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Basketball's Edge needs to be in line with wow factor

Vernon Goodridge, middle, dunks between Massachusetts defenders Tony Gaffney, left and Luke Bonner, right, during an NCAA college basketball game in Amherst, Mass., back in 2009. Goodridge, who will be at the St. John’s Edge’s training camp, played NCAA basketball with LaSalle and Mississippi State.
Vernon Goodridge, middle, dunks between Massachusetts defenders Tony Gaffney, left and Luke Bonner, right, during an NCAA college basketball game in Amherst, Mass., back in 2009. Goodridge, who will be at the St. John’s Edge’s training camp, played NCAA basketball with LaSalle and Mississippi State.

Coach Dunlap well aware first St. John’s pro hoops franchise will have to keep a curious crowd entertained

They have a unique name. They have colours and spiffy duds. They have a semblance of a roster, players with some interesting backgrounds.

But the long-term success of the St. John’s Edge will have nothing to do with their moniker or the style of their uniforms or the biographies of their players.

The National Basketball League of Canada expansion team could be called the Bricks, Double Dribblers or Rumpelstiltskins. They could have jerseys of pink polkadots, with shorts featuring green horizontal stripes and it ultimately wouldn’t make any difference in how many people regularly show at Mile Once Centre to watch them.

People won’t buy tickets because they like the logo and how that second ‘E’ is reversed, or because they appreciate that blue and gold colour scheme.

And although it might seem sacrilegious, especially to coaches and players, even winning — at least in the beginning, in this introduction of professional basketball in Newfoundland — will not be the most important thing. 

More than anything, the Edge need to be entertaining.

Jeff Dunlap has been drawing up plays for most of his adult life, planning on how to stop opponents, how his players can put up more points than the ones facing them, how his team can go as deep into a season as possible.

But the first-ever coach of the Edge also realizes that, in this situation at least, he’ll also need to be a bit like a circus ringmaster.     

“Yes, I know. It’s not the X’s and the O’s. It’s the Jimmys and the Joes. You’ve heard that, right?” said Dunlap with a chuckle.

Mind you, Dunlap will be still using those X’s and O’s, and of course, he’ll still be counting the W’s and L’s in the standings, but he also appreciates the need to thrill.

For him, that will begin with speed, more specifically the pace of the game. Dunlap, an assistant coach the past seven years with NCAA North Carolina State, figures on the Edge being able to slip into a gear beyond the range of what is seen at the university level.

“The college game is a little slower than the pro game, although the differences in the shot clocks (30 seconds in the NCAA, 24 seconds in NBL Canada) has something to do with that,” said Dunlap.

But he also believes the Edge players — especially the physical maturity of the players — will contribute to supporting his thesis.

“If you’re 25 years old and you are a professional athlete in the prime of your life, you can run like the wind and you’ll run faster than an 18-year-old,” he said.

“A pro will get up and down the floor quicker … and we’re going to play quick.

“That’s sort of a prevailing theme in basketball these days, but we might be even more committed to it.

“I want to score on (opponents’) made shots and missed shots. A lot of people just break off the other team’s missed shots. But whenever the other team scores, I want for us to take the ball out of the net and take it right back down the court and ram it down their throats with a fast break. I want us to show the speed of the game.”

To entertain right?

“It should be fun, he said. “Get out and fly and dunk … and shoot threes.

“The Golden State Warriors have kind of set the new standard of how basketball is played at the pro level. I’m not saying we’ll have Curry and Durant and Thompson out there, but relatively speaking, we’ll have real good Canadian league players who will be playing that style.”

They’ll come from a group of prospective Edge players (is there a singular for Edge?) that will gather for the team’s first training camp, beginning Monday in St. John’s.

University of Alberta product Kenneth Otieno is already in town and has been working out at the Provincial Training Centre. So has St. John’s native and former Memorial Sea-Hawks star Noel Moffatt, who’ll be among the tryouts. Most of remainder are arriving today and tomorrow, with some showing up later. Canadian big man Rudolphe Joly, for example, still has to finish up his season in Vietnam’s pro league.

Dunlap expects about 18 players signed for training camp. From that group, a dozen will earn contracts for the season,.

“Of the 18, I have six or seven I know are locks because I know how good they are,” he said. “The other spots? I’m going to let them fight for it, show us how good they are and if they can fill that eighth or ninth spot for us.

“And of course, how much money we can pay them also comes into it.”

Given NBL Canada teams have a salary cap of $150,000 per season for the entire 12-man roster (an average of $12,500 per player), money always will be an issue in the circuit.

It almost certainly is at play in the Edge’s ongoing negotiations with Newfoundland star Carl English.

The 36-year-old from Patrick’s Cove has been operating on deals in six figures throughout a dozen seasons in European professional leagues and any similar contract wouldn’t fit into the NBLC structure, although there have been suggestions there could accommodations made by giving English duties not involved with being a player.

That seem to leave Edge’s ownership trying to determine if adding English will be worth the resulting extra payroll cost. English has recently suggested the “ball is in their court” as to whether he has a future with the team.

 

bmcc@thetelegram.com

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