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Raptors HQ's Ray Bala Talks with Carl English

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English has come a long way since his days at Hawaii...
English has come a long way since his days at Hawaii...

Carl English is the starting two guard for the Canadian Senior Men's basketball team and one of the program's stalwarts.  After an excellent year in Europe which led to a new contract with Tau Vitoria (now Caja Laboral) in the uber competitive Spanish ACB League, English joined Canada for the FIBA Americas Qualifying Tournament that recently concluded.  Playing in eight of the team's ten games in Puerto Rico, English was the team's leading scorer at 12.5 points per game helping Canada qualify for the World Championships in Turkey.  The Can Ball Report happened to catch up with English before the team travelled to San Juan to get his thoughts on not only his new contract with Tau Vitoria, but also the direction of Canada Basketball, and his expectations for the Qualifying Tournament. 

Can Ball:  How has playing in Spain been this past season?

Carl English: It's been good.  I find that it's the best league outside of the NBA.  It's very competitive.  First year we finished just outside the playoffs.  Then we made the Spanish Cup and the first round of the playoffs.  We had the best season in the club's history.  I then decided to sign back with Tau Vitoria.

CB:  Did wanting to play overseas factor in, in regards to not playing with the Raptors summer league team?

CE:  I had some things in Europe on the table but I turned down some others because I wanted to give the Raptors a go.  I thought I had a fair shot there but I had Tau Vitoria very interested.  I was trying to put the offer off for a couple of weeks so I could do the Raptors (summer league) and get a good look there.  But when I got to Vegas we had the offer on the table and it was a great contract.  I put it off until the end of the week and I had to decide; either stay in Vegas and take the gamble or take the contract and go to Spain.  I talked a few people, Jay, Maurizio and Colangelo, and they steered my in the right direction.  Tau kinda forced my hand since there was interest from the Raptors.  So once I signed the contract it was more of a liability (to play in the summer league) so I shut it down and headed home.

CB:  How do you think playing in Europe has prepared you for this upcoming tournament?

CE:  Well it's a global game.  I find that the FIBA game is a lot different than the NBA game.  The NBA is more open.  The European game is more closed, more team concept and not a lot of one-on-one play and my game tailors to that. 

I'm sure I can fit a role in the NBA but when June, July hits, I'm considered a top player (in Europe).  I may be a role player in the NBA and I may catch on in August, September.  But to wait that long my options might dry up.  For me, if I can prove that I can dominate with this team then I may get that Anthony Parker contract (who signed with the Raps from Macabbi Tel Aviv).  Right now I'm too old to try out because that's just the level I'm at.

CB:  Do you feel that you're at the Dave Thomas (who starred in Australia's NBL for many years) stage now thinking more of securing the best possible contract in the best possible situation?

CE:  Yes.  I find that I focused on the NBA so much in college and when I left college.  It dominated everything I was doing.  But I'm at the stage in my career now where unless I get a guarantee, I can't give up what I'm doing there.  It's more about security for me and my family.  I'd love play in the NBA but it's not the end of the world.  I'm about moving forward, playing at the highest level I can and staying there. 

CB:  How are you treated in Europe?

CE:  They treat their players very well.  You're treated like a king when you're there.  It's like the soccer mentality.  They love their players and the (community) supports them.  It's an amazing atmosphere.  I find that the NBA Playoff atmosphere is unbelievable and every game in Europe is like the (NBA) playoffs. 

CB:  Looking back on your early career, give us an idea of your D-League experience.

CE:  The D-League was a stepping stone.  It's tough to play in the league if you have no other income.  I still think it's the best and closest way to get to the NBA because if someone goes down, you're right there.  My first year was a little questionable but my second year I had a great year under Dennis Johnson.  I was close on numerous call ups with some teams so you're always on the edge of your seat, and that can kill you.  (Playing in the D-League) really humbles you.  It makes you work a lot harder and it forces you to make a decision:  do you stay and do the camp thing again and keep trying or do you go overseas?  If you can approach going over the right way, start at the bottom and move to the top teams and get paid very well. 

CB:  With that in mind, would there be any part of that route you might have done differently?

CE:  (With a chuckle) I would have tried to avoid all that and got drafted and made it easy!  But I think the thing that hurt me was not having the right agents when I came out of school.  If I had the agent I had now he would have known my chances and told me to go back to school, I'm not getting drafted.  I had people around me I thought I trusted that were giving me bad advice and it may have cost me an opportunity in the NBA.  You make mistakes, I am where I am and right now though and life is good.

CB:  What are your thoughts on the direction of the Canadian Men's program?

CE:  I'm happy with the way things are going.  I like the change.  I like how they changed things from previous years.  Things were going ok, but change is always good.  You have the right people in places and the right people that care and the right people that know what they're doing, I think it gives you a totally different look.  That's sets you up to succeed.  Now you're not always going to succeed right away but if not, it's next year or the year after.  Right now, everybody's doing their part and everybody's buying in.  And that's a big thing when it comes to playing for your country.  The guys coming in have to know their roles; who does what and at a great level and you got to go to those things to succeed.

CB:  Do you feel there's a more European feel to the game in the training camp this summer?

CE:  There's a big European factor and there has to be because it's a FIBA game.  As for the FIBA game and playing European teams, that's what you need to do.

CB:  There's also been a move to involve more of the younger players.  Do you feel this is a good thing for the National Program?

CE:  You have to.  Those young kids need to know what it's like to train with the best.  In the other countries, we'll have two, three guys everyday that come to practice with you.  They see what it's like to play at that high level and they bring that back to their teams.  Having the young guys up, I think it helps them and gives them some experience.  It shows them that they have to work harder to get to a higher level.  By bringing these guys in, a week here a week there, it helps them see the bigger picture. 

CB:  Is there anything different you've noticed from the previous years?

CE:  I think what's most different is that you have more guys with more experience.  Now you have most guys with a few more years (playing pro) under belt.  All the guys are playing more so that helps you build when you throw all these guys in together.  When I first came in your only 23, 24 and you don't really see the big picture.  Now it's totally different and we have that going for us.

CB:  Have you felt that this team is coming together, getting closer on the floor?

CE:  I find that everybody knows each other from previous years.  You have good guys that are here.  Now that you have a structure, discipline plans and what you need from guys regarding responsibilities and everything goes in place. Now you have guys who are on time, on schedule and focused with good attitudes and that make everything easier and easier to work with.   

These guys are all good guys.  When you're playing basketball for a living, you really have nothing to complain about.  We get along well, we have fun.  We come in, do the work, leave it on the floor and then go out and have more fun. 

CB:  What are your expectations are for the coming FIBA Americas Tournament?

CE:  Obviously qualifying for the Worlds I think is a step.  We can beat any of those teams. We need to go into it with that confidence so if we can get off some quick wins I think it'll help us through the rest of the tournament.  But also we need to gel, get guys together and keep moving forward in the right step.  I think the change was made was change for good.  We're just trying to win games after that.

CB:  Most memorable experience playing for the National Program?

CE:  I've had some good moments with the team but the biggest thing is the camaraderie with the guys.  You develop relationships and friendships with the guys and coaching staff that you keep with you forever.  For me, playing the game is a great experience but I do that all year round.  But when you come in and see the guys the friendships you are lasting.

CB:  Thanks for your time Carl and good luck in Puerto Rico!

 

*Editor's note:  In case you were not aware Canada did qualify for the 2010 World Basketball Championships in Turkey.  And for more on the National Team program, be sure to check out www.basketball.ca.