BY CHRIS GREGORY Year after year, The Island Storm have competed for championships, but have come up short, with NBL Finals losses in 2013 and again in 2014, where they gave up a 3-1 series lead to the Windsor Express. The Storm played .500 ball to open the 2014-15 season, but got rolling with the return of familiar face, Nick Okorie, where they won 10 of 11, including eight straight, pushing their record to 19-8. The Storm ended up losing its last five games heading into the playoffs, where they eventually lost 4-1 in the second round to the Halifax Rainmen. The Storm will be heading into this season after a very competitive training camp, which has its roster down to 13, with one cut to make. With the help of their five returning guys, the Storm are looking to get back to business and back to the NBL Finals in hopes for their first championship. Offseason Additions: With the Storm losing out on their two point guards, Avery Smith and Sammy Zeglinski over the offseason, they’ve brought Malcolm Grant and Gary Gibson in as replacements. Both are NBL veteran’s who have seen success in this league. Malcolm Grant played last year with the Mississauga Power and Gary Gibson won the championship last year with the Windsor Express. Head coach Joe Salerno thinks these two could be the best point guard combination in the league, so for them, the pressure to perform will be high. The Storm also added depth behind Rashad Whack and Billy Rush in the wing slots. They brought in Terry Thomas and Brent Jennings, both versatile guards fully able to put the ball in the hoop at any time. Thomas put up 22 a game for Ottawa in the CIS over the 13-14 season, then averaged 13+ a game for the Hamburg Towers in Germany. Brent Jennings averaged almost 16 a game in 17 games after being traded to the London Lightning halfway through the season, so these two will get called on to come in and contribute. Also looking to create more of an emphasis on defense, they brought in some athleticism in Carlos Emory (6-6, 225 lbs) along with some big men in Renaldo Dixon (6-10, 210 lbs) and Robert Nortmann (6-9, 205 lbs). Nortmann spent last season with the Halifax Rainmen and Renaldo Dixon put up 14 and six in Germany last season. Coach – Joe Salerno The most important piece to the Island Storm’s puzzle is Coach Joe Salerno. Now going into his fifth season with the Storm, Salerno is the longest lasting coach in NBL history and going into this season, he’s looking to put more of a focus on defense. After two Finals losses and a conference finals exit, Salerno is opting to take a different approach this season, leaving championship aspirations aside for the time being. The team’s new slogan, “The Road Back” refers to getting back to the NBL Finals, but emphasizes the long road with many bumps and curves to get there. Salerno has always been known to be one of the louder coaches in the NBL and that’s where he makes his mark. Outlook The Storm want to get back to where they were two years ago, and they certainly have the personnel to do it. The Storm are deep this year, especially along the perimeter in the one and two spots. Coach Salerno will rely heavily on his returning guys (Billy Rush, Mike Martin, Rashad Whack, and Nick Evans) to help the new guys through the transition period in the opening parts of the season, but the Storm will look to hit full stride come playoff time in hopes at another deep playoff run, and a chance at a championship.