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TORONTO — Count Mike Morreale among supporters of a women's basketball league in Canada.
The commissioner and CEO of the nine-team men's Canadian Elite Basketball League said he's had conversations with Canada Basketball and others about the potential of developing a women's league.
"I certainly believe that there's a place for a women's league, as do many other people," Morreale said Friday. "I believe in what it can do for the development of Canadian basketball at all levels, including the national team and keeping the women together to be able to have similar opportunities that the men have."
He believes the CEBL, which tipped off as a six-team league in 2019 and has since grown to nine teams, is the ideal vehicle for a women's league.
"The effort that we've done and the lessons we've learned, and the things that we've been able to accomplish with the CEBL on the men's side, allow us to assist in the development of a women's league a little bit more easier than let's say from scratch," he said.
"A lot of things we can cross off because we've done it, so structurally, from a governance perspective, organizationally, we know we can be play a major cog in it," Morreale added. "We just need other, like-minded groups to assist in helping us get there. There's a lot of people that are making noise, and we want to turn that noise into something real if we can."
At the Canadian team camp a day earlier, Denise Dignard, Canada's Basketball's general manager of women's high performance, said she'd "planted the seed" with Morreale about a women's league.
"Since then, it's germinated," Morreale said of their discussions.
Canada was the only country at the Tokyo Olympics without a domestic women's basketball league. The Canadians were eliminated in the preliminary round and one of the key takeaways was the need for better development and more time together. Apart from the WNBA, playing abroad is the only option for women to play professionally. When the Canadian women's team camp opened this week in Toronto, all but five of the players had to travel internationally from their various pro teams overseas to attend.
Pleas for a WNBA franchise in Toronto have also been rising. Drake posted recently on his Instagram feed: "@WNBA I need a Toronto team."
"(A WNBA team) certainly drives the excitement and awareness, it does what the Raptors have done," Morreal said. "But does it impact in real time the development of women's basketball in Canada, right, or the performance of the national team in the short, medium or long-term?"
The CEBL recently announced new franchises in the Scarborough Shooting Stars and Montreal Alliance.
Morreale said the announcement of a 10th team to play in 2022 could come before the end of the year.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 12, 2021.
Lori Ewing, The Canadian Press