ST. JOHN’S, NL — A former MUN basketball star with Placentia-area roots is having a great time working with St. John’s first-ever professional basketball team.
“It’s been excellent,” said Evan Constantine, the St. John’s Edge’s strength and conditioning coach. “Obviously right now, it’s the top sports team in town. These are the best athletes in the province right now, and to have that opportunity to work with a pro team, that’s pretty much the peak of my career.
“I’ve worked with a lot of high-level athletes before, but to get to this level where they’re actually pros and this is their job, it’s outstanding to get to walk into a weight room with them on a regular basis — guys that want to put in that work and want to get better every time. It’s hard to find that in people.”
The Dunville native is working with the Edge during the team’s inaugural season, which has thus far gone swimmingly. Throughout the season, the Edge have been near the top of regular season standings, sporting a win-loss record of 16-9 as of Thursday morning. They’re also doing well at the box office, averaging 3,300 spectators per game — the second-best average for the 10-team National Basketball League of Canada.
“Anything to do with the weight room or conditioning throughout the year, that all falls underneath my job description,” said Constantine, who also works for The Energy Company, a health and fitness centre located in St. John’s.
Constantine’s basketball pedigree is considerable. He spent five years playing for the Memorial University Seahawks, was the team’s captain for two of those, and later served as an assistant coach for the men’s squad. His father David Constantine also played for MUN and coached junior and senior basketball teams at schools in the Placentia area for many years, as well as provincial clubs. David is also a former president of the Newfoundland and Labrador Basketball Association.
Evan Constantine heard the early rumours about a professional basketball club coming to St. John’s. Knowing it’s considered a hockey town, he was pleasantly surprised to see how quickly fans got on board with the team.
“Based on what the Edge are doing now, not only on the basketball court but in the community, it’s outstanding,” he said. “I don’t think anybody could have projected it to go as well as it’s going.”
Signing Newfoundland basketball star Carl English combined with a competitive team on the court has done wonders for the Edge, Constantine said, but he also believes the players’ willingness to sign autographs after games and connect with fans is going a long way in raising the team’s profile.
“They’re in the schools a lot. They’re doing basketball camps. They’re everywhere, and everywhere you go, the buzz around the city is Edge basketball —from my family, which is a big basketball family, to people that I would have never ever thought about talking basketball with.”
Having played the sport a lot himself, Constantine has been thoroughly impressed by the skill and fitness level of Edge players.
“These guys are pros. This is part of their job. If they’re not in shape, there’s another person to replace them. Within days they can have new guys flown in here to replace a guy. That’s part of the business, and as a professional, if you’re not taking care of your body, you’re not going to last long.”
He considers English, the team’s homegrown star, to be a perfect example of that. The Patrick’s Cove native turned 37 earlier this month and has played professionally for years following a stellar collegiate career in Hawaii. Despite his age, English is among the leading scorers in the NBL.
“Just go back to Carl and you look at how well he’s been playing and how long he’s been able to play. It’s because he takes great care of his body. Through nutrition, through working out, through recovery — it’s phenomenal. All these guys get that, and without it, these guys are going to be shut down pretty fast.
“It’s only a 40-game season, but it’s a grueling 40 games,” said Constantine. “They usually end up playing four, five or six games in as many nights, and it’s hard on the body.”
The Edge have had their share of injuries to deal with over the course of the season. Constantine noted the joints are especially susceptible to injury when playing basketball at this level.
“The ankles, the knees, the lower back stuff —that’s what we see the most of,” he said, going on to name three players currently recovering from knee injuries.
“The body is not meant to jump as high as what these guys are doing,” Constantine added. “If we were supposed to jump this high, we’d probably all have wings. But these guys with the jumps and landing, it’s a lot of stress on a 6’6”, 6’7” or even bigger body.”
The regular season for the Edge continues until early April, after which the team will most likely find itself gearing up for the playoffs.
“For me right now, the only goal is to keep these guys healthy,” Constantine said, adding the team is hoping for a lengthy playoff run.
“These guys aren’t really going to get in much better shape over the next two-to-three months. They’re in season. Rest is going to be a big thing, but right now it’s keeping everyone rolling and keeping everyone healthy. For the most part, we’ve been pretty lucky with that.
“Some guys have gone down (with injuries), but in the bigger picture, some other teams are getting hit a lot harder than we are. So just to keep these guys healthy, that’s number one right now.”