Basketball fans looking forward to the Newfoundland Growlers' inaugural season were given the chance to test out the stands of the team's future home base Saturday.
In an event at the Memorial University Field House in St. John's, season ticket holders could pick out their seats for the team's upcoming first season in the Canadian Elite Basketball League.
It was also an opportunity to meet some of the team members — including Cole Long of St. John's, who was drafted by the Growlers just six days ago — and head coach and general manager Patrick Ewing Jr.
Ewing has been in St. John's only since Friday night but already enjoys the atmosphere.
"As we were landing the plane, I saw a whale jump out of the water. So that was kind of cool," said Ewing.
At Saturday's event, Ewing was busy shaking hands, smiling for photos and talking to fans.
"It's not every day that you get to … pick your seats before the season starts," said Ewing. "I think it's something that they've really enjoyed."
Long, a former MUN Sea-Hawk, said he was happy with the turnout.
"It's really creating a lot of positive energy for the team this year," he said.
Long, who will play forward for the Growlers, was selected third overall by the team at this year's draft, on Tuesday. He was drafted by the Guelph Nighthawks, one of the CEBL teams, in 2021 but an injury stopped him from playing. The two clubs worked out an agreement that allowed him to be selected by the Growlers.
Long said he's excited to get started in the CEBL.
"I'm just going to put all my efforts into it and really try to have a really good start to my professional career again," he said.
The coach is also looking ahead to the season optimistically. He said they want to put on a good show for the fans and win a lot of games.
"Hopefully that translates into a championship but, you know, you never want to put your goals too, too high," said Ewing.
H says he put together a team he believes can be very successful.
That belief will be tested soon enough after the team's training camp in May; its first match of the season, on June 3, will be against the defending league champion Edmonton Stingers.
Ewing said he was happy to learn who their first opponent would be..
"To be the best, you've got to beat the best," said Ewing.
"In order for us to see where we rank with that team … it's going to be a good chance to get us on Game 1."
Long agrees it's a good way to make the league debut.
"It's going to really test us, you know, to start the season and really prepare us for the rest of the league," said Long.
"I wouldn't want any other first game, really."
The season starts May 25, with the championship weekend scheduled to take place in Ottawa on Aug. 12-14.
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