Orléans native Eric Kibi joins SkyHawks roster
On Nov. 2, when the Ottawa SkyHawks begin their inaugural season with the National Basketball League of Canada, they will have six Canadian players on their roster. Among them, former St. Matthew High School Tiger and Gloucester Wolverine, Eric Kibi.
Eric Kibi, former St. Matthew high school student, has joined the NBL SkyHawks roster. At the announcement he was joned by Orléans Ward Councillor Bob Monette (left) and Ottawa Skyhawks Owner and Gus Takkale (right), also an Orléans resident. (Photo: Provided)
"It’s an honour, really. It’s kind of like making history," said Kibi.
Kibi first moved to Ottawa when he was 5-years-old, getting his start in house league with the Gloucester-Cumberland Basketball Association (GCBA). He then moved on to play competitively with the Wolverines, and proudly wore the Tigers jersey at St. Matthew before leaving to play in the United States at age 16.
Kibi then played in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division 1 in Little Rock, Arkansas, before playing overseas in Germany for the past year.
But, despite being away from the city he calls home for the last six years, Kibi couldn't be happier to be back in the capital and playing for his hometown.
"It's nice to be home," said Kibi. "I still have family and friends in Ottawa. Being in the States and in Europe it’s made it kind of difficult for people to come out and play, but now all my friends and family can watch me on a regular basis."
Kibi returned to Ottawa this summer to work out at Capital City Courts, in Orléans, with his long-time coach Merrick Palmer. "He kind of knows my game, so he passed it on to the coach (of the SkyHawks)," explained Kibi. "I was so excited when I heard (the SkyHawks) were looking at me. 10 to 15 years from now, I'll be able to say I was a part of that first team."
Measuring 6'6, Kibi credits a lot of his career success to long-time Wolverine coach Will Hinz and St. Matt's teachers Jason Wren and Diane Busato.
"That's where my basketball kind of started," said Kibi. "That’s where I started working out and gained more confidence."
Of Busato, Kibi says having a female coach was a different experience, but one that shaped the player he is today. "She's always been one of my biggest supporters," said Kibi. "She kept up with me when I was in the states, and even today, I talk to her almost every week."
For the 23-year-old forward, he says it's high time that the city that gave him his start got its own team.
"Even the smallest countries in Europe have their own league," said Kibi. "It's something we’ve been waiting for for a long time."
But, Kibi also says that with the recent successes of Ottawa's universities, specifically Carleton, Ottawa is now getting more attention from the basketball world than ever before.
"It's a bit different now, I think," he said. "I felt like it would be better for exposure to play division 1 basketball in the United States, but it's not bad to be playing in the CIS (Canadian Interuniversity Sport). I took a different route, but at the end of the day, for anyone who wants to be a professional athlete, you just have to be honest with yourself. Once you figure that out, don't stop till you reach your goal."