Junior Cadougan checks off a lot of boxes for the National Basketball League of Canada’s St. John’s Edge.
✔ He’s more than familiar with the NBL Canada, having played with the two-time defending champion London Lightning.
✔ He brings a hoops résumé that shows he has been part of high-profile programs, including the one at perennial NCAA Division One powerhouse Marquette University, and the Canadian senior men’s team, helping the latter win a silver medal at the 2015 Pan-American Games in Toronto.
✔ He’s a point guard in a guard-oriented league.
✔ He’s a Canadian in a circuit that places a premium on domestic players.
But Edge head coach Doug Plumb suggests the biggest attributes of the 28-year-old Cadougan, who signed on as a free agent with St. John’s Wednesday, won’t be found in official bios, stats lines or game logs.
“I know Junior really, really well,” said Plumb, who was an assistant coach with the Lightning in 2016-17, when Cadougan started the vast majority of games for a London team that rumbled to a league-record 46 wins in 53 regular-season and playoff games.
“For all intents and purposes, Junior was the heart and soul of that team. Junior does things that you can’t measure with a stats sheet. He’s a consummate winner, this guy. But the biggest thing is that everything he does is going to be for the benefit of the team.
“He doesn’t care if he scores three points in a game or 30, or if he has a dozen assists or is assigned to defend the other team’s best player. What he cares about is whether he’s done everything he can to help his team win.”
It’s that sort of character married with leadership that Plumb says that makes the Toronto native a difference-maker.
“Especially at the point-guard position, I need someone who not only can be the brains of the team, so to speak, but its heartbeat, too. And that’s Junior,” said Plumb.
At 6-1 and 205 pounds, Cadougan won’t be described as long and lean.
“Junior does things that you can’t measure with a stats sheet. He’s a consummate winner, this guy. But the biggest thing is that everything he does is going to be for the benefit of the team.”
St. John’s Edge head coach Doug Plumb
His in-game numbers are good, but not spectacular. Two years ago, for example, Cadougan averaged about eight points, four assists and three rebounds per game for the Lightning.
And he’s coming off a 2017-18 season that saw him hobbled by a knee injury and resulting arthroscopic surgery. He did get into five mid-season games with London, but in February, he was deactivated by the Lightning and didn’t play for the team again.
Plumb doesn’t sound concerned in any way about a player whose Twitter handle (@JRwontLOSE) might be an apt description of his attitude.
“I’m really looking forward to having him (in St. John’s). Like I said before, he’s a great team guy and he will be a very important player for us.”
Beyond Plumb, Cadougan has a connection with another member of the Edge. That would be star guard and interim general manager Carl English.
The two were teammates on the Canadian national team. In fact, the banner photo on Cadougan’s Twitter account shows him standing next to English after the medal presentation at the 2015 Pan Am Games.
Cadougan has been part of the national team scene since he was a high schooler playing in Ro Russell’s Grassroots Elite program in Toronto. He would eventually go to Marquette to play for first, Tom Crean, and then, Buzz Williams, a couple of non-nonsense head coaches.
“So he comes from a long lineage of toughness and grit,” suggested Plumb.
That wasn’t just developed on the basketball court.
Raised by a single mother in Toronto’s rough Jane-Finch neighbourhood, Cadougan was at home in the summer of 2005 when his family was victimized by a drive-by shooting that saw a number of people wounded, the most serious being his four-year-old brother who would survive critical injuries.
The incident, which saw Cadougan grazed by a bullet, contributed to his mother agreeing to send him to Community Christian School in Georgia. From there, he moved to Texas to attend Christian Life Centre Academy, where he developed into one of the top collegiate recruits in the nation.
He chose Marquette and would eventually help lead the Golden Eagles to the NCAA Tournament’s Sweet Sixteen as a junior and to the Elite Eight as a senior. What’s more, he graduated with a degree in social welfare and justice, earning Big East all-academic honours and the conference’s sportsmanship award.
“He’s the complete package,” said Plumb. “He’s going to be great on the court and going to be great in the community.
“He’s succeeded in university. He’s been with the national team. He’s been overseas. He’s seen the world and he’s done it. Now, he just had a baby girl with his wife Sue, so he wants to stay in Canada and continue to play here.
“We’re very lucky to have him.”