The St. John’s Edge have announced two team award-winners from last season have been re-signed.
But the man who announced the signings — Edge interim general manager Carl English, the reigning National Basketball League of Canada MVP — isn’t yet saying if he will be definitely be returning to the court, even if indications are that will be the case.
The re-signed players are guards Desmond Lee and Jarryn Skeete, who become the first two players to agree to terms with St. John’s for the 2018-19 campaign.
The 28-year-old Lee averaged 10.7 points while appearing in all 49 of the Edge’s regular-season and playoff games in 2016-18. But Lee’s contributions on the defensive end of the floor proved even more telling, so much so that he was named St. John’s top defensive player in its inaugural season.
The achievements of the North Carolina State product, who also averaged more than six rebounds per game, were often made quietly, but according to English, that didn’t lessen Lee’s impact.
“Des might been have been underappreciated outside the organization, but not by those within it,” said English. “He’s always a lockdown defender and a lot of times, he had the task of guarding the best player on the other team.
“This is an up-tempo league, so defenders like him are precious. We asked a lot out of him and he answered the call.
“If he scored, it was a bonus … and he did score for us, slashing and knocking down open jump shots, but his biggest value, to me, was as a defensive player.”
Like Lee, Skeete started the season as a player coming off the bench — and the Toronto native’s biggest early claim to fame might have been how his last name related to the Newfoundland lexicon — but by the time the Edge headed into the playoffs, Skeete was a starter, just like Lee.
“The big thing with (Skeete) is that he’ll do anything for the team,” said English. “He was team player … if he played or if he didn’t play. To be honest, those guys are hard to find.”
Skeete also played in every one of the Edge’s games in 2017-18, averaging just under five points and just over 14 minutes of playing time.
He took home the Edge’s Fan Choice Award, but according to English, there was more to that than the delight the faithful at Mile One Centre took in yelling “Skeete! Skeete!” every time the University of Buffalo product hit the floor.
“For me, when putting together team, it’s all about getting good guys in the community, and that’s what (Skeete ) is… a good player who is a good guy, too. Both of them are like that … guys who interact with people off the court and away from (Mile One). A lot of time, in a franchise just starting out, that actually can be more important than the basketball. Both these guys really understood that. They knew what had to be done and did it.”
Lee and Skeete — who would slot as one of the five Canadians the Edge need to have on their active roster — were on St. John’s seven-man protected list revealed earlier this summer.
“When you bring guys back to a familiar situation, they are usually better in their second year, so I’m hoping for big things from both of them,” said English, before noting the contracts with Skeete and Lee did not absolutely guarantee their return in the fall.
Since the NBL Canada doesn’t fall under the umbrella of FIBA, the world governing body for basketball, players signed with teams in this league can still leave for other circuits without sanctions.
English says he is working at other player signings and hopes to have more announcements soon.
As for himself, the 37-year-oldadmits he is asked “anywhere from five to 10 times a day” about whether he’ll be returning to his role as the Edge’s star shooting guard.
“I’m training every day, so all I can personally say is ‘read between the lines,’ but this (his role as interim GM) is an interesting job and I’m trying to give it a lot of attention, trying to build the best team possible, one that can win an NBL Canada championship. Whether I’m going to be part of that team, I can’t absolutely say right now.
“I would say by the end of July, the first week in August … that would be my cutoff time (to decide).”