Vanzant off to solid start with Island Storm

Charles Reid
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In basketball, travelling is a no-no. For Island Storm guard Shawn Vanzant travel is a way of life.

Since 2007, the 25-year-old Tampa, Fla., native, has moved from his hometown to Butler University in Indianapolis, Ind., to Finland, to Springfield, Mass., to Charlottetown.

If living out of a suitcase is a problem, the National Basketball League of Canada rookie isn't showing it.

"It feels like (I'm always moving). I played in the AAU (American Athletic Union) with lots of travel. In college, you (learn) to adjust on the fly," Vanzant said after Storm practice Thursday.

Friday, the Storm (5-5) host the Atlantic Division-leading Saint John Mill Rats (6-4). A win ties the Storm with the Rats for first in the division. Game time is 7 p.m. at Eastlink Centre.

The Storm is 2-1 versus Saint John overall this season and 1-1 at the in Charlottetown.  

Regardless of location, Vanzant is concentrating on his time with the Storm. He's averaging more than 10 points a game and is second on the team in field goal percentage (.507).

It's a solid start to his NBL time.

Two season's ago, Vanzant played for Korihait Uusikaupunki in Finland to start his pro basketball career after a decorated university stint where he helped Butler, a school of about 2,500 students, reach the NCAA Final Four championship game two straight seasons.

In Finland he averaged 13 points, 2.1 rebounds, and 2.1 assists per game.

The NBA Development League followed last season as a member of the Springfield Armor.

There, he played 11 games, averaging 3.3 points, 1.5 rebounds, and 1.8 assists in 14.3 minutes a game, before a knee injury shortened his season.

This year, the Storm drafted Vanzant ninth overall in the first round of the NBL draft, and he's adjusting to the differences on the court.

"It's a lot faster than Finland. The most difficult part is there are so many good players. (You) have to pick your spots to help the team. In Finland, teams could have three Americans so you know who's starting, you know who's taking the shots. Here there are 10 guys who are really athletic and can get their shot off quickly," said Vanzant. "I'll do whatever it takes to help the team win. Playing defence, shooting. My goal is to win sixth man of the year. Whatever coach needs me to do."

It's also been a slightly unsettled Storm 10 games into the NBL campaign.

Centre Antoine Tisby returned to his home in Kansas City, Mo., earlier this week for personal reasons. Power forward Jeremy Williams is taking Tisby's spot.

Late last month, the Storm added former London Lightning point guard Adrian Moss and released guard Derek Coleman.

In mid-November, the team cut centre Nick Evans and brought in big man Steve Tchiengang.

It's meant a getting-used-to-the-new guys period and Vanzant said things are getting there.

"I think we're making the turn."

As for the team's overall size and playoff success, the six-foot-one, 175-pound Vanzant had a thought or two on that.

He said his Butler squads weren't behemoths like many of its large school opponents, yet managed to reach heights most NCAA basketball teams never reach.

"College is different. But we were very small in college and we found ways to win," he said. "If you play together and everyone wants to win, you can make that happen."

The Storm travels to Halifax on Sunday to face the Rainmen. Game time is 2 p.m.

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A few Island Storm facts after 10 games:

-The Storm lead the NBL in offensive rebounds per game (15.2), rebounding margin (plus-6.6), assists per game (23.9), total assists (239) and steals (96).  

-The Storm is second in scoring average (104.7) behind London (106.2), in field goal percentage (46.8 per cent) behind Mississauga (47.9 per cent) and in three-point shooting percentage (37.2 per cent) behind Saint John (38.3 per cent).

-The Storm has out-rebounded opponents eight of 10 games this season and is 5-3 when it wins the rebound battle.

Organizations: Butler University, National Basketball League of Canada, Athletic Union NBA Development League Antoine Tisby NCAA

Geographic location: Finland, Tampa, Fla., Indianapolis, Ind. Springfield, Mass. Saint John Charlottetown Kansas City Halifax

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