It’s no coincidence that the rise of the Canadian Elite Basketball League has mirrored the journey of its three-time MVP Xavier Moon.
Heading into its fourth season, the CEBL is already proving its worth within the professional basketball landscape.
Moon, a back-to-back champion with the Edmonton Stingers, became just the third former CEBL player to sign an NBA two-way contract after securing a deal with the Los Angeles Clippers in March.
Mike Morreale, Commissioner and CEO of the CEBL, knows the scarcity of opportunities in the NBA, which is why developing pathways for players like Moon to climb the basketball ladder is one of the goals of the league early on in its existence.
“As you know, there’s a lot of basketball players that dream to be in the NBA,” Morreale said in a video interview. “So to provide a platform for those guys, and for all of our players to achieve their goals is really important.”
Moon has been on quite the ride since going undrafted in 2017. He made multiple stops overseas in Europe and even plied his trade with the London Lightning of the National Basketball League of Canada before joining the Stingers in 2019 where he would become a star of the CEBL.
The Goodwater, Alabama, native did not know what kind of journey awaited him when he first ventured north of the border.
“I knew it was cold, I knew it was going to be snowing, but other than that I went into it with an open mind but it turned out to be a lot better than what I expected, especially Edmonton in the summer,” Moon told the Observer in a video interview. “I had no expectations at all, I didn’t know anything about Canada besides my uncle playing in Toronto.”
Moon is the nephew of former NBA journeyman Jamario Moon, a man who played a large role in his Xavier’s development.
“Obviously, he’s gone through what I’m going through now,” Xavier said. “So it’s like having a ‘cheat code.’ Whether it’s basketball, or whether it’s life in general, I feel like I could talk to him pretty much about anything.”
Having played three stints with the Stingers from 2019 to 2021, Moon cited the professionalism of both the players and league executives as the reasons why he continued to go back to Edmonton.
“It’s ran the exact way any league should be run,” he said. “The only other league that I would say is better is the NBA, and I’ve told quite a few guys that.”
As someone who has seen firsthand what the CEBL can provide for players hoping to make the jump to the NBA, Moon believes that the league is just getting started.
“More and more players will start going obviously because of what myself, Lindell [Wigginton], Xavier Sneed, and Javin DeLaurier have started as far as getting those ten-days,” Moon said. “It’s only going to get better.”
Sneed and DeLaurier were former teammates on the Niagara River Lions during the 2021 season. Sneed signed a 10-day deal with the Memphis Grizzlies in December, before agreeing to a two-way contract with the Utah Jazz in February. Meanwhile, DeLaurier signed a 10-day with the Milwaukee Bucks.
Wigginton played the 2021 campaign with the Hamilton Honey Badgers. He became the first Canadian from the CEBL to sign a full-season NBA contract when he signed his two-way deal with the Bucks in January.
The gap between the CEBL and the NBA is obviously massive. But with the CEBL entering its fourth season and already having ten teams coast-to-coast, Moon thinks the potential is there for the league to grow with regard to both the quality of play, and its reputation.
“In another four years it’s going to be a top league in the world,” said the guard. “The level from the CEBL to the G-League isn’t really that big.”
Part of the reason behind why the CEBL has been able to punch above its weight is simply due to when the league is in operation.
Ansh Sanyal, the CEBL’s Senior Director of Brand & Marketing, admitted holding the season during the summer was a strategic decision made by the league. Its unique schedule creates a couple of advantages.
“One, we don’t have a ton of competition in terms of other leagues,” Sanyal said in a video interview. “Most leagues play in the fall and winter all across the world. But the second thing also, it instantly elevates our basketball talent.”
And no other talent has elevated the league to new heights like Moon has.
Unfortunately, CEBL fans will not get to witness the two-time CEBL Finals MVP grace their courts this season. Moon revealed he is not planning on running it back with the Stingers when the 2022 campaign tips off.
“Just trying to figure out my role with this [Clippers] team, or if I choose to go somewhere else, what my role would be on another team. Get ready for Summer League,” said Moon when asked about his plans this summer. “Obviously I’ll always have a family with Edmonton, but I think at this time it’s time for me to move forward and try to establish myself in the NBA.”
With Moon putting his focus on his NBA dream, only one question remains: Who’s winning MVP?