CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. –
It’s a new Island Storm that’s headed into a new National Basketball League (NBL) of Canada season.
This year’s Storm is minus longtime had coach Joe Salerno, gone to the Moncton Magic as bench boss, and 10 players from last year’s roster, including leading scorer Jahii Carson and shooting guard Terry Thomas (also now with Moncton).
But while a program will be helpful come Opening Day on Saturday, Nov. 18, there could be a few familiar faces.
Tyler Scott, former UPEI Panthers standout, is in camp. The six-foot-three shooting guard lit up the Atlantic University Sport (AUS) circuit for three seasons at UPEI, including leading the league in scoring last season at 21.5 points per game, and helped drive UPEI to the brink of an AUS title in 2016.
Good credentials, but Scott knows the NBL is a whole other beast.
“Obviously, it’s different. You’re not going against 17- and 18-year olds. You’re playing against men. (University players) are not as mature physically and mentally. It’s climbing that pole all over again,” said the Clayton Park, N.S., native, after the team’s first on-court action Tuesday. “The first day as a pro feels good. Good to get back with the guys and get ready for the season.”
Scott’s one of five Canadians required by the league for its teams. Returnee Brad States (Bathurst, N.B.) and newbie Dut Dut (Ottawa) played with Scott at UPEI. Kemy Osse (Montreal) and Chris Johnson (North Preston, N.S.) round out the group.
Some noticeable mugs on the court Tuesday included agile centre Nick Evans, who returns this year after being shipped out to the London Lightning in February 2016, and guards Wayne McCullogh and Jackson Trapp. The pair missed enough time to injuries last year to render them nearly out of sight out of mind.
Another familiar face, in ex-UPEI head coach Tim Kendrick, ran the show Tuesday. Kendrick replaced Salerno after the Storm didn’t re-sign the NBL’s winningest coach to a new contract.
Kendrick’s won at every level he’s coached from high school in Nova Scotia to Canada Games to the AUS. Now he takes his aggressive, guard-oriented, in-your-face pressing concept, so successful in university, to the NBL where he said it can translate.
“I think that’s kind of the norm in the league. We’ll get up and down, play that style,” said Kendrick. “I’m excited. I love it. I’m in my element. Good to get out here with these guys. Sitting and waiting (for the season) is the hard thing.”
In the pro game, guards regularly hand check, press, bump and hold so physicality is critical. But Scott understands the only thing limiting him right now is himself.
“It’s different in that you have more opportunities to work on your game. Student-athletes have classes to go to. Here you’ve got to be focused, got to do your job (and) be listening to the guys who have been there and learn,” he said. “Basketball is one of those things that if you can score you can play at any level.”
Training camp runs all week at Holland College. Practices are two-a-day ending Thursday with an inter-squad scrimmage. First cuts come after the scrimmage.
The Storm plays its only pre-season game Sunday at 2 p.m. versus the Cape Breton Highlanders in Cape Breton.
The Storm hosts the expansion St. John’s Edge on Nov. 18 to start the season. Game time is 7 p.m. at Eastlink Centre.
HE SAID IT:
“They know who I am. They may have to hear some things from time to time, but they also know their coach would be first guy to pound them on the shoulder and smack them on the butt when they did something good.”
– Island Storm head coach Tim Kendrick on coaching his former UPEI players Tyler Scott, Dut Dut and Brad States now with the Storm.