It was the 2003 NBA Draft and Carl English had invited his family to a downtown Toronto restaurant. After an amazing career at the University of Hawaii, the sharpshooter was supposed to be a late first round pick. Everyone was waiting for David Stern to walk up to the podium and announce that an NBA team had selected English. Then, the celebration could begin. That moment never happened. The entire NBA took a pass. Twice. No team picked Carl English in the first or second round.
Two years have passed and he has just finished his season with the Florida Flame of the NBDL. There were no Sunday games on ABC, just long bus rides, half-empty stadiums and meager paychecks. But things have never been easy for Carl English. When he was five, English lost his parents in a house fire. He went to live with his Uncle Junior and Aunt Betty in tiny Patrick’s Cove, Newfoundland. Basketball became an outlet and English would spend hours shooting on an outdoor hoop that backed onto a remote highway. “There wasn’t much else around,” laughs English. “Basketball has been my way out. My peaceful place and my life revolved around it.”
Nothing could stop basketball practice. Snow would be removed from the court with a shovel; the rain wasn’t an issue either. During the summer, he would ignore the heat and stay out on the road perfecting his moves.
His dedication and talent went mostly unnoticed until 1999. That summer, English toured the United States with a Canadian All-Star team and caught the eye of a few NCAA Division 1 schools. Baylor, Notre Dame and Hawaii were all impressed by what they saw: a six-foot five-inch athlete with crazy range on his jump shot. Hawaii won the bidding war and English traded the island community of Patrick’s Cove for the tropical islands of the Pacific Ocean.
With his bags packed for Hawaii, English had to overcome another family tragedy. Uncle Junior passed away on a fishing trip. A few months later, English injured his left ankle and was given a medical redshirt for his first year at the University of Hawaii. For once, basketball couldn’t be his outlet. Over the next three years, Carl English put in work and became a college basketball star. Dick Vitale loved the Canadian’s game and his Hawaii Rainmakers got their shine on in the 2001 and 2002 NCAA tournament. ESPN Magazine and USA Today both ran feature stories on English. After his junior year, the kid from rural Newfoundland declared himself eligible for the 2003 NBA Draft. English finished his collegiate career as the University of Hawaii’s seventh all-time leading scorer.
The next few months in Carl English’s basketball life make very little sense. Combo guards who can shoot usually end up being selected somewhere in the first round. Throw in his leadership skills and most thought he could have a solid NBA career. So what went wrong? How did guards like Marcus Banks, Reece Gaines and Troy Bell get picked in the first round instead of English? How could NBA teams take European and American teenagers over a mature player such as English? Why would the Toronto Raptors pass on a Canadian with the fifty-second pick to take prospect Remon Van de Hare?
The problems started at the Chicago pre-draft workouts. English slipped out of the first round because NBA GMs thought he was too slow to play the “1” spot and too small to line up at off-guard. Without a true position, his accomplishments at Hawaii were quickly forgotten. Banks, Gaines and Bell passed English in the draft rankings and were all selected in the mid-to-late first round. These guards have all collected NBA paychecks to sit on their club’s bench.
Kevin Garnett, Kobe Bryant and Dirk Nowitzki have changed the way NBA teams draft players. These three players entered the league as teenagers and quickly became superstars. Teams now had to take high school kids and international players based on their potential over established NCAA stars. In English’s 2003 draft year, five high school players and 15 Europeans were selected. With the exception of first overall pick LeBron James, none of them have made any impact in the NBA.
In June of 2003, the Toronto Raptors had bigger issues than Carl English. They had just missed the playoffs for the first time in three years. The front office was taking heat for giving Michael “Yogi” Stewart millions of dollars and funding the first few years of Hakeem Olajuwon’s retirement. Coach Lenny Wilkens had just been fired. Vince Carter was struggling with injuries. Former Raptors’ GM Glen Grunwald was trying to keep the dinosaurs from going extinct and missed what a talented Canadian could bring to the club.
Two years after the 2003 draft, English can’t explain what happened. However, he insists that it’s behind him.
“I try not to think about it. I mean it was the draft. I thought I was going to go and didn’t. But there’s no use looking back on decisions I’ve made. I’ve got to go forward and try to get into the NBA. I mean, I can’t look back and say things I should have done. What if? What if this? What if that? So, I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about it. I did when it happened. I’m over it now.”
The Indiana Pacers had scouted English and invited the guard to their 2003-2004 training camp. At his first pro camp, the kid from tiny Patrick’s Cove showed that he could ball with the best players in the world. Superstar Reggie Miller even took English under his wing. Unfortunately, his NBA dream came down to numbers. The Pacers already had 16 guaranteed contracts and stuck with second round pick James Jones instead of English.
Last September, Seattle asked English to attend their training camp. The club was loaded with perimeter players and he got cut. However, game can always recognize game and English remembers a conversation he had with Sonics’ star Ray Allen.
“I remember Ray saying this to me before I left there. He said to me that he wasn’t sure what this situation could give me. He also said, no matter what I was good enough to play at this level. No one can take that away. A lot of it is getting in the right situation at the right time.”
That right situation hasn’t come. There have only been rumors. During the 2004 season, the Raptors were apparently looking to sign English, but went with Jannero Pargo and veteran Rod Strickland. He’s also been linked to New York, where former Pacers’ coach Isiah Thomas is working as the Knicks’ GM. Frustration has started to set in for English and he recently fired his agent for not returning phone calls.
Right now, there’s no Air Canada Centre or Madison Square Garden for Carl English. Last season, the NBA dream took him through Roanoke, Virginia. Other nights, his Florida Flame played in rural Alabama. Hopefully, an NBA scout or GM will notice the 14 points per game scoring average and 46% shooting from beyond the arc. It may never happen. Then again, things have never been easy for Carl English.
RIP OKC. Dame Time Clocks Thunder’s Reign From Way Downtown PDX
Even two games down the Thunder bolt boys joked like the last laugh that was yet to be delivered, like this what’s the 4-1 punchline. Zero to zero for the best series of these NBA Playoffs so far, Russell Westbrook rocked the baby at Damian Lillard, before mocking his wrist watch celebration like he did Laker meme Lance Stephenson’s air guitar strumming one with D’Angelo Russell ice in his veins. All before Paul George double pumped a dunk as time expired on a game that was already decided way before the horn blared.
But then last night in the face of P.G. the PDX P.G. beat the buzzer as Dame Time struck from way downtown RIP City, with an Austin 3:16 bottom line to give OKC the history engraved tombstone and the Portland Trail Blazers a legendary storied, legacy making championship belt for this classic series in hardwood history.
37 feet high and rising from deep. Deep as the halfcourt abyss. With the this time of season cherry blossoms blooming outside Portlandia’s Moda Center, the City of Roses was handing everyone from basketballs Oklahoma home funeral flowers. And leading the precession, hearse wrapping it up like his killer bars, Dame D.O.L.L.A was right on the money like exact change only please. Even if Paul George walking off in defeat like LeBron James and getting his Vlade Divac on in a press conference more awkward than a blind date with an ex called it a “bad shot”. To which the great Dame simply replied with a tweeted “lol” (see also, laugh and last). He better Big Shot Bobby Horry check a newspaper or something. Dame Time didn’t just beat the buzzer. He took baby powder to it. As Dame had all the Louis Armstrong time in the world with ten on the clock and the last shot in this final frame to dribble drive or dish. But instead, toying with George like a cat does a mouse, as David beat Goliath like Jerry did Tom, Lillard had the sand to set up shop, his spot and his shot from what looked like a bunker. A hole in one, with the cocksure confidence of Tiger Woods putting for Masters glory in Augusta and embracing his kids, two decades after doing the same with his pops all for the green jacket.
From this master, like a tap in putt with no Mulligan to carry, this was always going in. Nothing but net. All water like those Thunder tears. O.K. now that was a 3.
And to think I swore I wouldn’t go back on social media until after the new Avengers movie came out, but DAMN Dame Time! Spoiler alert, this is the new ‘Endgame’ now.
Cousy. Pettit. Sam Jones. Wilt. Chuck Barkley. M.J. And now the Dame train as the legendary Lillard goes hard to join this lineage as the only players to hit 50 in a playoff clinching game. And what a way to do it, fading away to clock out of the game and series 118-115 for the greatest Portland playoff moment since the G.O.A.T’s shrug. As mobbed by teammates on the floor he sank into, telling Russ to ‘Get Out’ his house. Peeling off like Jordan, Damian all on his own like a devil, GIF turned into an instant meme, as he turned the Thunder into a memory (you know the one were everyone loses their mind around that smirking kid with glasses in the raincoat? Well now guess which superheroes face is super imposed?). Staring into the camera with that look you know was for Russell Westbrook.
What a whole mood.
Whose left holding the baby now?
Dame didn’t even have to check his watch. Why? Him, her, them. They all knew what time it was. His. As Dame Lillard just did it in the Oregon home of Nike. Shoe dog like Phil Knight, running off victory for the courtside crowd, including legendary comedian Cedric the Entertainer for this last laugh lap. As this Gladiator hit one of the best and biggest shot fired in NBA history. Subliminal and literal.
Are you not entertained?
Two-time U Sports MVP Kadre Gray declares for NBA Draft
Two-time U Sports basketball player of the year Kadre Gray of the Laurentian Voyageurs has declared for the 2019 NBA Draft.
Gray, a 6’1″, 190 lbs junior guard from Toronto, Ontario has been terrorizing Canadian university basketball since his freshman season — cementing his legacy as a two-time MVP and scoring champion with a ridiculous 26.3 points per game career average in three full-seasons with the Voyageurs.
The 2016-17 U Sports rookie of the year award winner took the league by storm — leading the country in scoring as a freshman with 23.2 points per game. He finished second in his sophomore season with 24.4 points per game and led the nation in assists total with 141.
He took his game to a different stratosphere in his junior season — increasing his league-leading output to the third highest scoring average in Canadian university hoops since 1981-1982 with 31 points per game.
Calgary Dinos’ all-time great’s Richard Bohn and Karl Tilleman both led the nation with higher and ironically, identical scoring averages.
Both Bohn and Tilleman averaged 32.8 points per game. Bohn doing it during the 1995-1996 season and Tilleman, a two-time Canadian Olympian and NBA draft pick dominating the league in 1981-82 — before Canada’s adoption of the three-point line.
Not a one-trick-pony, Gray averaged 7.4 rebounds and 6.2 assists, 1.6 steals in 34.1 minutes per game.
Gray erupted for a career-high 48 points in a 101-81 win over the Lakehead Thunderwolves — shooting 13-of-23 from the floor and burying 19-of-20 shots from the foul-line on November 3rd, 2018.
He delivered his third 40-plus point game of his career with another impressive performance — 16-of-29 shooting against the Ryerson Rams on February 9th, 2019 — his lowest scoring output of the season was 23 points on multiple occasions.
Gray also represented Canada during the FIBA Basketball World Cup process playing in games against Venezuela and Brazil.
Prior to Laurentian, Gray honed his skills as a two-time athlete at Eastern Commerce Collegiate for three-years — leaving track and field (high jump, 100 meters) in the rear-view mirror and transferring to rival Oakwood Collegiate to conclude his high school career.
Additionally, with a record number of Canadian players in the NCAA tossing their names in the draft process we should expect 2019 to be the biggest year for
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