Sudbury Five unveil 2019-20 schedule

Braylon Rayson, right, of the Sudbury Five, drives to the basket against Marcus Lewis, of the Moncton Magic, during basketball action at the Sudbury Community Arena in Sudbury, Ont. on Thursday March 21, 2019. John Lappa/Sudbury Star/Postmedia Network

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The Sudbury Five will tip off their second season in the National Basketball League of Canada on home court this Nov. 22, against the defending-champion Moncton Magic.

Game time is 7 p.m.

The Five, along with the rest of the NBLC, revealed their entire 2019-20 schedule on Wednesday.

“It has been a long road, but we’re delighted with the schedule that we have got,” said Bob Johnston, Five vice-president of basketball operations. “I think it’s going to be a fabulous year.”

The home game against Moncton is one of three special pre-season contests the Five will play before Christmas, along with a visit to Moncton on Dec. 7 and a home tilt against the KW Titans, also 7 p.m. starts. While they won’t count towards the regular-season standings, the Sudbury squad intends to dress its complete lineup and has planned a full slate of game-night activities, in an effort to create maximum value for fans.

“We’re hoping to work towards a sellout for that first game,” Johnston said. “There’s a lot of interest in our team and we’re going to be playing from that game and right through the entire schedule to win each game. They’re all important.”

The NBLC regular season begins with a trip to Kitchener-Waterloo on Dec. 28, then a home game against the London Lightning on Dec. 30, again at 7 p.m.

“All things said, our schedule is an excellent schedule,” Johnston said. “Personally, I would like to see more intensity as far as games starting in November and long term, I would like to see games even moving towards a late-October start, delayed from hockey season, but I would like to see the league get into games even earlier.”

While some NBLC teams believe sharing their markets with hockey clubs, such as the Sudbury Wolves, will negatively affect attendance, Johnston said that hasn’t been the case for the Five. Indeed, despite a historic season for their sister franchise in 2018-19, the Five remained one of their league’s most reliable draws, fourth of 10 teams in average attendance with 2,048 fans per game.

“The two weeks leading up to Christmas, even in our market, can be a tough sell, so that is where many teams in the league have pushed towards more games after Christmas.”

The early part of Sudbury’s schedule includes several games on the road, including seven of 10 in January and five of eight in February, but the team will enjoy a lengthy homestand of seven straight games from mid-March to early April, and return to the road only twice more prior to the end of the regular season.

“There’s a lot of elements that come into a schedule,” Johnston explained. “This is a professional league that requires travel and when you’re flying to St. John’s and flying to the Atlantic provinces, there are considerations of how you string games together. We think that we have a very good schedule as far as the way games are spaced out. We’re going to be more road-tested early, but because we’re starting in November with a full training camp, we’ll get our first games under us in November and December and we think we’re going to be fully prepared to have a decent record after we get a lot of those road games out of the way.”

The later string of home games will be touted as a March Madness-style stretch — one of several new promotions the Five have planned for the coming season.

“We have some good dates, a number of Saturdays in March, as well, and I think we’re going to build some big gates,” Johnston said. “One of the objectives this year is to partner with different cultural groups in our community to support some of these games and we’re hoping to really be strategic in the way we build our gates throughout the season.”

The Five have scheduled a press conference for next Tuesday, during which they intend to unveil their new jerseys and announce three players who will join the team for the coming season. More announcements are expected to follow in the coming weeks, including some involving high-profile players from the 2018-19 squad.

See the entire 2019-20 schedule below.

bleeson@postmedia.com

Twitter: @ben_leeson

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