Player Al Stewart and coach Joe Salerno pick up National Basketball League of Canada awards
By Brett Poirier
SAINT JOHN — With the National Basketball League of Canada’s second season wrapping up Friday, the 2012-2013 NBL All-Star Weekend began Saturday in Saint John.
Winning big was Summerside Storm’s Al Stewart, who picked up his second straight defensive player of the year award, and head coach Joe Salerno, who shared coach of the year honours with London Lightning coach Michael Ray Richardson.
Neither of the awards may come as a surprise for Summerside fans. Stewart was fifth in league steals and Salerno led his team to the finals, finishing the regular season with a 26-14 record.
Devin Sweetney of the Moncton Miracles was named most valuable player, while Sweetney’s teammate, Isaac Butts, was named rookie of the year and Kim Blanco of Moncton was named the executive of the year. Joey Haywood of the Halifax Rainmen was named best Canadian, Rodney Buford of the London Lightning earned the sixth man award and Marvin Phillips of the Lightning got the nod as newcomer of the year.
The Windsor Express earned the expansion franchise award.
A slew of Summerside players along with Salerno were selected to participate in the all-star weekend events.
Those chosen were Brandon Robinson, Omari Johnson, Antonio Ballard, Chris Cayole and Stewart.
The events opened up Saturday with a legends game, which saw league commissioner Andre Livingston, Windsor Express owner Dartis Willis and Salerno taking the court.
Following the legends game, 13 of the leagues best marksmen suited up for the three-point competition, with Summerside’s Chris Cayole having a respectable outing, finishing second.
The last event of the evening was the slam-dunk competition.
Omari Johnson of the Storm participated but was outdunked by Windsor’s Stefan Bonneau, the competition’s winner.
Sunday was the main event, which saw the league’s top players going head-to-head in a high-scoring thriller that the Central Division all-stars claimed over the Atlantic Division 150-145.
Summerside’s Ballard was big for his Atlantic squad scoring 28 points and grabbing 11 boards in a losing cause. That monster performance came after Ballard had been sidelined the past six weeks with an injured foot and was unable to play during the Storm’s playoff run.
Stewart made a trip from Chicago to partake in the events and played well for his team with 12 points, eight assists and six rebounds.
Cayole had 16 points and 7 rebounds while Johnson added 15 points and eight rebounds. Robinson didn’t play in the game due to an ankle injury.
London’s Marvin Phillips was huge for the Central team, scoring 37 points while rising for 14 rebounds.
The event drew thousands to Harbour Station over the two days and marks another successful All-Star weekend for the league.
Mill Rats general manager Ian McCarthy was happy with the event and said they’ve already gotten positive feedback in Saint John.
“We were very pleased with the outcome of the weekend. The spirit of co-operation and camaraderie is very high in this league between players, coaches and owners. Overall, the event was a tremendous success and showcase for the league,” said McCarthy.
Storm team to say thank you to fans
SUMMERSIDE — The Summerside Storm’s season might not have ended the way fans were hoping but that doesn’t mean there isn’t reason to celebrate.
With that in mind, the Storm wants to honour its fans for all their support this season.
The Island’s only professional basketball team will be holding a fan appreciate night today at Credit Union Place.
The festivities get underway at 7 p.m. at the Veterans Convetion Centre.
Everyone is welcome to attend and fans are encouraged to bring their basketballs, jerseys and other memorabilia for players to sign.
Refreshments will be provided but only while quantities last.
Friday night, the Storm lost 87-80 to the London Lightning, who won the National Basketball League of Canada championship for a second consecutive year.
More than 3,000 fans watched that game, which took place at Credit Union Place’s Eastlink Arena.