Island basketball team wants to build on NBL of Canada finals appearance from 2012-13
Island Storm head coach Joe Salerno wouldn’t say his National Basketball League of Canada team is under pressure for 2013-14, but he wants to meet certain criteria, starting with a league title.
“There are high expectations,” Salerno said on Tuesday of his team, the runner-up in last year’s championship series. “Once you make it to the league final, there’s only one place to go.”
Last year, the Storm was based in Summerside. It finished first in the Atlantic Division with a 26-14 record and reached the league final where it lost in four games to the now two-time defending champ London Lightning.
This season, the Storm are based in Charlottetown, tagged on the ‘Island’ moniker and will play out of recently renamed Eastlink Centre (once the Charlottetown Civic Centre).
With that extra activity, it’s imperative the team get off to a good start.
The team, currently holding training camp at UPEI, opens the season Saturday, Nov. 2 versus the Saint John Mill Rats. Game time is 7 p.m. at Eastlink Centre.
First, though, the team needs to be picked. Seventeen players are in camp. Three will be cut after today’s inter-squad game at Morell Regional High School. The game starts at 7 p.m.
Salerno said he’s taking 14 players into exhibition games Friday against Saint John (7 p.m. at UPEI) and Sunday in Halifax versus the Rainmen (2 p.m. at Metro Centre). Eastlink TV is broadcasting the game.
After that Salerno will whittle the squad to 12 players.
“I think we have a talented group of guards, and this is guard-driven league,” said Salerno, who is in his third season as head coach of the Storm.
“This is the most talented camp I’ve had in five years. It’s a nice mix right now.”
Salerno, a native of Barre, Vt., began his pro coaching career as an assistant with the now-defunct Vermont Frost Heaves of the Premier Basketball League, which housed the three NBL founding teams (Halifax, Saint John and Quebec Kebs).
Salerno guided the Frost Heaves to a 12-5 record that season.
The Kebs has since folded and its replacement, the Montreal Jazz, is taking a year’s leave of absence. The NBL has had its share of economic challenges, but this season looks solid.
Two new teams, the Ottawa Skyhawks and the Brampton A’s, are online upping the league to nine teams in two divisions, the Atlantic and Central. Last year’s squad in Oshawa moved and is now the Mississauga Power.
“The league is very stable, but in any league there will always be one or two franchises that struggle. There are six or seven very stable teams, and a couple of expansion teams that will have to do it the right way,” said Salerno.
“The level of play is improving. It’s caught on as a place to play for high-level (NCAA) Division I players. I think the league will continue to grow.”
This year, the top eight teams make the playoffs. Because of the unbalanced Central Division, the fourth- and fifth-place teams in the Central play a one-game play-in to determine the last playoff spot.