The Fraser Valley Bandits dove deep into the Abbotsford basketball talent pool at the unveiling of the first-ever Canadian Elite Basketball League draft on Saturday, choosing two local stars in rounds one and two of the event.
Yale Secondary grads Joel Friesen and Marek Klassen were the club’s first and second round draft picks at the event, which was conducted in Hamilton on March 16.
The Bandits earlier won the CEBL’s inaugural draft lottery and made history by picking Friesen as the first-ever first overall draft pick.
Friesen helped lead the Yale Lions to a 3A senior boys basketball title in 2008, and was also named the most valuable player of that tournament.
He then went on to star for the then-UCFV Cascades, carrying the team to its first-ever appearance in the Canada West final four in 2012. He moved onto the University of Alberta Golden Bears, and was a part of a Canada West championship team in Edmonton back in 2013.
Friesen officially turned pro in 2015, signing with the Niagara River Lions of the National Basketball League of Canada. He was later dealt to the Halifax Hurricanes and won a NBLC championship in 2016, before joining the NBLC’s London Lightning, which won rings in 2017 and 2018. He is currently playing on the Kitchener Waterloo Titans, and is averaging 16 points per game, five rebounds and three assists. He’s also shooting an impressive 49 per cent from the field, including 44 per cent from beyond the arc.
“It’s an honour to be drafted first overall in the CEBL,” Friesen stated in a press release. “Seven years ago, I left Abbotsford in pursuit of a basketball dream. It was never easy to leave in the first place, but my passion for the game has driven me to do whatever it takes to be successful. Now that same dream has brought my career full circle and I couldn’t be happier.”
He led the Lions to a 3A senior boys provincial title in 2010, and was also named the tournament’s MVP.
He played his college ball for the Point Loma Nazarene University Sea Lions, earning a third team conference all-star mention for the NCAA Division II school in 2015. He also helped the Sea Lions win a National Christian Colleges Athletic Association championship in 2014.
From there, he also played professionally in both Romania and England before landing in Turkey.
The Bandits also selected: Diego Kapelan, Dallin Bachynski, Rashaun Broadus, Conor Morgan, Levon Kendall, Ransford Brempong, Maurice Jones, Troy Gottselig, Elijah Foster, Mason Bourcier and Grant Shephard.
Kapelan, who led Vancouver’s King George Secondary School to a provincial title in 2005, played university basketball at McNeese State in Louisiana, and also played professionally in Bosnia, Greece, Spain, Lithuania and the NBLC.
Bachynski, a Calgary native, played university basketball in Utah, and has played professionally in England, the NBA G-League, Japan and other parts of Europe.
Broadus, who hails from Seattle, played university basketball at BYU and played professionally in Europe, Lithuania and the NBLC.
Morgan, a Victoria native, played at UBC and this past season played professionally in Spain.
Vancouver native Kendall won three straight provincial titles with Kitsilano, and has played professionally in Europe and Puerto Rico. He has also represented Canada on the international stage.
Brempong, a Brampton native, played college basketball with Western Carolina and professionally in Europe. He most recently played with the St. John’s Edge of the NBLC.
Jones played for both USC and Northwood in the NCAA, and has played in the NBLC since 2016.
Gottselig won a CIS national championship with the Saskatchewan Huskies in 2010, and played six years in Europe and also professionally in Canada.
Foster, a Seattle native, finished up four seasons with the NCAA’s Nevada Wolfpack in 2018.
Bourcier and Shepherd are both Kelowna natives and are the U Sports players chosen by the Bandits. The pair currently play on the UBC Thunderbirds.
For more on the team, visit thebandits.ca.