March 19, 2013 1:34 pm
Updated: March 24, 2013 3:07 pm

Meet the players behind PEI’s pro basketball team

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When Summerside Storm coach Joe Salerno recalls the team’s very first practice, he says they didn’t even have basketballs.

“I think we borrowed some from a local high school and I think a couple of days later our basketballs finally got here,” Joe remembers. “But there’s an awful lot to do and we were running behind a little bit.”

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The Summerside Storm is the unlikely brainchild of business partners Duncan Shaw and Darren McKay. And if Prince Edward Island seems an odd place for a pro basketball team and the millionaire entrepreneurs admit there wasn’t much of a plan in the beginning.

“I have ideas and he [Darren] sorts through which ones are good and which ones are bad,” jokes the team co-owner, Duncan Shaw. “He and I talked about the different times, which just sort of kept evolving until we decided it was a half decent idea.”

An idea that even the team’s other owner, Darren McKay, admits had low financial prospects.

“We weren’t thinking money the first year, hoped to break even the second year, and we’ll never, never make a lot of money off it,” Darren explains.

The Storm competes in the National Basketball League of Canada, a league that launched in 2011. And while the NBL can’t touch the spectacle that is the NBA, the league still acts as a possible doorway to the big time for some players. And, much like the NCAA in the United States, teams in the NBL hone a playing style that prizes creativity, unselfishness and intensity.

Summerside Storm coach Joe Salerno considers the NBL to be extremely competitive.

“It’s just being prepared for the teams that are coming in to play and having our scouting reports in line…and just improving everyday on the things that we may have struggled with in the previous game,” says Joe. “Every night you can go into a game and you know you can lose that game if you don’t play your A-game.”

So how is Summerside, a town with Celtic roots and an older demographic, adjusting to the new seven foot giants living among them? According to team trainer Cory Arsenal, it’s going quite well.

“Just from their height you know who they are,” says Cory. “The funniest pictures people have are when they get photos with the boys and you see the height difference.”

Team captain Al Stewart says the tight-knit community just knows you after a while. He’s even been called out for autographs over the intercom at a local Wal-Mart.

“Al if you’re still here we have a few autographs you could sign please for a few children! I was behind something in the electronics section I was like really?,” Al laughs. “The community is very interesting. And so I get to the front and it’s like 7 kids and their parents.”

Shooting guard Greg Plummer describes a fan base that treats him more like family than celebrity.

“This (is) not that type of place where people are just swarming you,” Greg says. “They’re more likely to invite you over for dinner, which is right up my alley.”

Storm coach Joe Salerno echoes the warm welcome his team receives in Summerside.

“A lot of the families in this community have welcomed guys into their homes you know for dinners or for Christmas or holidays,” Joe says. “And a lot of that is attributed to the guys that we bring in and they’re just really good people and they have a lot of fun.”

The Storm just clinched a playoff spot for the first time in the team’s brief history. If they go all the way to the finals, it could mean some visits from big league player scouts. But for team captain Al Stewart, the town of Summerside has just become the place to be.

“This place has brought a lot of joy over the last couple years to me,” says Al. “So win or lose any game the fans just still enjoy it. So to play in a place like this always fun.”

© 2013 Shaw Media

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