CEBL to NBA first? Niagara River Lions’ Javin DeLaurier may get minutes with Milwaukee Bucks

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Published December 23, 2021 at 8:30 pm

Rising COVID-19 cases around the NBA have led to Javin DeLaurier, late of Niagara River Lions, getting a chance to make some history for the Canadian Elite Basketball League.

DeLaurier, a six-foot-10 forward, was signed Thursday by the reigning NBA champion Milwaukee Bucks to a 10-day contract under the COVID-related hardship allowance. That makes DeLaurier the first CEBL alumnus to sign with an NBA team, as well as the first from the River Lions, whose existence predates the launch of the Canadian-made summertime league.

“Javin is a special talent on the basketball court and a remarkable human being,” stated Antwi Atuahene, who is the River Lions’ head of basketball operations and co-general manager. “From Day 1, Javin trusted the River Lions organization and he worked extremely hard to achieve his goals. He is a trailblazer, and I couldn’t be more happy for him.”

Bucks superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo is on the health and safety protocols list. The Bucks, who play the Boston Celtics in a 2:30 p.m. Christmas Day game on Saturday, are also without Donte DiVincenzo, Wesley Matthews and Bobby Portis for the same reason.

The 23-year-old DeLaurier was a CEBL all-star and defensive player of the year finalist last summer, helping the club reach the league final. DeLaurier was a double-double player with averages of 14.8 points, 10.5 rebounds, 1.7 blocks and 1.2 steals in 11 games with the River Lions. The Bucks invited him to training camp in September before he joined their G League farm team, the Wisconsin Herd.

The California native cast his lot with the River Lions after being passed over in the 2020 NBA draft following four seasons of high-major Division 1 college basketball with the fabled Duke Blue Devils. He was a two-year co-captain and a teammate of Mississauga native RJ Barrett, who now starts for the New York Knicks.

“To see a young man accomplish his dream is truly special,” River Lions head coach/co-GM Victor Raso stated. “Javin was counted out coming out of Duke, and within two years turned himself into an NBA player.

“I am thrilled for Javin and his family, and I am incredibly proud of the River Lions organization for helping a young man’s dream become a reality.”

DeLaurier had a run with the Atlanta Hawks in the NBA Summer League. He came back to help the River Lions, whose lineup was in flux all season due to COVID-19 cases and players’ contract obligations in other leagues, advance to the CEBL final in Edmonton.

The CEBL roster rules require 75 per cent of a team to be Canadian, and at least one player to be an active U SPORTS student-athlete. But that keeps space for American and European late-bloomers. Seven CEBL alumni are playing in G League this season.

“It is an honour to play a part in Javin’s journey to the NBA,” CEBL founder Richard Petko said. “To see one of our players graduate to the NBA after so many years is a huge chapter in our history. This is what our league is all about.”

In 12 G-League games with the Herd, DeLaurier has averaged 7.8 points, 6.8 rebounds and 1.4 assists in 17.0 minutes. shooting 60 per cent from the field.

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