Crucial week for Storm hopefuls

Stephen Brun
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Team plays inter-squad game at UPEI Tuesday, and host Miracles on Friday

SUMMERSIDE – Competition will be fierce this week for the final few Summerside Storm roster spots, coming off the team’s win in its first pre-season game Sunday night.

The Summerside Storm's Ayodokun Akingbade (left) and Halifax Rainmen's Paul Nelson fight for possession of the ball during NBL of Canada pre-season action at the Halifax Metro Centre on Sunday.

The Storm defeated last season’s second-best team, the Halifax Rainmen, 106-97 in front of 7,500 fans at the Metro Centre.

Most encouraging for Summerside’s coaching staff was that the Storm came back in the fourth quarter to seal the victory, a feat that proved elusive through much of the team’s first season.

“Above all, it showed a lot of grit and a lot of character for our guys to come back when Halifax made their run late in the third (quarter) and in the fourth,” said Storm head coach Joe Salerno.

“We just didn’t fold. That was a big issue we had last season: teams would make runs on us and we’d fold up the tent and go home, where last night… guys like Avery Smith and Greg Plummer really weren’t going to let the team lose last night.”

Plummer, who arrived at training camp just last week, poured in 30 points, while point guard Smith had eight points and nine assists in the win. Louis Birdsong had 18 points and grabbed 10 rebounds, and returning point guard Al Stewart complimented Smith’s performance with nine points and nine assists.

The Storm’s final roster will depend on Tuesday night’s intra-squad game at UPEI, followed on Friday by the Rogers Slam Dunk Charity Game at Credit Union Place against the Moncton Miracles.

Thirteen players are hoping to be on that roster, and a 14th arrives in Summerside on Tuesday. Six-foot-eight, 225-pound Issa Konare from Senegal, who attended the team’s tryout camp in New Hampshire two weeks ago, has not been cleared to play in the NBL yet, but Salerno hopes he will be ready by Friday’s pre-season game.

While it seems the coaching staff has a good idea of who will make the cut, Salerno said there are some players whose future with the team depends on this week’s practices and games.

“There’s probably four or five guys competing for those final couple spots,” he said. “The way Avery Smith has played in the last intra-squad game and last night in Halifax, I think he’s really shown us he can handle playing in this league, and he’s certainly made a strong case for himself.

“There’s some guys like that, and there’s some guys that are certainly on the bubble… and I think those guys know who they are, and we’re looking forward to seeing how they react to that come Friday night.”

Proceeds from the intra-squad game at UPEI go toward the Panther basketball programs, while Friday night’s contest with the Miracles benefits the P.E.I. Boys and Girls Clubs, the Bloomfield Elementary playground fund and Three Oaks Senior High.

“It’s tough to put any kind of plan in – Moncton’s roster has probably turned over as much as ours has,” said Salerno of Friday’s game. “The focus really isn’t going to be on winning the game, it’s going to be on making these final decisions for our roster.”

Organizations: Metro Centre, Rogers Slam Dunk Charity Game, Credit Union Place P.E.I. Boys

Geographic location: Summerside, Halifax, Senegal New Hampshire Moncton

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