Reaching playoffs remains goal for Shaw, pro basketball team
SUMMERSIDE — The Summerside Storm has experienced some ups and downs in the first two months of the regular season, but team co-owner Duncan Shaw likes where the team is positioned.
“I am pretty pleased,” assessed Shaw, who feels the second half of the National Basketball League of Canada season has the potential to take P.E.I. fans on one heck of a ride. “We have set the goal of making the playoffs.”
A heart-breaking 108-106 road loss to the Saint John Mill Rats on Sunday sent the Storm into Christmas at 9-8 (won-lost), and in second place in the very tight Atlantic Division. The Storm started the regular season with four straight wins, then lost six of seven and have four wins in their last six games.
Along with a coveted playoff berth, the Storm’s other two goals in their second year of operation are an attendance increase and to raise $50,000 for P.E.I. charities.
“Ticket sales are down a tiny bit from last year, but not much,” said Shaw. “December is a tough month, and January and February ticket sales will tell the tale in how we do that way.
“Season-ticket sales are up, sponsorship is up and the break-even goal is in sight. It’s not easy, but it’s in sight.
“The $50,000 raised for charity, we are in the ballpark at halfway there, so that’s exciting. We are halfway through the year, our three goals are still on the table and obviously in pretty good shape.”
The Storm has averaged 1,944 fans in their first seven home games, drawing crowds of over 2,000 in five of those.
“We are looking to start seeing the numbers pick up,” said Shaw, who acknowledged one major factor impacting attendance that no one can control is the weather. “We are running a little bit later into March in the regular season this year, so that gave us a little homestand at the end, when hopefully the run to the playoffs or juggling for positions is happening, and that should help a lot.”
The Storm will close out the regular season with four straight home games between March 8 to 16.
Season-ticket sales are up, sponsorship is up and the break-even goal is in sight. It’s not easy, but it’s in sight. Storm co-owner Duncan Shaw
One area Shaw, along with co-owner Darren MacKay and management consultant Bill Schurman, take pride is making themselves very accessible to fans. They greet fans, offer thanks and accept feedback from fans leaving Eastlink Arena following each game.
“The big thing for us is how much we really appreciate the community support,” emphasized Shaw, the sincerity evident in his voice. “Last year, there was a perception this thing may not last. This year, there is a lot more faith this team is going to be around for a long time, and you see people engaging. . .
“You are seeing the community attachment really step up, which is really fantastic. The corporate sponsors have stepped up to another level.
“It’s a small market and the economy is not booming right now, so you appreciate any time people put towards it. We are seeing some of that. We always appreciate people supporting it, because in the end if you don’t get that support it’s just a pickup game with loud music.”
SUMMERSIDE — The Summerside Storm have signed Omari Johnson, a second- team National Basketball League of Canada all-star last season with the Oshawa Power.
Johnson joins the Storm from the D-league of the NBA where he was a fifth- round draft pick of the Canton Charge.
Last year, Johnson was the second-leading scorer on the Power and fourth in the NBL, scoring 17.5 points per game. He currently holds the league record with 250 field goals made in one season and the league record for blocks at 57.
A native of Los Angeles, the six-foot-nine forward played his college ball at Oregon State University where he was a four-year starter for the Beavers.
He is expected to play for the Storm today against the Halifax Rainmen.