The St. John’s Edge are having a pretty successful first season in the National Basketball League of Canada, but it’s obvious head coach and general manager Jeff Dunlap believes his club can become better as it closes in on the halfway point of the 2017-18 schedule.
What is turning into a pretty extensive makeover of the Edge continued Thursday as the team took a break from a gruelling five-game road trip in southern Ontario.
The day after a very tough 121-115 overtime loss to the league-leading and defending champion London Lightning, Dunlap made the Edge’s first-ever trades, acquiring forward Russell Byrd from the Kitchener-Waterloo Titans and sending forward Jarion Henry to the Island Storm.
Byrd is the fourth new player to join the Edge in the last 11 days, joining guards Caron Williams and Tyler Haws and power forward/centre Ransford Brempong as recent arrivals to the team.
Both of Thursday’s deals involved draft picks, making it essentially a three-way transaction. The Edge picked up Byrd, a 6-7, 215-pound power forward, in exchange for a conditional pick in the 2018-19 NBL Canada Draft. Just before that, St. John’s had sent Henry, also a forward, to the Charlottetown, P.E.I.-based Storm for the Island team’s first pick in next year’s draft.
Byrd, a native of Fort Wayne, Indiana and a product of Michigan State University, is in his second year in the NBLC, having started with Moncton last season, when he averaged 14.5 points and 4.5 rebounds per game. This season, he has averaged nearly 13 points and 5.5 rebounds in starting 14 of 15 of the Titans’ games.
Byrd, who has also played in Europe in the Spanish second division, will be in the St. John’s lineup tonight in St. Catharines, Ont. as the Edge (11-7) play the third game of the road swing with a matchup against the Niagara River Lions.
With injured shooting guard Carl English not expected to be back with the team for weekend games with the River Lions (9-11) tonight and Sunday afternoon and the Windsor Express (7-10) on Saturday night, the Edge lineup the floor tonight will have a far different look from the team that started its inaugural season in November.
Six players who played in St. John’s first-ever game Nov. 18 in Charlottetown are not on the active roster today. In addition to the Henry trade, other changes have seen guards Rashaun Broadus and Marcus Lewis and centre Rudolphe Joly released and forward Jordan Jensen-Whyte and guard Colton Ray placed on injured reserve. Forward Zach Gordon came and went early in the season and St. John’s also added forward Vasilije Curcic and guard Wally Ellerson in the first part of December.
The 6-10 Henry, who is from Dallas, had primarily been one of the Edge’s first options off the bench over the last two months, averaging around seven points and seven rebounds per outing. However, had one of his better statistical games — with 15 points and a team-leading 13 rebounds — on Wednesday night in London. He saw 40 minutes of floor time, more than anyone on the team, as a starter in place of English, who missed a third straight game.
In London, the Edge held a 10-point lead with less than 90 seconds left in regulation, but the Lightning battled back to force overtime and went on to win in a matchup of the National Basketball League of Canada’s top teams.