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'A great fit': Basketball fever in full swing with Winnipeg Sea Bears season weeks away

The Winnipeg Sea Bears were officially unveiled as the newest team part of the Canadian Elite Basketball League. Nov.30, 2022. (Source: Winnipeg Sea Bears) The Winnipeg Sea Bears were officially unveiled as the newest team part of the Canadian Elite Basketball League. Nov.30, 2022. (Source: Winnipeg Sea Bears)

Excitement is growing in the city as another season of Winnipeg Sea Bears basketball is just around the corner.

Training camp starts for the team on Monday, and their home opener on May 24 is already sold out.

As a pre-cursor to the start of the season, the Sea Bears announced Thursday the signing of a former NBA first-round draft pick.

Seven-foot centre Byron Mullens signed with the Sea Bears and is set to arrive in Winnipeg on Friday.

He was taken 24th overall in the 2009 NBA Draft and then flipped to the Oklahoma City Thunder. He played five seasons in the NBA, starting 66 games during that time.

He averaged 7.4 points a game in his five years, his best season coming in 2012-13, averaging 10.6 points and 6.4 rebounds with the Charlotte Bobcats

He has played all over the world, most recently with the New Taipei Kings of the Taiwanese P. League+.

Mullens said he is excited about the opportunity to come to Winnipeg, with his main goal to help win a championship for the Sea Bears.

"I didn't know anything about Winnipeg, if I'm being honest," Mullens said with a chuckle. "But when I had a conversation with (Head Coach Mike Taylor), it just felt like a great fit."

He said he already has players' phone numbers and is learning about the team and city, and is ready to get to work.

"At 35 years old, it's just about proving to myself I still have it, and I'm just playing the game I love. There's one thing I've never won in my career, and that's a championship, so that's one thing that I hope to get before I do hang it up finally."

Coach Taylor is excited to have Mullens on the team, noting he is a piece that can help the Sea Bears improve after their impressive first season last year.

"We don't see another centre in the CEBL that can stretch the floor like he can, with his shooting ability. His combination of ability to shoot from the perimeter and score inside is excellent. And then when you've played so much basketball in so many different situations, he just has a wealth of experience to draw from," said Taylor.

The added bonus for Mullens - playing in Winnipeg means he is able to bring his 11-year-old son up to watch him, something he has wanted to share with him throughout his career.

"When I was in the NBA, he was very young. So obviously, you don't remember those times…So when it came up, I just automatically thought, ‘this is an opportunity, not only for Baron to watch his dad play, but also come to Canada with me and just kind of live that experience, what it takes to be a professional basketball player,’" said Mullens.

Team thankful for continued support from Winnipeggers 

With the regular season getting underway on May 22 for the Sea Bears, Taylor said the team is ready to ramp up quickly and work to be even better than last year.

"Every year is different. The process is the same. You start from zero and you try to build up the team, install the offence, your defence, you build the team structure, you try to connect the players and help them learn to play together. We're going to go through that process step-by-step. We're not going to skip steps," said Taylor.

When asked about the support the team has received from the fan base and the sold out home opener, Taylor said Winnipeg is something special.

"Last year was an amazing first year for us. Winnipeg embraced the Sea Bears, quickly fell in love with the team and supported the team. We appreciate all the interest. There's something special happening here, and we're really thankful and grateful for all the support and all the energy."

The passion helps the team succeed, Taylor said, noting it makes recruiting players easier and it further grows the game in Manitoba and beyond.

The fans are one of the first things Mullens heard about when he signed, adding to the excitement of continuing his career in Winnipeg.

"That's what you want to play for. You don't want to go to an empty gym and just play. It feels like pickup. To get that excitement and playing in front of, I heard 10,000 fans or something crazy, so I'm looking forward to that," said Mullens. Top Stories

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