Top-level basketball in Saskatchewan has a long history in the province. Professionally, Saskatchewan has seen three teams in four leagues. The first was the Saskatchewan Storm, who played in the World Basketball League from 1990 until the league's collapse in 1992. The Storm played the majority of its games at what is now known as Credit Union Centre in Saskatoon. However, each season a few games were played at what is now known as the Brandt Centre in Regina. The WBL was a summer league created in 1988, which featured teams in many states and in Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario and Nova Scotia. The unique thing about the WBL was it also had a height restriction for its players. When the Storm entered the league in 1990, the height restriction was set at 6 feet 5 inches (196 cm). In its final season, the WBL had raised the restriction to 6 feet 7 inches (201 cm).
With the failure of the WBL, the owners of the Canadian teams met and created a new league called the National Basketball League. The feeling in Saskatoon was that the franchise needed a new image to help people forget about the failure in 1992. A fan "name the team" contest was held and the winning entry was the Saskatoon Slam. The team no longer needed to appeal to the entire province as the Storm had, therefore held their entire home schedule in Saskatoon at what is now known as Credit Union Centre. The NBL tipped off in 1993 and featured teams in Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec and Nova Scotia. Unlike the WBL, the league had no height restriction and as a result teams featured players over the 7-foot (210 cm) mark. The league was fraught with problems during its initial season and saw the Montreal Dragons fold early into the inaugural campaign and the Hamilton Skyhawks moved to Edmonton for their playoff games. As well, the entire 1993 NBL Final was held in Saskatoon, as the Cape Breton Breakers did not have enough money to travel back to Sydney, Nova Scotia, for their home games. In the best-of-five series, Saskatoon did win the championship three games to one and in the process won the only professional league title in Saskatoon's history. The NBL returned for a second season in 1994, but folded part way through that season.
Professional basketball was essentially non-existent in Saskatchewan in the years between 1994 and 1999. The Toronto Raptors played the Atlanta Hawks in a National Basketball Association pre-season contest at what is now known as the Credit Union Centre, in the fall of 1995. The Winnipeg Cyclones and Minot Magic City Snowbears of the International Basketball Association staged an exhibition game at what is now known as Credit Union Centre in the fall of 1996. As well the Harlem Globetrotters held various shows during those years.
In January 2000, the Mansfield Hawks of the International Basketball Association, moved to Saskatoon mid-way through the 1999–2000 season to become the Saskatchewan Hawks. The IBA was a league that was based mainly in the Midwestern United States, with the lone Canadian team prior to Saskatchewan's entry, being the Winnipeg Cyclone. The Hawks finished the 1999–2000 season at what is now known as the Credit Union Centre and played the 2000–01 season in the IBA as well. During the 2000–01 season, a rival league called the Continental Basketball Association folded due to what is thought of as mismanagement by the league owner Isiah Thomas. During the summer of 2001, a group of former CBA owners purchased the assets of the league. In order to field teams for the 2001–02 season, the CBA ownership convinced the Hawks' IBA and another league, the International Basketball League to merge and many of its member clubs became CBA teams. The Hawks were one of these clubs to join the CBA. The Hawks' poor performance on the court, coupled with poor attendance figures, saw the team quietly fold during the summer of 2002.
Briefly, Saskatoon held another professional basketball team, the Saskatchewan Prairie Wolves. The team was intended to play in the International Basketball League during the 2008 season. The prospective ownership ran into problems with various factors surrounding the franchise and the team was quietly folded in March 2007.
Top level amateur basketball is also featured in Saskatchewan. The University of Regina Cougars and the University of Saskatchewan Huskies are men's and women's teams which compete in Canadian Interuniversity Sport. The Saskatchewan Huskies have yet to win any CIS championships in basketball. The Regina Cougars, success has been greater than Huskies on the national stage, however nearly as brief. The Cougars' women's team won the CIS championship in the 2000–01 season. The CIS women's basketball tournament was held in Saskatchewan in March 2008, with the University of Saskatchewan hosting the tournament.
Lastly, one of the most prestigious boys high school tournaments is held in Saskatchewan. The Bedford Road Invitational Tournament boys high school basketball tournament is held at Bedford Road Collegiate in Saskatoon in early January every year. This tournament has featured teams from across Canada, the United States, Australia and as of 2008 Taiwan. The most famous team to ever participate at BRIT was the New York Gauchos AAU team, which featured a number of future NCAA and NBA stars on its roster.
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Famous quotes containing the word basketball:
“Perhaps basketball and poetry have just a few things in common, but the most important is the possibility of transcendence. The opposite is labor. In writing, every writer knows when he or she is laboring to achieve an effect. You want to get from here to there, but find yourself willing it, forcing it. The equivalent in basketball is aiming your shot, a kind of strained and usually ineffective purposefulness. What you want is to be in some kind of flow, each next moment a discovery.”
—Stephen Dunn (b. 1939)