NIAGARA RIVER LIONS
The Niagara River Lions of the Canadian Elite Basketball League (CEBL) announced today their three selections in the CEBL 2021 U Sports Draft, including Emmanuel Owootoah, Lloyd Pandi and Grant Shephard, all having previous experience playing in the CEBL. The partnership between U Sports and the CEBL allows student-athletes the unique opportunity to get their first taste of professional basketball by sharpening their game both on and off the court during the summer months before returning back to their university programs.
With the second pick in the first round, the River Lions selected Emmanuel Owootoah, a 5’11 guard from Brock University for the second year in a row. Owotooah began his collegiate basketball career at NCAA Division 1 School, Fresno State, later transferring to Carleton University where he won a national championship in 2017. Owotooah then made the move to Brock in 2019 where he unfortunately suffered an injury early in the season that did not allow him to play. After being drafted by the River Lions last spring, Owootoah suited up for the 2020 CEBL Summer Series where he averaged 1.6 points and one assist in seven minutes per game.
“Eman was very good for us in the Summer Series last season, and earned more playing time then he received,” said Head Coach and General Manager, Victor Raso. “He has gotten stronger and quicker since last season, and we are expecting him to come in and build off the confidence he gained last year”.
With the sixth pick in the second round, the River Lions selected Lloyd Pandi, a 6’4 guard from Carleton University. Pandi was drafted by the Ottawa Blackjacks during the 2020 CEBL U Sports draft and made an impressive professional debut averaging 8.3 points, 5.3 rebounds, and 1.3 steals in 22 minutes per game. Pandi led the team in steals, field goal percentage (.486) and offensive rebounds (2.3) earning him the title of the 2020 CEBL U Sports Player of the Year. In 2019 he was named 2019-20 U Sports Rookie of the Year after winning a national championship and averaging 15 points, 5.8 rebounds, 1.8 assists and 1.2 steals as a freshman for the Ravens.
“Lloyd is a phenomenal young man, who proved as a U Sports rookie that he can not only play at our level, but contribute to winning in a meaningful way” said Raso. “Lloyd is versatile, tough, and will make us better instantly. We are thrilled to be able to add the U SPORTS Player of the Year to our roster for 2021 and are incredibly excited to have him on board”.
The River Lions final CEBL U Sports draft pick was Grant Shephard, a 6’10 forward from Carleton University. The British Columbia native spent three seasons at the University of British Columbia (UBC) before transferring to the Ravens in 2020. He was recently named to Canada Basketball’s senior men’s national team for the third FIBA AmeriCup 2022 Qualifier that took place in Puerto Rico a couple of months ago. Shepherd was drafted by the Fraser Valley Bandits during the 2019 inaugural CEBL Draft.
“We were thrilled to be able to add Grant to our program this summer. As an athletic forward with great size, we believe Grant will bolster our front court and challenge our bigs for playing time immediately” said Raso. “Grant is someone that we would like to help in his development process and keep in our program for years to come”.
The River Lions recently announced the schedule for the 2021 season set to tip off in June. The CEBL is preparing for its third season in 2021 following the success of the 2020 CEBL Summer Series hosted in St. Catharines, which saw a record 1.2 million viewers across Canada tune in to four days of live programming on CBC.