Storm close to finalizing roster

Stephen Brun
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Release two more players on Monday

SUMMERSIDE – It may not be official yet, but the Summerside Storm are one step closer to finalizing their roster with the release of two players on Monday.

The Summerside Storm’s Al Stewart, left, makes a pass during last Friday’s pre-season game against the Moncton Miracles at Credit Union Place. The team’s coaching staff released two players on Monday, and will finalize its roster by Wednesday at midnight in preparation for this Friday night’s regular season opener against the Saint John Mill Rats. Looking on in the photo are Summerside’s Antonio Ballard, 5, and Moncton’s Jamil Terrell, 21, Sylvania Watkins, 7, Devin Sweetney, 34, and Christian Upshaw, 3.

The National Basketball League of Canada doesn’t require teams to submit their final rosters until midnight on Oct. 31, but the Storm’s coaching staff decided on the two cuts following Friday’s pre-season win over the Moncton Miracles.

Head coach Joe Salerno did not want to release the names of the two players until after the league deadline, but said the decision was difficult given the calibre of players at the team’s training camp.

“We did release two players, but we’re still in the process of finalizing the roster. We had to release two very good players, which is a very, very difficult decision for us to make,” said Salerno.

“In hindsight, it was a good problem to have for us because our camp was so strong this year. But… I’m happy with the decision, and I’m happy with the 12 guys we have in camp right now.”

Each of the league’s eight teams can have a maximum of 12 players. The Storm carried a roster of 14 through two pre-season wins against Moncton and the Halifax Rainmen.

While it’s not yet known which players were cut, fans do know some who are safe.

Guards Greg Plummer and Avery Smith, and centre Ayodokun Akingbade have already signed on for the season, along with returning players Al Stewart, Canadian forward Chris Cayole and Islander Doug McKinney.

Teams are required to keep a minimum of three Canadian players on their roster. Point guard Tristan Martin was the only other homegrown player at the Storm’s camp.

“Friday night was really our last live run that we were going to have… so we took a lot of time on Saturday and Sunday watching film from that game,” said Salerno. “We made our decision Sunday morning on the guys we were going to be releasing, but really took into account the entire pre-season.”

We’re happy with the start… but we know there’s an awful lot of work still to be done to get ready for the regular season, because we’re playing in a very tough division. We’re happy with the start we got off to, but certainly nobody’s satisfied. Summerside Storm head coach Joe Salerno

The coach added that the team is keeping its “foot on the gas pedal” this week, heading into Friday night’s regular season opener against the Saint John Mill Rats.

Even after a successful pre-season with wins in both games, Salerno said the players won’t be content to rest on their laurels.

“We have a group of guys that are veteran players, that are smart players, and they understand that the pre-season’s the pre-season,” he said. “We’re happy with the start… but we know there’s an awful lot of work still to be done to get ready for the regular season, because we’re playing in a very tough division. We’re happy with the start we got off to, but certainly nobody’s satisfied.”

The Storm scorched Moncton 101-83 last week, giving the Summerside faithful something that only happened six times in 20 games during last year’s regular season: a home win.

Salerno said that’s another area of focus for the team heading into its second season.

“These fans are so great here and we certainly want to win for them at home,” he said. “We really talked a lot this pre-season with our team that we want to protect our home court this year.

“We gave this crowd six wins last season at home, and we’re looking to do better than that.”

sbrun@journalpioneer.com

Organizations: National Basketball League of Canada

Geographic location: Moncton, Summerside

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