© Guardian photo by Brian McInnis
These young Island Storm fans show who their favourite players are during a fan appreciation night Tuesday at Eastlink Centre. Camden Salerno, front, left, son of head coach Joe Salerno, holds up a photo of Al Stewart while Anthony Walker holds one of Adrian Moss. Emmett LeClair’s favourite player is Nick Okorie while his brother, Silas, back, right, cheers for Antonio Ballard.
Salerno already looking ahead to next NBL of Canada season
Once the National Basketball League of Canada players stop running, the teams hit the court minus a few days off for some of its head coaches.
Joe Salerno, head coach of the Island Storm, is one of those.
Salerno, now three full seasons behind the Storm bench, is taking two weeks off for a family vacation to Vermont now that the NBL season is over before returning to P.E.I. and planning for the 2014-15 NBL campaign.
It begins with re-signing players, who are all on one-year contracts, and designating players for the league's protected list.
Each team is allowed to protect and negotiate contracts with five players before Oct. 1.
Most of the Storm’s players will return to their home states, but, said Salerno, whose team lost to the Windsor Express in seven games in the NBL final, Islanders could see many familiar faces come October.
“Between now and the pro combines in July we’ll talk to the guys that are coming back. There will be a lot. I thought we had a good team. It would be surprising if you saw many of our players playing for other teams in the NBL. Obviously, Antonio Ballard and Nick Okorie are top priority guys,” said Salerno, a Vermont native who lives in P.E.I. year-round. “I think the guys knew in Games 6 and 7 they didn’t perform and it left a sour taste in their mouths. It will certainly help bring back some of the guys.”
Ballard led the Storm in scoring (21.56 points per game) and rebounding (9.91 per game) this season while Okorie was lights out in the playoffs, making tough shot after tough shot while defending some of the league’s top guards.
Part of the Storm’s off-season list includes organizing Storm summer youth basketball camps, assessing talent at pro combines in Las Vegas, Houston and Chicago (those are just the tip of the iceberg) and selecting players at the NBL draft in August.
All that before training camp begins in October.
That said, Salerno has a shopping list of sorts if he wants to get his team, which has lost the last two NBL finals, over the hump next year.
“I thought we lacked some physical toughness. We’re looking for guys that are a little more aggressive,” said Salerno.
“I thought Windsor was more aggressive.”
The Storm’s and the other eight clubs’ protected lists should be released within the next few weeks. That list gives an NBL club exclusive contract negotiation rights to its players.
After the Oct. 1 deadline, a protected player can sign with any NBL club. Players can also sign with another league at any point.
Some NBLers will join leagues in other countries for more money and/or perks and won’t return next season.
Many will, however, because each NBL team is allowed nine imports along with its three required Canadians. Most European clubs only allow one or two imports so landing a job on an NBL roster can be a better proposition for many American ex-university players looking for their first pro job.
And while Salerno knows the NBL isn’t the only league in the world, the three-year-old circuit has strengths beyond rosters spots, too.
“It’s close to home. Many players are five to six hours from home. And the level of talent is attractive to top players. This is the best overall talent I’ve seen in three years,” he said. “In my travelling around, I hear more of the word (about the NBL) getting out. I think it’s spreading more and more.”
On the web at www.nblcanada.com.