Robert Nortmann, left, and Terry Thomas played university basketball in Atlantic Canada and now are teammates with the Island Storm.
©Brian McInnis/The Guardian
The Island Storm has plenty of regional flavour.
Three of the National Basketball League of Canada squad's five Canadians played at Atlantic University Sport (AUS) schools, while two are dyed-in-the-wool Maritimers.
Terry Thomas, a Dartmouth, N.S., native, excelled at St. FX, averaging 19.6 points, 7.9 rebounds, 2.6 assists, while shooting 60 per cent from the floor during three seasons, before transferring to University of Ottawa. There, he finished fourth in the country in scoring at almost 22 points per game in his final university season.
For Thomas, playing pro ball near his hometown does more than put money in his bank account.
"It's amazing. It teaches kids around here that you can follow your dream (despite) not at lot of exposure," said Thomas, who played pro in Germany last season. "Playing ball here really proves that."
Ex-AUSer's Robert Nortmann and Alex DesRoches, a Dieppe, N.B., native and former UNB guard, are Thomas teammates this season.
The other Canucks include point guard Gary Gibson (the Windsor, Ont., native didn't practice Thursday because of a wonky Achilles tendon) and Albertan Kenny Otieno. NBL teams are required to have four Canadians.
Gibson is out for tonight's contest with the Atlantic Division-leading Halifax Hurricanes (7-3) at 7 p.m. at Eastlink Centre, but the others are in.
Nortmann is originally from the Bahamas, but grew up in Toronto. The power forward played four seasons with Dalhousie, earning AUS all-star status and averaging more than 14 points per game in his final season.
He played 32 games with the NBL's Halifax Rainmen in 2013, before stints in Australia and as a development player with the Harlem Globetrotters.
For him, the Storm's trio of AUS alumni shows the circuit's strength.
"It's a great league. Great basketball, great scrappy players. It shows we can compete against the best in the world," said Nortmann.
Storm owner Duncan Shaw agrees. The former player with the UPEI Panthers men's basketball team is the only league owner who went to, and played at, an AUS school.
He sees the conference as a real conduit to the pros.
"The AUS is a tough, tough league. It seasons guys to play tough basketball. And there are good coaches in the AUS. Thomas and DesRoches are (products) of that," said Shaw.
Shaw said size is one of main differences between the Canadian and American university players. He said often coaches at tournaments and other player showcases can tell NCAA players before they even hit the floor.
"They're typically 25 pounds heavier as a senior then when they were a freshman. That matters (for pro ball)."
Shaw said part of his mandate for the Storm is to build a feeder system from Grade 7 straight to the Storm. The Storm have off-season camps for kids and Shaw's goal is to have a player play in an Island junior high and high school, at UPEI and start for the Storm.
Former Storm forward Doug McKinney came close that. He spent four years with the club, but never cracked the starting lineup.
"(I want people to say) a player can go from university scholarship to pro contract with a straight face. I want a kid in Stratford to have just as good a chance to play pro ball as a kid from Brampton."
A look at the five Canadians on the Island Storm:
Terry Thomas, Halifax, attended St. FX and Ottawa, 6'4", 180-pounds.
Alex DesRoches, Dieppe, N.B., attended UNB, 6'4", 190 pounds.
Kenny Otieno, Edmonton, attended University of Alberta, 6'3", 205 pounds
Gary Gibson, Windsor, Ont., attended Eastern Washington University, 6'2", 200 pounds.
Robert Nortmann, Toronto, attended Dalhousie University, 6'9", 230 pounds.