Vancouver Bandits Set Sights on CEBL Championship with ‘DAWG’ Mentality

“C’mon, dog, you know we’re excited,” The Bandit’s newest signing, Giorgi Bezhanishvili, bellowed amidst the excitement and anticipation of his first practice with the Vancouver Bandits, the team couldn’t help but show a surge of excitement at being able to join the ranks of esteemed players like Stockton Kings guard D.J Steward, as well as Bandit’s mainstays, Alex Campbell and Malcolm Duvivier.

Giorgi Bezhanishvili warms up for practice.
DJ Steward preparing to receive a pass in practice.
Nick Ward taking to DJ Steward in-between drills.

The Bandit’s organization has consistently set new benchmarks in the relatively short history of the Canadian Elite Basketball League (CEBL), and their team is filled with former NBA G League players, leading members of Team Canada, U SPORTS all-Canadians, and an experienced year-round coach, Kyle Julius – a true testament to their commitment to excellence. 

With such an impressive roster, the Bandits are without a doubt primed for success and poised to make a run for the championship. The news of Julius’s return as a coach for the Bandits only added to the sense of optimism and enthusiasm that filled the air after their initial practice session. Having led the team to the championship game in 2020, Julius is well-versed in the tactics and strategies needed to bring home the coveted title. All eyes are on Vancouver, and with their talented roster and skilled coaching staff, there’s no doubt that they have what it takes to rise to the top.

Coach Kyle Julius talking to Bandits staff members before practice.

Coach Julius was asked about the 2020 championship run and he stated that changes were made to the roster to ensure success this season.

“We thought we had something special that year, and what we try to do is simulate that but then try to upgrade talent, size and shooting, and I believe we’ve done that. Hopefully, we can have the same success that the team had,” said Julius. 

Julius is embracing a “dog” mentality that has become synonymous with championship-calibre teams in the sport. The term is one that the team has run away with early in training camp. 

“Dogs is the highest compliment in basketball culture, and it’s a respectful term that means that the player is committed and selfless, resilient, loyal and tough, and those are qualities I look for. Talent and ability come second to those qualities,” Julius told the press. 

Vancouver is the host city for the CEBL Championship Weekend, the privilege provides the Bandits with a bye into the semi-finals. Although it is a privilege to skip the play-in tournament, Julius is heading into the season with the mindset of proving that the team belongs, with or without the bye. 

“We want to earn every win, every possession the only thing that matters is the next game. We don’t want that bye… There’s a lot of pressure with that opportunity, and with pressure comes responsibility, and we want to earn it every day,” Julius stated.

As the season opener draws near, the community is eagerly anticipating the thrilling brand of basketball that the Bandits are known for. However, it’s not just about the game itself – the organization has committed to growing basketball and supporting young athletes. They have become a fixture at the B.C. Basketball Provincial Tournament, and are actively involved in schools to work with and inspire youth. Overall, the Bandits are not just a team, but an important part of the community.

It’s that exact grassroots mentality of community growth that brought Kyle Julius back onto Bandit’s bench.

“I jumped at this opportunity because of the work in the community, our level of play and the commitment to building a great team and the new ownership. You put those together and I truly believe this is one of the best jobs you can have,” said Julius 

The team’s mindset extends to its roster, which includes talented athletes from British Columbia. These players have grown since they first competed for provincial titles in the same arena where they will now wear the Bandit’s jersey. 

Grant Shepard in-between practice drills.
Diego Maffia warming up for practice.
Brian Wallack shooting around before practice.

“One thing I just reflected on is that all three of us have gone through provincial teams, and it was always in these gyms. One thing that’s cool to now reflect on is that we’re playing on a professional team in the same gym when we were in grades 10,11,12,” said forward Brian Wallack. 

The Bandit’s fifth season kicks off in Winnipeg Saturday, May 27th and then they will host the Calgary Surge at home on Saturday, June 3rd, at the Langley Events Centre.

Tejpaul Garcha

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