Story by Thomas Becker
CHARLOTTETOWN - If you're a fan who enjoys the theatrics of thunderous dunks and chase down blocks that ricochet off the backboard then the Island Storm's latest signing will excite the senses.
Dominic Shuler's YouTube clips are filled with them and it's one of the reasons why head coach Tim Kendrick and the Storm opted to take a chance on the gifted athlete.
"We're very happy to have Dominic join us here," Kendrick said. "He is a superior athlete who plays bigger than his six-foot-seven frame, and his work ethic is extraordinary. He will fit in great with our attacking style of play on both ends."
What's more impressive is the fact that the Island brass was even able to find the unknown high-flyer.
"We have a lot of solid contacts throughout the U.S. who are always on the lookout for players they think would help us. And Dominic fit the bill."
So who is this mystery man?
As a senior at Irmo High School in Columbia, South Carolina, Shuler helped lead the Yellow Jackets to their fourth state championship in 2011. While that parlayed into a handful of basketball scholarships, the 26-year-old wasn’t ready for the challenges and pressure that came along with it.
"At that time my head wasn't in it. I wasn’t focused on playing ball at the next level,” he said.
Yet he still played pick up ball from time to time and always caught the attention of his fellow competitors. They'd often ask him where he played – assuming a talent like his would've been picked up by an organization.
"They would always say that I should be playing somewhere," Shuler said. "The more I kept hearing it the more I wanted to play pro."
After hearing it enough times, Shuler sought out professional tryouts trying to land on a roster that would welcome his energetic style of play. Shuler spent time in various semi-professional leagues from 2014-17, but it wasn’t the fit he was looking for from the sport he grew to love.
It wasn’t until the following year when he joined the Nevada Desert Dogs in the inaugural season of the North American Premier Basketball League (NAPB) – now known as The Basketball League (TBL) – where he really took off. Shuler quickly made an impression on head coach Paul Mokeski – formerly of the Moncton Miracles - and thrived under his mentorship, averaging 17 points, 11 rebounds and five blocks per game. Mokeski was just the man to help transition Shuler from a raw athlete to a legitimate basketball player.
“This league was a lot different than other leagues I played for,” he said. “I enjoyed every second with the Desert Dogs and I learned a lot. I became a better basketball player because of them.”
This summer, Mokeski invited Shuler to take part in an exposure camp, convinced that someone would notice him. Kendrick's scouting staff spotted him right away as the pursuit for the young forward began. Within a week, Shuler’s dream of becoming a pro became reality, as he decided the Island franchise was an ideal fit.
"This will be my first time in Canada and I'm very excited to play in this league," he said. "I can't wait to prove myself and build on my basketball skills. This is a blessing for me and my family."
Now comes the biggest test of Shuler's basketball career. And if his raw talent translates to the NBL of Canada then the Storm have truly found a gem.