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Titans coach remains optimistic NBL action will resume

Cavell Johnson is the GM and coach of the K-W Titans. [Damon Maclean]

It’s the middle of summer, but Cavell Johnson’s got his eye on December. That’s when the National Basketball League hopes to resume play, allowing his K-W Titans to return to the court.

The Titans weren’t riding a great record (9-16) when the season was cancelled due to the COVID-19 lockdown, but Cavell says things were looking up, with team chemistry drastically improved throughout the 2020 season and play-offs within reach.

It’s been that kind of season for Johnson, who’s seen his share of changes, ups and downs.

The head coach and general manager of the Titans since 2018, the Virginia native had become familiar with the region as a player prior to his retirement from a career that took him from Greece to China, and from Finland to Hungary.

“I had history playing in this league before I went overseas, and when I was in Greece, I decided to leave. That was the Titans’ first year, and they were just about to start training camp and my agent got me a job here. So, I played in year-one; when I retired and I came back and played two games during year-two, halfway through the season, and after those two games I was offered the head coaching job.”

Having experienced the Titans from the ground floor, Johnson has been witness to the rise of the team and the growth of the NBL.

Playing overseas taught Johnson many things he puts in practice while coaching.

“The language barrier can be an issue at times. Though the level of competition is definitely comparable, the style of coaching can be different, because there are certain coaches from certain countries have different philosophies have different approaches to the way that they teach the game, to the way that they teach team philosophies,” he said.

“Every country that I’ve played in, I’ve loved it. I’ve tried to immerse myself in culture and immerse myself in the opportunity that I’m in at that moment, at that time, and I absolutely loved it. I’ve loved and appreciated the opportunity to play here in Canada, a country that I’d never been to as a kid growing up – I never thought that I would be here. I never thought that I would fall in love with this place and want it to be my home.”

Johnson remains hopeful the 2021 season will run as planned, but does not want fans to get their hopes up in the face of COVID-19. The season would be the NBL’s 10th year and the Titans’ fifth.

“The plan is to move ahead with our league,” he said. “Obviously, we’re still at the mercy of the unknown of the coronavirus pandemic and how each province responds to return to play, but the goal across the league, and within our organization as well, is to return at the end of December again, when it would be a regular season.”

At this point, there’s no knowing for sure what kind of rules and restrictions will be in place by the end of the year, whether social distancing will remain in effect and facial coverings still mandatory, said Johnson, adding he hopes fans will keep their level of enthusiasm during the uncertain situation.

For now, Cavell plans to spend some of the remainder of the summer training kids.

“We will try to stay as connected as we can into our social media outlet. I’ll be out training kids I’m going to get out and do some driveway training classes and some, some summer camp-style training to stay involved in our community. And I just hope that our fans and our, our existing fans and our new fans to come” said Johnson.

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