Throughout the courting process that culminated Wednesday with Newfoundland basketball star Carl English signing with the St. John’s Edge, the 36-year-old Patrick’s Cove native had constantly referred to his family as being the chief consideration as he contemplated whether or not to play for the National Basketball League of Canada expansion team.
That was reinforced at the news conference to officially announce English was joining the Edge by the presence of his nine-year-old son Ryder and seven-year-old daughter Kirsten as they posed for pictures alongside their dad and behind the jersey he’ll be wearing this season.
But English also revealed the family factor extended beyond his three children (he and his wife Mandy also have a three-year-old daughter Kylie).
He also spoke about how Kevin, one his four brothers, is battling though health problems. He’s in need of a kidney transplant and is on a schedule that sees him getting dialysis treatments every second day.
“That played a big role in my decision to stay at home, actually,” said English. “What he’s dealing with, obviously, it’s not easy to go through, but I know it helps when you have people around you.
“So it’s something we have to through as a family.”
It’s gone beyond moral support. English is also a potential kidney donor for his brother.
“I’ve been tested. Another brother has been tested and he’s actually a better match, but whatever happens, I just wanted (Kevin) to know I wanted to be here for him, because he’s always been there for me along the journey.”
Immediately after the press conference at the Swilers Club, English walked over to the adjacent Provincial Training Centre for his first practice with his new teammates, to a court that’s always been sort a refuge.
“Basketball is the easy part in all of this,” he said as part of an eight-minute address — without notes — at the news conference.
“It’s always been the way out for me with anything I was struggling with.”
Not that he doesn’t have a strong support system at home. He credits Mandy for backing him over the years through what might be described as a nomadic career in Europe and especially during this summer and fall as he weighed the option of playing for the Edge or going back across the Atlantic — he said he’s been fielding offers from teams in overseas league for the last four months.
He also had to contend with a lobbying effort by his two oldest children, especially Ryder, who was anxious to remain in Newfoundland with his friends and minor hockey team.
English related how Ryder’s interest in the situation played out when he and his father attended the Edge’s recent intra-squad game at Mile One Centre. The youngster was just as interested in head coach Jeff Dunlap as the players on the court, seeing as where Dunlap could have a say in his father’s future.
“’Do you think you have a chance to play? Do you think they’re going to want you?’” said English, relating some of his son’s questions that night.
The Edge did want him and it was pretty clear English preferred to play with the St. John’s team.
Still, given how long it took to seal the deal, it was obvious more than mutual desire was required. There was much to sort out, including English’s pay and how it could work in relation to the NBL Canada salary cap, and his role with the team.
Details of his salary weren’t released and as for his duties beyond the playing surface, English suggests that will be something that will be worked out in the coming weeks. It’s obvious, however, especially given his ease during his 20 minutes of podium time Wednesday, that the team will be looking to take advantage of the potential that comes with a Newfoundlander who is expected to be a star player and whom seems particularly comfortable in a public/community relations role.
Contract details aside, English said his decision came down to this being “a time I feel I had to be at home.”
The correctness of that call was reaffirmed by two kids whose Wednesday morning smiles weren’t just the result of getting some time away from school.
“When I knew this was going to happen and I told them … their excitement and their joy, and their hugs when they knocked me over, I knew then I made the right decision,” said English.