When Carl English returned to Newfoundland and Labrador in 2017, he said part of the move was to try and grow the sport of basketball.
On Monday, English's CE23 Academy will open up in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
"I think it's a very fragile time for sport in our community," he said.
"I feel sport is important, not just physically, but also for your mental well-being."
After a successful career playing professional basketball overseas, English returned to join the St. John's Edge when the team started up in 2017.
The University of Hawaii alumni helped lead the team to the NBL Canada finals before officially retiring earlier this year.
When you step foot into the recently renovated gym in St. John's, there is no mistaking the man behind it — English's logo and face cover and surround the floor.
There are pictures of the Patrick's Cove hoop star going up against the late Kobe Bryant, or standing next to Team Canada coaching staff Jay Triano and Steve Nash and even one of his final game played at Fatima Academy in St. Bride's before moving to the mainland.
The former NBL Canada league MVP has constantly pointed out that his home province isn't doing enough to help young athletes.
"I feel Newfoundland and Labrador as a province is lacking facilities and we've lacked them for years," English said.
It's a notion that has sunk in as a harsh reality when he moved home and tried to start training.
"I've talked to friends across other parts of Newfoundland and they're really struggling now,' he said.
"I think this pandemic has really made it evident that we're lacking a lot of facilities."
English hopes lessons he learned while touring the world and playing professional basketball will be something to pass on to the next generation of athletes.
"There's a lot there we can offer and right now people need to get active again and try to get back to some type of normal life."
Before the gym has even opened, English is more focused on growth than ever.
"It's a stepping stone for me and this will give me an opportunity [to test it out]," he said.
"Establish myself in the community even more, help the kids in the next generation, but I still have ambitions of building a bigger megaplex."
English is hoping to create a facility similar to the PowerPlex in St. John's, where he sometimes trains.
Much like his life — filled with heartbreak, tragedy and obstacles to overcome — opening his business will come with challenges in the new COVID-19 world.
"We are going to follow the government protocols and the plan that's in place there," said English.
"I feel with the plan we have in place, [we] will constantly be able to run the basketball program."
The CE23 Academy will offer programs for boys and girls under the age 18 which he said will include a lot more than just work on the court.
This content was originally published here.