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CEBL’s Blackjacks sign Scrubb brothers, veterans of Canadian national team

The Ottawa BlackJacks continue to put the band back together again in the hopes of taking to the court somewhere this summer.

The BlackJacks, Ottawa’s new entry in the Canadian Elite Basketball League, enhanced their ex-Carleton Ravens flavor Thursday, signing brothers Thomas and Philip Scrubb, along with Kaza Kajami-Keane, to contracts Thursday.

The team completed its four-pack of signings by adding Johnny Berhanemeskel, a former University of Ottawa Gee-Gees star who had his share of fierce battles versus the Ravens over the years. “We want the best players available that fit the culture we have,” said BlackJacks coach Osvaldo Jeanty, a former Ravens star himself, who says all the players have developed significantly since their university heydeys. “These guys are all doing well in Europe, playing professionally in the highest leagues.”

The big question, of course, is whether they will get a chance to play together. Like everything else in the spring and summer of novel coronavirus, the BlackJacks are waiting and wondering when they’ll be allowed into a gym to shoot baskets.

At this point, that possibility looms like a long-range three-pointer. It’s a longshot.

If, however, the world opens up sufficiently, the Blackjacks will have significant name and game power on their side.

The Scrubbs own legendary status at Carleton, teaming up to help the Ravens win five consecutive CIS titles.

Philip, 27, is the only three-time winner of the CIS most valuable player award and has played for Canada’s national team.

Thomas Scrubb, 28, is what Jeanty describes as “a Swiss Army knife”, capable of playing a variety of positions. He has a history of shutting down opponents, twice acquiring the CIS defensive player of the year award. He played last campaign in Strasbourg.

Kajami-Keane, 26, also won two national titles at Carleton and has played for the national team. He played last season in Le Mans.

“He’s an elite competitor and he knows how to win,” said Jeanty. “He does everything at a high level.” Then there’s Berhanemeskel, who could very well have his own national university titles to talk about if not for the fact he was repeatedly up versus the powerhouse Ravens.

Berhanemeskel, 29, was CIS player of the year in 2015. When he left university, he was the Gee-Gees all-time scoring leader.

He also played in France last season.

While all of the above are likely eventually going back to Europe, Jeanty says the opportunity to play in a professional league in Canada during the summer also holds its charms.

As to whether Priestman — who helped develop the next generation of Canadian stars on the team — could be lured back, it is unlikely. She may be in line for the top job in her home country, as England’s current coach Phil Neville has one year remaining on his contract with The Lionesses.

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