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Mark Tavenor confident St. John’s has an appetite for pro basketball

Mark Tavenor signs an autograph after a Highlanders game earlier this year.
Mark Tavenor signs an autograph after a Highlanders game earlier this year.

Mark Tavenor has no doubt there’s an appetite for professional basketball in St. John’s.

He was pretty pumped to hear that the National Basketball League of Canada is looking at spreading its wings to North America’s oldest city.

David Magley, the 57-year-old commissioner of the National Basketball League of Canada (NBL Canada), was in St. John’s recently to discuss the possibility of an NBL Canada expansion franchise becoming the new tenant at Mile One Centre.

The arena’s primary tenant, the American Hockey League’s St. John’s IceCaps, has now officially relocated to Laval, Que.

A 25-year-old, six-foot-four forward, Tavenor suited up for the Cape Breton Highlanders of the National Basketball League of Canada this year for two games after the expansion franchise ran into a shortage of players due to injuries.

He tells everybody who will listen that the calibre of basketball is impressive and requires a lot of commitment, with a lot of players in the mix who were at one time prospects for National Basketball Association teams.

He figures St. John’s is poised to support a pro basketball team with the game being played by a big portion of the population, with hundreds of players suiting up in three or four different men’s divisions alone.

He knows it will require a lot of hard work to put a franchise in place because he has formed a pretty solid friendship with Cape Breton Highlanders president Tyrone Levingston and saw how much time and effort is required to get it off the ground.

He believes basketball is popular enough to warrant a franchise as long as the community throws its support behind it and the right connections are made in the community to build it from the ground up on the success of established franchises.

“It’s a growing sport in Canada and I do think it could work in St. John’s if it’s done properly,” he said.

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