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Basketball. (BRIAN SNYDER/REUTERS)
Basketball. (BRIAN SNYDER/REUTERS)

Trio of Canadian teams launch new league Add to ...

Three Canadian basketball teams are banking on the prospects of a new professional league in the country.

The Halifax Rainmen, Saint John Mill Rats and Quebec Kebs have joined forces to form the National Basketball League, set to begin its inaugural season in October.

While numerous basketball franchises and leagues in Canada have failed to survive in the past, Andre Levingston is confident this will be the one to buck the trend.

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"We thought the time was right," Levingston, the president and chief executive officer of the Rainmen, said in a phone interview from Halifax. "There's definitely a thirst and passion for the game of basketball in the country.

"We thought, if there ever was going to be a time to do it, it was now. The country needs it and wants it and we want to bring it to them."

The Rainmen, Mill Rats and Kebs - who all left the Premier Basketball League after this past season amid complaints of poor management - are the league's only three teams thus far.

But Levingston said he's received commitments from the Ontario cities of Kingston, London and Barrie, and has had interest from officials in the Ontario cities of Oshawa, Windsor and Kitchener, along with Moncton and Fredericton.

A league stipulation would place at least two Canadian players on each team.

The World Basketball League - which included six Canadian teams - was founded in 1987, by a group that included Basketball Hall of Famer and Boston Celtics great Bob Cousy. That league, which had a height restriction of 6 foot 5 and under, folded in 1992.

The all-Canadian National Basketball League, which included eight teams, started up the same year, but barely got off the ground, folding after less than two seasons.

"I don't know why the other leagues failed," Levingston said. "We feel we have timing on our side, for one, and I don't know if the teams were getting the corporate support that we're getting, and I guarantee you they wouldn't be sitting with these individuals in the '90s that we had today with us."

One of those individuals was Sam Mitchell. The former Toronto Raptors head coach, a long-time friend and business associate of Levingston's, was at Thursday's news conference in Halifax to announce the new league.

The Rainmen, Levingston said, averaged more than 4,000 fans a game last season.

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