Island Storm coach Tim Kendrick says the team is excited to get the NBL season underway and showcase some of their new players.
But the team and their fans will have to wait another day as Friday night's season-opener against the Cape Breton Highlanders has been postponed because of the weather. It has been rescheduled to Saturday at 7 p.m. at the Eastlink Centre.
"We're excited to get going," said Kendrick, who returns for his second season with the Storm after six years as the coach of the UPEI men's basketball team.
Improved shooting game
The Storm finished 20-24 last season, and Kendrick said the team spent the off-season upgrading its skill level, "especially shooting." The team shot only 44 per cent from the field last season, which ranked ninth in the 10-team league.
"We feel like we have a number of guys, five to eight guys, who can really shoot the basketball," Kendrick said.
One of those players is Louisiana-native Sampson Carter, who played six preseason games with the NBA's Memphis Grizzlies in 2015. He's played in eight countries in the last four years as a pro. Standing 6-8, he can play multiple positions, Kendrick said.
"He's a great player but he's really a great young man too so we're very happy to have him.... He's not a guy you would look at and say 'he gets a lot of stuff off his athleticism,' he gets a lot of stuff because he's very skilled and he can really shoot the basketball."
First multi-year contract
The Storm also signed its first multi-year contract in its eight-year history in the NBL. Russell Byrd, a former captain with the Michigan State Spartans — who has played in the NBL with Moncton, Kitchener-Waterloo and St. John's — signed a two-year contract with the Storm this summer.
Byrd, another player Kendrick expects to improve the Storm's shooting, has moved to P.E.I. with his wife and two children.
"It's great to know that a guy is under contract for two years," Kendrick said.
Top scorers not back
Carter and Byrd are expected to help make up for the loss of three of the team's top scorers from last year, Franklin Session, Du'Vaughn Maxwell and Chris Johnson. Carl Hall, a 6-8 centre acquired in a trade last season, is expected to rejoin the Storm in December, Kendrick said.
Other returning players include guard Tyler Scott and forwards Brad States and Trenity Burdine. Tirrell Baines, a 32-year-old veteran who played in Moncton last season after two years with the Storm, is also returning to the lineup.
Newcomers include forwards Kyle Arsenault from the KW Titans and Dominic Schuler of the Nevada Desert Dogs, and guards Robbie Robinson from Cal State Fullerton, Jarrell Tate from Bethesda University, Tyree White from Queens College, Alex Campbell of the University of Windsor and Daniel Gordon from Memorial University.
After Saturday's game, the Storm host the Saint John Riptide on Sunday at 2 p.m.
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With files from Island Morning