London Lightning: Keith Vassell rumoured to replace Kyle Julius

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If the rumblings prove correct, the London Lightning are going with another Canadian as their next head coach.

The Lightning, looking to replace Canadian Kyle Julius, have targeted Keith Vassell, a Scarborough native who is the coach of Niagara College in the Ontario Colleges Athletic Association.

Vassell also stepped in last year as the interim coach for the National Basketball League of Canada Niagara River Lions. He took over midway through the season, finishing with a 7-11 record and doing a good job with a team that had plenty of problems.

Lightning owner Vito Frijia said he’s close to naming a coach but wouldn’t confirm that Vassell was the guy.

“When we pick someone I’ll do a press release,” Frijia said. “I have no comment on who it is.”

Vassell has a wealth of experience playing and coaching at different levels. He proved his ability to handle veteran players with the River Lions and to ride out what was a tumultuous time with player movement and injuries.

If Vassell is the man, he has an impressive resume.

He spent three years with Niagara College after spending three years as the head coach and player development specialist with the Rock Sports Academy in Toronto.

Vassell was a great player before moving into the coaching ranks.

He played for the Brandon University Bobcats from 1991-96. Vassell was named CIS player of the year, was a five-time first-team GPAC all-star and was a member of the 1996 CIS champions.

Vassell’s jersey was retired by Brandon University at the end of the 1996 season.

Vassell spent 11 seasons playing professional basketball in Spain, Iceland, Finland, Sweden, Switzerland and Portugal, during which he was a member of three league championship teams and was named MVP of the Iceland Premier League in 2000.

He spent 11 seasons (1989-2000) as a member of the Canadian men’s program. He competed for Canada in Olympic qualifying matches, the 1999 Pan-Am Games, the FISU Games and the world junior championship.

He’ll take over from Julius, who was last year’s NBL coach of the year. Julius led the Lightning to its third NBL title, setting multiple team and individual records including for most wins in a season as highest win percentage.

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