Scarborough Shooting Stars owners hope new CEBL team inspires next generation

The Scarborough Shooting Stars will begin play in the Canadian Elite Basketball League in 2022. (Photo courtesy: CEBL)

Donning the historic Scarborough Blues uniform as a child, Nicholas “Niko” Carino grew up with the game of basketball, always keeping it close to his heart, and the city he’s from even closer.

One of the co-founders of famed clothing and lifestyle brand OVO (October’s Very Own), the Scarborough native who grew up around the Sheppard and McCowan area saw a dream fulfilled on Monday with the announcement of the Scarborough Shooting Stars, a new expansion franchise in the Canadian Elite Basketball League (CEBL).

“When this opportunity came, it was definitely a no-brainer,” said Carino. “I think a kid growing up from Scarborough and having the opportunity to help and expand a league and call it ‘Scarborough’ is like the next best thing that anyone could ask for.”

Carino, alongside fellow Scarborough native Sam Ibrahim, is the co-owner of the Shooting Stars, who are expected to begin play next season around May of 2022.

Ibrahim is one of the founding members of Playground Global, a company dedicated to building basketball-only training facilities and recreational courts with locations spread out across Southern Ontario, including Peterborough, Brampton, Burlington and, of course, Scarborough.

Together, Ibrahim and Carino are hoping to inspire the next generation of hoopers from the Scarborough area with the creation of this new team.

“That’s my inspiration. I look back on myself and I definitely know how it feels to be that kid, that dreamer who dreams big,” said Carino. “I feel like it’s part of my duty to give back and help and give more opportunity and that type of support for sure.”

The Shooting Stars will be joining the CEBL, a Canadian professional basketball league that plays its season during the summertime. The 2021 season, the third in the league’s existence, will come to its conclusion this week as part of the league’s championship weekend event taking place from Aug. 18-22 in Edmonton where the Niagara River Lions and Fraser Valley Bandits will be facing each other in one semifinal and the host Edmonton Stingers will see the Ottawa BlackJacks in the other semifinal.

For the moment, there are seven CEBL franchises spread out across the country: Edmonton, Fraser Valley, Guelph, Hamilton, Niagara, Ottawa and Saskatchewan. The Shooting Stars will join the league next season with a Montreal franchise slated to enter in 2022 as well, bringing the total to nine clubs.

“Today marks an exciting milestone in the history of the CEBL as we announce our expansion to another market, while adding a tremendous new ownership group to help us continue to grow the game across the country,” said Mike Morreale, CEO and Commissioner of the CEBL in a statement. “Scarborough is a basketball hotbed that has produced some of Canada’s very best players. When the new team hits the court in 2022 it will bring an elevated passion and love for the game, the Scarborough community, and for the next generation of CEBL stars.”

An interesting quirk of this forthcoming Scarborough franchise is the fact it’s the first club to be independently owned. The seven existing franchises are all owned and operated by the league itself, but the Shooting Stars, with their owners Carino and Ibrahim, will be the first team, it looks like, that will have an ownership group separate from the league, operating as its own independent business.

“It was just having that independency,” said Carino. “We have some good partners and, obviously, The Playground and Sam Ibrahim, he’s a great partner to have and he’s a Scarborough native, so it made super sense to me.”

An exact venue for the Shooting Stars hasn’t been determined yet, but when that gets sorted out and the ball tips on Scarborough’s professional basketball team next year, it should prove to be something of a full-circle moment for the 36-year-old Carino. An actual dream come true.

“I remember watching Glen Grunwald and the Toronto Raptors and, in ’95, drafting Damon Stoudamire, watching Vince highlights,” said Carino. “I was that kid that I guess you could say that I was part of that ‘Carter Effect.’ I love basketball and, unfortunately, I didn’t grow, but at the same time it’s still good to be part of the game and do something I’m really passionate about, which is, obviously, basketball and supporting the kids, for sure.”

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