Sarnia's Joe Rocca with the NBL's Niagara River Lions (Photo by Matt Latour)

Rocca ready to ball in Canada

A Sarnia born basketball player is taking his talents to the steel capital of Canada.

Joe Rocca was drafted by the Hamilton Honey Badgers in the new Canadian Elite Basketball League.

The 27-year-old guard recently played in the Slovakian Basketball League with BK Spisska Nova Ves. Their postseason began April 5.

Rocca said having the opportunity to play in both leagues is something he didn’t want to pass on.

“A lot of players want to play overseas as opposed to staying in Canada during the winter months. To come home and be able to play professionally in front of family and friends during the summer, it’s a pretty big opportunity,” said Rocca. “The CEBL has partnered with Canada Basketball, with New Era and a bunch of big brands that will make the league exciting and give it some credibility.”

Rocca played a season in the National Basketball League of Canada with the Niagara River Lions– the team has since moved to the CEBL.

The Sarnia native played university basketball at McMaster and Carleton, but Rocca said his love for the sport began back home.

“Originally my brother and I, we both play basketball, we’re not the most talented guys, but we put in the work. We started at St. Christopher’s in grade nine, I had a lot of good coaches growing up, and I was able to move my way to getting a scholarship to play in university,” he said.

Rocca’s cousin, Alex De Carolis, is playing professional soccer. De Carolis recently signed with the Halifax Wanderers of the newly formed Canadian Premier League.

Rocca said they’re both hoping to help grow their sports across the country.

“Basketball in Canada is growing and I think these two new leagues are helping it. Canada is still a hockey nation, but I think it’s equalling out a little bit,” he said. “A lot of basketball players are coming up from Canada, there’s more national media attached to it and I think it’s a great sport and that a lot of Canadians will continue to get behind it.”

The CEBL features six teams and the inaugural season kicked off on Sunday, May 12.