Updated to show that Royce White of the Lightning suspended for tonight's contest
They are called auto-antonyms. Words that can carry a much different — sometimes even opposite — meaning than with what is normally associated with them.
An example would be “sick,’ as in “that was a sick move,” when describing a nifty play in a game of hockey.
Basketball fans at Mile One Centre in St. John’s are starting to develop another one.
Before last weekend, there weren’t many people in Newfoundland who’d appreciate having thousands of others yelling at them “Skeet! Skeet! Skeet!”
But add an “e” and apply it to a good-natured young man new to the province and possessing remarkable talent on the court and you have an auto-antonym in the making.
Jarryn Skeete is a guard for the St. John’s Edge, and although the 24-year-old from Brampton, Ont., had some idea that “skeet” had a unique meaning in these parts, he wasn’t prepared for how much his last name would catch on with fans who took in the Edge’s first-ever National Basketball League of Canada home games at Mile One last weekend.
“(The fans) kept screaming my name. I told my teammates I didn’t want it to be all about me, but I guess my last name obviously means something to the fans and they love it, so I’m going to embrace it.”
Every time he touched the ball, cries of “Skeete! Skeete! Skeete!” rained down. And on Friday, when he was sent to the charity stripe in the second half for a shot after the visiting Niagara River Lions had been charged with a technical foul, the cries became a steady chorus.
“Oh, yeah. I’m loving it,” said Skeete. “I’m a crowd-pleaser, but more than anything I want to do whatever I need to do to help my team win.
“So if the crowd yelling my last name gets the guys going and helps add energy to (Mile One), that’s great. Whatever it takes.”
For those who don’t know, most Newfoundlanders would describe a skeet as someone, especially a young man, who is ignorant, unruly and unkempt.
None of those adjectives apply to the 6-3 Skeete, who was a communications major and basketball star at the University of Buffalo before joining NBL Canada last season as a member of the Cape Breton Highlanders.
He never was too concerned about the buzz surrounding his surname, although his parents did some research and filled him in.
“I have some idea now (of what it means), but I didn’t know it would have that much of an impact,” said Skeete.
“I certainly didn’t know it was going to be that crazy. In the first half (Friday), I didn’t play that much. But when I got, it was like I was re-entering the game after already having scored 50 points.
“They kept screaming my name. I told my teammates I didn’t want it to be all about me, but I guess my last name obviously means something to the fans and they love it, so I’m going to embrace it.”
Carl English was the one player on the Edge who had pre-knowledge about how fans might react to Skeete.
“I kept trying to tell him that (skeet) didn’t mean anything good, but he didn’t seem to care,” said English, the 36-year-old from Placentia Bay. “He loved the experience. When he went to foul line and they kept calling his name, he said he felt like Kobe (Bryant) out there.”
When asked if, in any way, the affectionate name-calling was distracting, Skeete laughed.
“You always want to be in a zone, but when you come off the bench and all you hear is your name, you really have to work very hard at staying focused. It’s really fun, though. I enjoyed it,” said Skeete, adding he enjoyed the whole weekend atmosphere at Mile One, where the Edge (5-2) swept two games from the River Lions.
“It brought me back to my college days, playing in front of a sold-out building. It was intense and I hope we can keep it going.”
Skeete and his teammates will look to do exactly that tonight and Wednesday against the defending league champion London Lightning.
Both games have 7 p.m. start times.
Notes: The Lightning (1-2) have a roster headed up by former NBA first-round draft choice Royce White, who was the NBL Canada most valuable player in 2016-17. Howver, the 26-year-old power forward won't play tonoght after picking up a one-game suspension and undisclosed fine for the league for his action in last Thursday's game against the Saint John Riptide in London. White was the 16th overall pick by the Houston Rockets in 2013, although he only appeared in only three regular-season NBA games with the Sacramento Kings. White’s story is interesting not just because of his basketball background, but also for his advocacy of better understanding of mental health issues and his speaking publicly about his having to deal with generalized anxiety disorder … Edge assistant coach Doug Plumb was an assistant with the Lightning last season …