Carl English got to watch a couple of National Basketball League of Canada games this week and figures that should pay off when he and the St. John’s Edge finish their season-opening five-game road trip tonight in Saint John, N.B.
The second viewing session came Thursday night at Harbour Station, where English and his teammates got to take in the Saint John Riptide — the Edge’s opponent’s tonight — in their win over the Cape Breton Highlanders in the Riptide’s first game of the 2017-18 NBL Canada season.
Getting to see the Riptide in person and being able to later view Thursday night’s game video is something that hadn’t been afforded the Edge through their first four contests — all of which were season-openers for their opponents.
Not that the expansion team hasn’t been able to deal with that shortcoming or a hectic road schedule, one that will see them playing five games in five different cities in six nights connected by nearly 1,700 kilometres of bus travel.
St. John’s has gone 3-1 to start the season, with its lone loss — Sunday in Halifax —suffered in a game that came down to the final seconds.
The Edge’s latest victory came Wednesday night in Moncton as they downed the Magic 96-89 and it was witnessed from the sidelines by English, who had been given the night off by head coach Jeff Dunlap.
A mandated rest day, so to speak.
There were reports that during the team’s Wednesday bus trip from Sydney, N.S., to Moncton that English — who has the team’s best per-game scoring average — had lobbied Dunlap to be allowed to play. English wouldn’t confirm that, only saying he believes his coach had made the right call.
“Playing back-to-back games, with six hours on the bus on the same day as the second game … I think it was a smart decision by Coach,” said English, who had led the Edge in scoring in a Tuesday-night win over the Highlanders in Sydney.
The Patrick’s Cove native said the move to give him a night off hadn’t been planned before the Edge flew from St. John’s to the Maritimes last Friday.
“We didn’t really have a chance to talk about it. Everything’s happened so fast. I’ve been really only with the team about a week,” noted English, who signed with St. John’s on Nov. 15.
Since then, there have been a couple of practices, four games and a lot of travelling.
“I’m still getting my legs. I don’t want to be too stupid and try to do too much early and mess myself up,” said the 36-year-old shooting guard.
“It’s been a grueling schedule, something that not a lot of athletes are used to … I haven’t seen anything like it. So you have to adjust your body and play it smart.
“We know because the team (joined the league) so late, the schedule at the beginning of the season has been kind of messed up, but looking at the rest of it, it doesn’t seem like it’s going to be anywhere as gruelling as this week has been.
“The other thing that we’ve learned out of this is how this team can deal with adversity.”
That was on display in Moncton, where despite being without English and centre Grandy Glaze, who is with the Canadian national team for a couple of FIBA qualifying games, the Edge gutted out a win over the Magic.
St. John’s trailed by double digits late in the third quarter, but climbed back in the final stanza, taking the lead with about a minute and a half left and holding onto it with some strong defence and clutch free throws — most of them by Charles Hinkle — in the closing seconds.
“That game speaks a ton about the character of the players and also about the coaches and how they got the team ready,” said English. “You could get real complacent there, but the guys stepped up. It was a great team effort.”
English predicted the Edge will stand up against that complacency again tonight in Saint John (7:30 p.m. NT, online streaming available at sjedge.ca).
“We’ll keep it rolling, that’s what we’re going to try to do… to get to 4-1,” he said. “We know how important it is, not just because the road is tough, but because we want to keep riding this thing and take that energy back home for next week.”
That’s in reference to next Friday, when the Edge play their home opener against the Niagara River Lions at Mile One Centre.