Guard Diego Kapelan leaves for Mexican league, forward Murphy Burnatowski fills the roster vacancy
The St. John’s Edge lost one of their top Canadians Wednesday.
They didn’t take long to replace him.
On Wednesday afternoon, the Edge announced shooting guard Diego Kapelan had been placed on the team’s inactive roster after he accepted an offer to play for Soles de Mexicali in the LNBP, Mexico’s top professional league
Just over an hour later, St. John’s revealed it had signed forward Murphy Burnatowski, a 28-year-old from Waterloo, Ont., as an inactive roster replacement for Kapelan.
Since the National Basketball League of Canada doesn’t come under the umbrella of FIBA, the world governing body for basketball, NBLC player contracts are not considered binding by other international leagues, allowing players to do as Kapelan had done and accept more lucrative midseason offers elsewhere For example, the Edge’s Russell Byrd started the present season with the NBLC’s Island Storm, left in December for a team in Qatar, then returned to the Canadian circuit earlier this month after St. John’s acquired his rights in a trade with the Storm.
There wasn’t any bitterness expressed at Kapelan’s leaving. In fact, the press release on his departure said “The entire St. John’s Edge organization wish Diego and his family the best for now and into the future.”
What’s more, by placing him on their inactive list, the Edge retain Kapelan’s NBL Canada rights.
The 31-year-old Kapelan had been St. John’s most accurate three-point shooter among players who had spent the bulk of the season with the team, hitting on 41.2 per cent of his long-range shots (89 for 216). Overall, he averaged 10.9 points per game while appearing in all of the Edge’s 32 contests to date and starting 10 of them.
The 6-7, 230-pound Burnatowski, who has been associated with the Canadian national men’s team program the last number of years, brings a different skill set than the 6-4, 190-pound Kapelan, but he is a proven scorer.
From 2014 to 2018, he averaged more than 14 points per game playing for European teams in Poland, the Czech Republic, Cyprus and Switzerland. Before that, Burnatowski was good for more than 15 ppg with NCAA Division 1 Colgate University, where he spent two years after transferring from the University of Maine.
Burnatowski’s connection to the Edge goes beyond the fact he joined St. John’s guard and two-time reigning NBLC Canadian player of the week Junior Cadougan on the Team Canada roster for the 2017 FIBA Americup.
Burnatowski’s last team was the ASEAN League’s Saigon Heat, whose head coach is Kyle Julius, the son of Edge assistant coach Stan Julius. As well, Kyle Julius was once the head coach of the NBLC’s London Lightning, where Doug Plumb — now the head coach in St. John’s — was an assistant.
Burnatowski averaged just under 20 points per game in 20 games with Saigon. The Edge would love to see some of that offensive flair as they begin a regular season-ending eight-game homestand on Sunday afternoon and Monday night against the Cape Breton Highlanders.
Having lost seven of its last 10 games, including all four on a recent Ontario road trip, St. John’s (17-15) now finds itself in a dogfight for playoff position in the Central Division. As a result, it will be looking for home-court advantage to help produce much-needed wins.