Canadian Round-Up Q&A: Carl English
This month's Canadian Report Q&A is with former Canadian national team media Carl English. English has been one of the best Canadian pros for years and has seen success in many leagues globally including the ACB and GBL (Greek Basket League). Now, English is back at home in Canada playing in the NBL Canada for his hometown team the St John's Edge. At 37, English was named the league's most valuable player and Canadian of the year last season.
Ahead of his second season back home with the Edge he took some time out to chat with NBA.com about the experience.
NBA.com: When did you make the decision to play in the league (NBLC)?
Carl English: That was a tough one…not going to lie that was probably one of the toughest ones in my career. I was in Athens and I was training with Olympiacos - who's a European powerhouse obviously and it was very close I was playing really well - and we were talking contracts we were talking numbers and this was becoming a reality to play for them. In one of the warmups Kim Tillie the four went down and they had to go out and sign another American so they lost the spot that they were going to use on me because my passport is not valid in Greece - that was tough. Rather than stay around there and continue to look I had other options in Greece but I was at the stage where I had and wanted to take my family with me I didn't want us to be apart. There was only a handful maybe two or three teams in Greece and European that I was going to play for…So I came back home training and trying to figure it all out and things were heating up with the Edge and I was going back and forth with ownership and I truly felt that my family didn't want to leave. My wife was fine but more so my kids I have three kids and two are older at the time eight and seven they were kind of…they really didn't want to leave home. So I said you know let's think about this St. John's Edge offer really consider it and really look what are the positives what are the negatives. I'd say I took almost six weeks and I was going well what if this and what happens if that and I was thinking all of the good things I could do here for the province and for basketball in Canada. And you know just the chance to be at home and play in front of family and friends…They were training on one side of the court and I was on the other two courts every day and I'd heard how training and stuff was going…in the end it all worked out and we decided to sign with the St Johns Edge. The buzz was created but up to that point there was two days before the season started and I think they were at 700-800 maybe 1000 tickets and in a couple of days we pretty much sold out so it was a pretty big buzz all around the whole city.
NBA.com: You mention playing at home, was there a moment you realized that it was time to be home...this is where I want to be?
CE: Oh yeah that was something that was always on the positive side that's for sure. Most of the negative things I was thinking of were more financial or more like what ifs but I felt if I could be involved I would put my flair on it my thoughts and feelings and bring in what I've done for the last fifteen years and really help the organization. These are the kinds of things that were going through my head but literally there a page with some positives and some negatives, basically I was going over those options with anybody that was willing to listen from my wife to my brothers, old coaches and it was always these conversations of what should I do what should I do. So yes for sure that definitely ran through my mind many times and then it's kind of like a full circle because this is where it all started for me and then I had to leave, to get recruited, I had to leave to get scouted, I left when I was 16 years old…now 20 years later coming back and playing professional basketball where it all started out for me was pretty surreal.
NBA.com: Your first year was incredible...MVP, Canadian of the year where does last season fall on your career highlight list?
CE: I mean it's up there, I don't want to sound like I'm bragging or anything but I've been fortunate to have a pretty successful career in the places I've played. There have been polls that have come out that have got me on some of the top Canadians of all time lists. The fact that I wasn't in the NBA has always haunted me but it still hasn't changed the places I've played, the level of competition I've played and the things I've done on international stages from my pro and college career but to come home and play even though it wasn't the same level of what I was used to but to come home and do this in front of family and friends and be an ambassador to the sport and the game…in the community so many kids and families that we touch and I touched personally I think they did a survey or stat…I brought in this thing after the games that we would sign autographs every game unless it was a back-to-back…there was nights I'd sign autographs for an hour, hour and a half the line would be right around the gym, but I'd come out and sign autographs and take pictures…I think they said the numbers were over 40-50k that I signed or took a picture with over the course of the season…it was pretty amazing.
NBA.com: The night you score 58 points, not many people even score double-digit in a pro basketball game you score 58 at dare I say the advanced age of 37 years old, what's that zone like?
CE: There have been a few times in my career that I've been pretty…pretty hot but the thing that was different about this…there was times, one game in Greece we were playing somebody and I think I scored 32 points in 18 minutes and I scored 18 points in three minutes at one stage…I think I was 9-for-9 on threes I was completely unconscious…the thing about this one that was beautiful…obviously I was home but I think I missed my first couple of shots and than I just got unconscious and it was one of those days where I didn't get a good nap and it was a bad rest night before I was coming off a twisted ankle it was probably a game that I shouldn't have even played and I remember being frustrated that day because the kids were running around I believe it was a Saturday and I said to my wife you know it's hard to get ready for a game with all this noise and I can't sleep I was a little bit agitated but I guess when you get in that zone you feel like you could throw…everything you throw up is in. The part about that game and I'm a perfectionist when it comes to critiquing myself I think when it I got to 47-49 was amazing because I didn't miss and then people started talking to me about the record and I lost my focus and those last 8 or 9 points were a bit struggling it was like I was forcing it. I think if I just had to keep my focus I truly felt when I was watching the tape and went back over it that I could've easily scored 70 it was just one of those days. To do that in a professional game its great and we got the win which was amazing, which is probably more important but you know nights like that you just ride it and your teammates will ride you it was special to be part of. We all strive for this as athletes…I always compare and you've been around the NBA long enough and so have I and these guys whatever stage they play on or I've trained with them I find the best ones are in that zone a lot more. There's not a huge…you'll have your superstars on every team, you'll have your two or three or maybe even four right now the way the NBA is going with some teams but you'll have these superstars on every team but then the next let's say, 8-9 guys, it's pretty even. You can even break it down a step further that next 10th man to the 15th man that could be a lot of guys that are playing at a high level in Europe as well it's just timing and situation. But I think what separates the best…I think it goes by the fact of not so much your skill level but the fact that they know how to get in the zone and flourish in that moment a lot more than the guys that they're better than. I think that's what separates them the fact that they can get in that zone…and I remember playing Kobe one summer and he was very quiet in the sense of he wasn't attacking much and doing a whole lot and I remember perfectly I was on the left wing and I jabbed hard he came off me I crossed him two times and the crowd…the crowd erupted because you know I crossed him but than something snapped off in him and I think he scored the next 11 points and that's what separates the best from the average or the next stage I'll call it. I think those guys that are the best in the world they know how to get in that zone quicker faster and can stay in it longer than the other guys.
NBA.com: Year eight now for the NBL Canada what's different about the league now, you've been really outspoken about the benefits to Canadian ballers this league presents why?
CE: I think people have to understand the value that this league has…I think they have to understand the potential that this league has. I think they have to understand that this is an investment that you make right across the whole country. I think they have to understand that this can be a feeding system for Canadian players, it can be a developmental system for Canadian players, for national team players for the NBA teams in the future. I see this league growing into…and a great model for that is the CFL. I think it should be a league like the CFL right across the whole country. Canada is taking over in the sense of the amount of kids we're developing is high, the amount of kids now that we have in the united states in NCAA colleges in division one division two is tremendous it's more than ever and we're the second most people in the NBA right now. These things show you the rate in which we are growing. Parents will tell you my kids play soccer, my kid plays hockey a lot of these sports are becoming high-class sports and they're not for everybody. I feel basketball is a sport that everybody can play. It doesn't matter your income or where you're from or your background, you can find a way to play it and play it very cheaply. These are all the reasons why I think we need to take this seriously and have a real professional league, like we're doing and grow it. I've spent most of my career playing in Italy, Croatia, Spain you know all over Spain, I've played in Puerto Rico, in Greece, Germany all these countries and a lot of these countries aren't as big as Canada not as many people and they all have flourishing basketball leagues why can't we?
NBA.com: Is there a chance for the league to grow out west?
CE: Yes. It's easy, it's not complicated. The fact that St Johns can do it why can't anybody else. We're on an island if that could work why can't you have a team out west? Why can't you have five teams out west they could be their own division. They could easily come play the teams central and continue on play the Atlantic…you would do two road trip a year and the same thing with us. There are many ways to make it happen not just the logistics of it or the money of it it's just finding a way to make it happen.
NBA.com: St-John's is getting set to host two national team games in February for the FIBA World Cup qualification, how much will it mean to the community?
CE: I think any time the national team says it's coming I think it will be important. It's obviously another step to get there I've met with the Raptors this summer to show the facility and show them everything…we're working on bringing them here for training camp or exhibition games…so this is a step obviously in an amazing direction…and now the fact that Canada is coming out to play in these games it just gives the people here a chance to see basketball at the highest level and I've been trying to do that for a while so I think this is huge.
NBA.com: You spent years trying to help Canada qualify for World Cups and Olympic games, with the talent the country has now do you foresee any podium finishes?
CE: I personally said when I was in there for PanAms in 2015 with the amount of talent in our country it would be a disgrace if we don't medal in 2020 at the next Olympics and that's what I believe. If we don't something has to change because the talent is amazing there and not just the talent these are all good guys I mean from Kelly (Olynyk) to Cory (Joesph) to Tristan (Thompson) to (Andrew Wiggins)Wiggs you know the list goes on there's so many of them now…so many good players - Jamal (Murray), (Nik)Stauskas like there are so many guys...that's just NBA wise and now I mean overseas from your Scrubb brothers (Phil, Thomas) to Mel(vin Ejim) to (Dyshawn) Pierre to Brady (Heslip) you know the talent there's no reason that you're not fighting for a medal in my opinion.