Recently, Hemel Storm announced the departure of dynamic duo Taylor Johnson and Aaryn Rai.
The pair were an integral part to last season’s on court success and found themselves to be key elements to the club’s unique and incredible off court culture. To reflect and celebrate them moving on to greater things in the BBL, we wanted to remind us all just what the Dartmouth pairing brought to the Storm family…
Taylor Johnson - Taylor invoked the excitement of the Storm fans when his signing was announced back in 2021, joining the Storm from rivals Thames Valley Cavaliers with a high reputation and vast NBL D1 experience. He instantly delivered on the court and while it was a mixed season of results for the team, finishing 6th in the overall standings, he helped the squad to peak at the right time and led us to Manchester’s annual playoff final, where we came agonisingly close to downing the Kestrels behind a Johnson solo effort of 23 points.
Throughout his first year, he averaged 27.3 points, 8 rebounds and 5 steals per game, cementing his reputation as a top level D1 performer.
For the 22-23 season, Storm clung on to Johnson and worked to surround him with a very competitive roster to compete for titles, and boy did they deliver! Taylor helped Storm to pick up 4 trophies, claiming MVP honours in the National Cup final, the KitKing Trophy final and the Playoff final, as he was able to execute his revenge on the previous year’s heartbreak at the Manchester arena, as well as being named in the D1 men's Team of the Season.
Johnson will forever be remembered in Hemel for his unwavering passion, dedication and hard work on the court as well as his charm and energy off it, always going out of his way to make time for his fans and becoming a key part of the community through his coaching skills. He is seen as a role model and an idol to so many young fans and the ’Taylor Johnson’ chant will be known as an iconic sound ringing around the StormDome, where he delighted the fans on many a Saturday night.
Aaryn Rai - Aaryn emphatically made his mark in Hemel Storm history, despite his limited 1 year spell at the club with an individual season like none seen before. He became Storm’s second ever season MVP, averaging 24 points, 10.8 rebounds and 5.5 assists per game and was a main factor in the club’s season-long successes. Perhaps his success was ominous after he introduced himself to the Hemel faithful with a 27 point, 12 rebound double double in his debut against Nottingham Hoods and from there his season-long standards were set.
Aaryn stepped up in the key spells, often taking it upon himself to seize the important moment and grasp the game by its neck just when we seemed to be losing grip. He always delivered when Storm turned to him and contributed some mesmerising plays which allowed us to clinch the quadruple and remain unbeaten, memorably sending a tight game against Loughborough into overtime with a Sam Newman assisted alley-oop and astonishingly started the playoff campaign with a 40 point performance against the Solent Kestrels. Rai has written his name into Hemel history books and we will always be grateful for his contributions, allowing us to write our own name into the history books of British basketball.
Join all of us here at Hemel in wishing Taylor and Aaryn the very best in their future BBL endeavours at Plymouth and Cheshire, and I’m sure a little bit of their hearts will remain here in Hemel with us. They will always be welcomed back at the StormDome as special guests and I think we will all be keeping a keen eye on their progress, and definitely tuning into the ‘Hemel Storm derby’ when their two new sides meet next year!
One more time, thank you and good luck guys!
Written by Callum Humphrey
Photos by Luke Simcock