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Full circle: Newfoundlander Carl English returns home to play for the Edge

TORONTO — Carl English could never have foreseen the circuitous route his professional basketball career would take. And now, seven countries, 13 pro teams and three kids later, Newfoundland's favourite basketball son is home.

TORONTO — Carl English could never have foreseen the circuitous route his professional basketball career would take.

And now, seven countries, 13 pro teams and three kids later, Newfoundland's favourite basketball son is home.

The 36-year-old English will make his debut Saturday for the St. John's Edge in their inaugural season in the National Basketball League of Canada.

"It's been a helluva journey," English said from St. John's, his Newfoundland accent still evident. "And now it's a whole circle, a circle that has taken me back to where it all started. And it's pretty unique how it all unfolded."

English's uncommon path began in tiny Patrick's Cove, N.L., a town of about 100 on Placentia Bay. He lost both his parents in a house fire at the age of five, and then was separated from his four brothers. His uncle who raised him died in a fishing accident the day English was scheduled to fly to Hawaii to attend university.

Basketball has been his outlet.

"Basketball is the easy part in all of this," he told reporters at a news conference this week. "It's always been the way out for me with anything I was struggling with."

After his college career at Hawaii, English, an NBA hopeful, went undrafted 2003. And from there began his global expedition, summed up appropriately on the Carl English Fan Club's Twitter page — with a banner featuring a montage of English in seven different team jerseys.  

The six-foot-five shooting guard spent the bulk of his career in Spain, living and playing in Gran Canaria, Vitoria, Barcelona, Seville, Madrid and Tenerife. He's also done stints in the U.S., for the NBA D-League's Florida Flame, plus Italy, Croatia, Greece, Puerto Rico, most recently in Germany, where Alba Berlin drew some-13,000 fans to its home games. 

He married his high school sweetheart Mandy and they had three kids: son Ryder, who's nine, and daughters Kirsten (eight), and Kylie (three).

Together they embraced life on the other side of the ocean.

"A lot of the things they've experienced has really developed them into who they are, and who I think they will be," English said of his kids. "Here's an example: My kids can go into a Greek playground, where kids don't speak English, and guess what? They'll learn to place with the kids, (despite) any barriers. They fit in really well. They don't see colour. They don't see race.

"Certain things they'll say, and they're so innocent in saying it, and I'm like 'That's amazing that that's how they think,' and that's from experiences they've had at an early age.

"And things I've learned . . . how to deal with people in different countries and friendships and things I've made, and connections along the way. They've been invaluable lessons and experiences that you can't buy, things I'll never change, and things that formed me into the person I am today."

The family had flown home for about fourth months of every year, and three years ago bought a house in Paradise, just outside St. John's.  

The trans-Atlantic travel was easier on the kids earlier on.

"But when the kids came to the age where they're in school, and they're playing their sports and they're with their friends, it became a whole new challenge," English said. "And our Canadian school system, you start comparing it to the others, and that's another thing. So you start wondering, 'Well, am I doing the right thing for them?' 

"Yeah, it starts to play on you, and obviously I'm a family guy, and family is first."

Last year, the kids remained back in Newfoundland when English went to play in Germany. It wasn't easy. He told the kids that wouldn't happen again. 

"That played on my mind with this decision (to play at home for The Edge)," English said. "I never thought that (pro basketball) would ever come to my backyard, so it's going to be interesting, playing at home, with my family and my friends and everybody that's followed me along the journey, but haven't really got a chance to see me play. So, it's developed a fair bit of buzz and excitement around the community."

English had only a couple of practices with The Edge before departing Friday for Charlottetown where they face the Island Storm, in the first of a whopping five games in just six days. They play the Hurricanes on Saturday afternoon in Halifax, face the Cape Breton Highlanders in Sydney, N.S., on Tuesday, are in Moncton on Wednesday to face the Magic, then in Saint John next Friday to play the Riptide.

"It seems to be a pretty intense road trip. When I saw the itinerary, it was like 'What the hell?'" English laughed. "So yeah, it'll be interesting.

"Your food and your recovery. . . basically you take all that out of it, because you're jammed onto a bus, so it's going to take some getting used to," he added. "But I'm going to try to look at it positive as always. Again, it's a journey, you can be high-maintenance or you can just go with the flow, and I'm choosing to just go with the flow. And hopefully my body can hold up and the season can be great."

The NBL was founded in 2011 and features 10 teams this season, the standard-bearer being the London Lightning, which boasts three league titles.

St. John's first home game is Dec. 1 against the Niagara River Lions.


Follow Lori Ewing on Twitter @Ewingsports.



Lori Ewing, The Canadian Press