will only be a single site tournament for the first eight games of each team’s respective regular season all played at Winnipeg’s IG Field. Smartly the league focused this “kickoff schedule” on games that otherwise would have required cross country travel. That means if and when the League returns to Clarke Stadium that Eddies fans can expect Alberta rival Cavalry FC and western rival Pacific FC to be among their first opponents. The last game played at Clarke Stadium was October 16th, 2019 and was a 3-1 victory versus the team from British Columbia.

Here’s the Eddies “kickoff schedule”, listed start times are Edmonton time:

Sat. June 26 FC Edmonton vs. Atletico Ottawa noon
Thu. July 1 FC Edmonton vs. Forge FC  6 pm
Sun. July 4 FC Edmonton vs. York United noon
Sat. July 10 HFX Wanderers FC vs. FC Edmonton noon
 Wed. July 14 Forge FC vs. FC Edmonton  8 pm
 Sun. July 18 Atletico Ottawa vs. FC Edmonton  5:30 pm
Wed. July 21 FC Edmonton vs. HFX Wanderers FC 5 pm
Sat. July 24 York United vs. FC Edmonton 3 pm

NEW KITS

As a fan who calls the sport soccer instead of football, learning the lingo can be confusing. An example is the word “kit” is used instead of “jersey”. Here is the 2021 “kit”.

ROSTER REFRESHER

The graphic supplied by Martikinen Sugar Fingers Siembiwskiey shows an unofficial depth chart as a visual aid for Eddies fans. The listed roster on the Eddies website and the above graphic do not include the latest signing by the Club centre back Hunter Gorskie.

To watch the “kickoff games”, the league is once again using One Soccer to stream the games. What a return to Clarke Stadium will look like in regards to fans in attendance and Covid-related rules is to be determined over the next several weeks.

It is okay to be cautiously optimistic about life and your FC Edmonton team.

CEBL Basketball is Back – Edmonton Stingers Roster Breakdown

It’s that time of the year again! CEBL Basketball is returning to the hardwood for its third season. It’s been a long and tumultuous road for the Canadian Elite Basketball League, which kicked off in the Summer of 2019. The Edmonton Stingers will take the court with 13 players on their roster as of June 6; 7 of which are returning to the Stingers following their memorable Championship victory in the 2020 CEBL Summer Series. The Stingers have also brought in 3 USPORTS Players, 2 new players to the CEBL, and 1 player from another team. Without further a due, let us introduce you to the Stingers 2021 roster.

The OG’s – Players Returning for Year 3

via Basketball Buzz

The Stingers will be bringing 5 players back who appeared on the Inaugural Season roster. Starting off, Xavier Moon. Moon is the current reigning back-to-back MVP, Finals MVP and two-time All Star for the Stingers. Undoubtedly the best player to ever play CEBL basketball, Moon is renowned for his incredible speed, pull-up jump-shot, shifty handles, playmaking abilities, and his “score-at-will” abilities. Moon is coming off averages of 19.5 points per game, 4.5 assists per game and 1.8 steals per game on 52% FG% and 50% 3P% in the Summer Series. Moon is undoubtedly the leader of this team and the player to watch as the Stingers take on the task of defending the title. Moon is also coming off an incredible season in Israel where he averaged 24.5 points, 6.6 rebounds, 4.4 assists and 2.4 steals per game.

Mathieu Kamba will make his return for the Stingers this year. Kamba is coming off a breakthrough season with the Stingers where he established himself as one of Canada’s best players. Kamba impressed with his dunks, three point shooting, and defensive abilities. Kamba was largely credited for the Stingers victory and was dubbed “Unsung Hero”. Kamba is coming off a season in Spain where he averaged 12.9 points per game in one of the worlds top leagues.

Jordan Baker returns to the Stingers as the team’s captain. Baker, the hometown hero, is coming off a season with the Stingers that had him named “Canadian Player of the Year”. Baker was also runner-up to Xavier Moon for the MVP award. Baker’s claim to fame is his relentless rebounding, hustle, leadership and court vision. Baker averaged a league high 9.4 rebounds per game last season, and was instrumental in ELAM ending time for the Stingers. Watch for Baker to be a key playmaker for the Stingers, who have many capable scorers, but are a bit weaker when it comes to floor generals, aside from Adika Peter-McNeilly.

On the topic of Adika Peter-McNeilly, the Stingers three-point shooting floor general makes his return to the Stingers, where he’ll likely serve a sixth man role similar to that of Jordan Clarkson on the Utah Jazz. McNeilly will be tasked with coming in off the bench, giving the Stingers a spark from the three point line, and being a consistent and solid ball-handler. McNeilly has certainly earned an increased role with the Stingers, but the depth of the team makes it difficult to see APM playing extended minutes.

The final OG returning to the Stingers is big man Zac Overwater. Popularized by fans as “Zac Goaterwater”, the Didsbury native has been described as “the glue guy” for the Stingers. Overwater earned a spot on the Stingers roster due to his attitude and off-court influence, and he had a very solid showing, proving to be an underrated asset for the Stingers. Overwater shocked everyone with a dominant season in Spain, where he averaged 18.7 points and 9.2 rebounds per game. Overwater will be looking at an increased role if he can outplay Sascha Kappos, with the Stingers being down two bigs in Travis Daniels and Brody Clarke.

The Return of the Champions

via CEBL

The Stingers will be bringing back two players who joined the Stingers for their Championship run. First off, Kareem South returns after an underrated showing in the Summer Series. South apparently turned heads in the coaching staff for his relentless effort and underrated contributions to winning in his limited minutes. While his stats won’t blow you away, watching a game of Kareem South will tell you all you need to know about the former California Golden Bear. South is a relentless player with the hustle of someone who wants to be great.

The second returning player for the Stingers is Sascha Kappos. Kappos was the Stingers first round draft pick in the USports draft last season, and is one of the only players from the USports draft in 2020 to return to his team on a professional contract. Kappos turned heads in his mere minutes on the court. His 6’11 frame makes him a potential-filled bomb waiting to explode inevitably. He can shoot, defend, play off the ball and clog the paint on defence. Kappos is potentially the most intriguing player on the Stingers roster, his potential makes his an interesting choice for Coach Smalls to give playing time. Kappos could follow former Stinger Brody Clarke’s path in taking an increased role following a strong USPORTS showing. Time will tell, but Kappos could be a superstar if he fulfills his potential.

New Guys In Town

via Brady Skeens Twitter

The Stingers brought two new players into the CEBL this year. First off was Jahmal Jones. Jones is a veteran point guard with tons of overseas experience in high level leagues. Jones will likely be an on-ball playmaker that provides relief to Xavier Moon and Adika Peter-McNeilly. His high IQ also makes him an interesting fit alongside Jordan Baker. One could draw comparisons between the two players. It’s hard to say what Jones will get as far as minutes. He could be second man off the bench, he could be bench warmer, the depth of the Stingers at the guard position makes him an uncertainty at this point in the season.

The second player added to the CEBL by the Stingers is Brady Skeens. Skeens is a Dennis Rodman-like rebounding machine, except he can score too. With Jordan Baker and Brady Skeens on the court at the same time, the Stingers are sure to collect a ton of rebounds on both ends of the floor. I wouldn’t expect Skeens to shoot too often due to the weapons the Stingers have, but he’s certainly capable. Watch for Skeens to potentially average more rebounds than he does points.

The Dunk King

via CEBL

Marlon Johnson. If you watched the inaugural season of the CEBL at all you’ll know who that is. Johnson made waves by signing with the already stacked Stingers, and is reportedly fired up to play with Xavier Moon. Johnson is a threat no matter where he is on the floor. The 2019 CEBL Champion can throw down nasty dunks, play lockdown defence, defend the rim like nobody in the league, and has been widely dubbed the most NBA ready player to touch the CEBL. Look for the energy to go through the roof when Johnson gets on the court with Xavier Moon and the Stingers.

The Kids

The Stingers selected Alex Carson, DeAndrae Pierre and Colton Gibb as their three USports players. While there’s a chance they’ll see some court time, it’s more likely that these signings are for developmental purposes before anything. The Stingers are contenders and will probably look to feed their minutes to their veterans for the time being. Still we will certainly watch these players closely as they look to earn themselves a full professional contract from the Stingers or any team.