Sports This Week - Moon landing good for CEBL Stingers

When you are thinking about the word elite in the Canadian Elite Basketball League you could simply be referring to guard Xavier Moon.

Moon, a member of the Edmonton Stingers was the Player of the Year for the league in 2019 in its inaugural season averaging 19.9 points, 5.1 rebounds, 5.8 assists, 2.0 steal and 32.5 minutes.

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Then, as an encore, Moon threw up the winning free throw that gave the Stingers the 2020 league championship, and was then named the championship MVP after a 31-point performance.

Moon was named the 2020 Player of the Year, based on playing all eight games in the CEBL Summer Series, averaging 19.5 points, 4.5 assists, 4.0 rebounds, 1.8 steals, and 33.1 minutes. He led the league in points scored (156), assists per game (4.5), and 3-point percentage (.500). His 19.5 points per game was best in the league among players who played at least six games in the Summer Series.

Moon said his ending up in Canada playing in the CEBL “was kind of a surprise.” The Alabama native has been playing with the London Lightning of the National Basketball League of Canada and had just headed home after the 2019 season when the Stingers came calling wanting him to head to Edmonton.

“Where is that?” asked Moon, knowing nothing about the city, or the fledgling league. Not sure whether he should accept the offer an uncle told him he had ‘nothing to lose’ so he headed north.

Moon said what he found in Edmonton “definitely surprised. I didn’t know what to expect, especially the first year (for the league). I had no expectation at all. I just wanted to play for the love of basketball.”

What Moon found was a league that was very good, with “a lot of high talent players” including those with games in the NBA and NBA G-league, as well as leagues around the world.

“The high IQ (for the game), you have to make sure you’re on top of your game every night,” said Moon.

The CEBL of course is a league where most players are Canadian, so how do they stack up in Moon’s estimation?

“I think Canadians are undervalued. There are a lot of good Canadians out there,” he said, pointing to teammate Jordan Baker the CEBL Canadian Player of the Year in 2020 as one of those.

The Stingers were expected to be in the league final in 2019, but the Saskatchewan Rattlers ousted Edmonton in the semi-finals by two points.

“The thought of losing last year never left my mind,” said Moon.

But, it was unclear whether Moon and the Stingers would get a chance at redemption in 2020 with the uncertainty of COVID-19.

Moon said a start for the 2020 season kept getting delayed, and when a tournament in a bubble was finally announced he said “I was definitely surprised about that.”

The key was having a ‘bubble’ situation.

“The league keeping us safe ... not one time did I feel I was not safe in the bubble,” said Moon, although getting to the bubble from his home in Alabama was something of a trial.

Moon arrived in Canada and for the first two weeks was in a hotel room, alone, meals left outside his door three times a day, quarantining.

“I couldn’t leave my room ... I had a bike and a basketball to keep occupied ... but it wasn’t as tough as I thought it would be,” said Moon.

And then it was into the bubble and the tournament with the Stingers losing their first game. Interestingly, Moon called that loss a key to their eventual success.

“We needed to lose that game,” he said. “Nobody liked how we played that game including myself.”

The loss helped Moon focus, along with the rest of the Stingers as they rolled up five-straight wins, including a 90-73 finals win over Fraser Valley.

“It was crazy - for us to get all the way, for me to be the one to hit the free throw to win it,” said Moon.

The star guard added he wanted to be the guy this year.

“I knew I had to perform better than I did last year (in the playoffs),” he said, adding in 2019 he had not played “to the standard I should have.”

So will Moon be back to defend the title with Edmonton.

“Just get me the contract and I’m coming. I’m invested in the team. I’m invested in the city,” he said.

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