Ryan Taplin/Metro File Halifax Rainmen point guard Taliek Brown drives the lane against Gabe Freeman and Tim Ellis of the London Lightning in NBL Canada action last season.

The National Basketball League of Canada is eyeing significant growth for its second season.

The professional basketball circuit, which featured seven teams in its inaugural campaign in 2011-12, received five applications for expansion franchises — all based in Ontario cities — prior to Wednesday’s deadline.

Ownership groups in Ottawa, Mississauga, Kitchener, Windsor and St. Catharines are all hoping to have teams when the 2012-13 season opens next fall.

“It’s a very good-looking group of potential franchises,” said NBL Canada chief operating officer Ian McCarthy. “The only thing that could pose a barrier is if they’re unable to finalize a deal with their arena on time. They’re all well-funded teams. I’m sure if one or two of them don’t get in this year, they’ll be lined up to be first in the door (the following) season.”

Ownership groups have until June 15 to finalize their lease agreements and rustle up a $50,000 refundable deposit.

The London Lightning’s success story — average crowds of close to 3,000 on the way to a championship — has made the NBL Canada an easy sell in Ontario.

“The mayor of London was bragging at the mayors’ meetings for Ontario telling everyone how great (the league) was, how the Lightning blew the numbers off the charts for economic development,” McCarthy said. “The arena managers knew about it and they were all saying, ‘How can we get that for our city?’ It definitely helped in negotiations.”

NBL CANADA FRANCHISES

Last season’s seven NBL Canada franchises:

  • Halifax Rainmen
  • London Lightning
  • Moncton Miracles
  • Oshawa Power
  • Quebec Kebs
  • Saint John Mill Rats
  • Summerside Storm

Expansion applications for next season:

  • St. Catharines
  • Ottawa
  • Mississauga
  • Kitchener
  • Windsor

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