With its leading rebounder headed to Mexico, team will look to bring in another player this week
The National Basketball League of Canada’s official transaction deadline came last month, but that doesn’t mean NBLC teams haven’t been able to make roster adjustments since then.
Take the St. John’s Edge for instance. Since the Feb. 15 deadline, the Edge activated Russell Byrd, acquired in an earlier trade, on Feb. 20 after he returned from playing in a league in Qatar, and they signed Canadian forward Murphy Burnatowski on Feb. 27.
Clubs can make such moves mainly because of provisions regarding replacement of players who become injured or who depart for other leagues after the deadline.
In Burnatowski’s case, he was brought in as the so-called inactive reserve designate for guard Diego Kapelan, who left St. John’s for a team in Mexico.
Now the Edge are getting ready to used the reserve designation on another player to replace centre/forward Obinna Oleka, who has also signed with a team in Mexico. Prior to this week, the 25-year-old Oleka, who is joining the Gigantes (Giants) de Jalisco in Guadalajara, was the NBLC’s leading rebounder among active players, averaging 10.5 boards per game in 24 contests since joining St. John’s in mid-December.
But with the 6-7, 230-pound left-handed Burnatowski on board and proving to be an effective player in the paint in his two games with the Edge — both wins — it’s expected St. John’s may look to add a guard in the next day or so to fill the vacancy created when Oleka moved south.
The Edge also have another available roster move in their back pocket. That would be to name an injury designate for guard Carl English, who was sidelined three weeks ago after suffering ligament damage to his left thumb, an injury that required surgery to repair.
Then again, St. John’s could continue to monitor English’s recovery and hope for a deep playoff run that would allow the 38-year-old reigning NBL Canada MVP to return to action.
Before the surgery, English averaged 14.5 points in 13 games of a season that has seen him deal with other injuries besides the one to his thumb.
Forwards Olu Ashaoulu and Shaquille Keith didn’t play in the Edge’s 105-92 win over the Cape Breton Highlanders Monday night at Mile One Centre, but it sounds like it might have been a precautionary move as they deal with injuries.
With St. John’s having a full eight days off between Monday’s contest and when they resume their eight-game season-ending homestand at Mile One next Tuesday, the Edge seemed to have opted for caution in the case of the two Canadians.
Their unavailability and the loss of Oleka left the Edge with just four bench players Monday, but the St. John’s non-starters nevertheless played a big role in the win, led by Jared Nickens’ team-leading 22 point.
The game also saw an unusual steak continue for Nickens, who has appeared in all 34 of the Edge’s games tin 2018-19 (Desmond Lee and Junior Cadougan are the only others who can make the claim).
The 24-year-old, who is averaging nearly 17 minutes per contest, hasn’t had a free-throw attempt this season.
With Oleka off the roster, it’s Lee, or Do-It-All Dez, who tops the active Edge players in rebounding, with nearly seven boards per game.
Lee is also the team’s scoring leader (16.6) points per game and has taken more free throws (183) and made more of them (128) than any other St. John’s player.
Twitter: @tely sports