Toronto's Ashton Graham adjusting to role with Island Storm

Charles Reid
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It's never a simple transition for rookies from where they have come from to where they are, no matter what the sport is, as Ashton Graham of the Island Storm is figuring out.

The Toronto native is in his first year in the National Basketball League of Canada and first year of pro ball. He's gone from top-gunning shooting guard (14.5 points, 4.5 rebounds per game) on the NCAA Division II University of Tampa Spartans to limited playing time in the NBL.

He's seen the floor in nine of the team's 14 games and is averaging 2.78 points per game.

Quite a change Graham admits. The six-foot-four guard said the biggest challenge is facing players at his position who are as the same size or larger.

"I've started to make that adjustment. I have to be patient. Practice makes perfect," said Graham, whose best game was an 11-point effort last month against the Moncton Miracles. "We're winning right now so you can't fault (the coaching staff) for the (current) lineup. I'm patiently waiting for my chance."

Tonight, Graham looks for more time when the Storm (8-6) tangle with the Saint John Mill Rats (9-6). Game time is 7 p.m. in Saint John, N.B.

The Storm has won four of its last five games, including a home victory over Windsor on Monday. Saint John leads the Atlantic Division, but has lost three-of-four this season against the Storm and is 0-1 at Harbour Station.

Anthony Anderson leads the Mill Rats in scoring at slightly more than 23 points per game, good for second in the league. The Storm's Antonio Ballard is third overall in scoring at just under 22 points per game.

Graham is one of the three Canadians on the Storm, despite his leaving Toronto for Tampa, Fl., as a teenager to attend high school, play basketball and keep his hope of playing professional ball alive.

A short stint in Div. II Franklin Pierce College in New Hampshire after high school morphed into a spot back in Tampa with the Spartans which he made the most of. It led to a starting role and an appearance in the Sunshine State Conference semifinals in 2011.

As for tonight's game, Graham said the talented Mill Rats are never an easy out.

"They have good guard play. Outside shooting is very efficient, unselfish. Their perimetre game is the best we've seen in the league, and in our conference," he said. "I think we're starting to turn the corner. . . working out the kinks."

And despite the limited floor time, Graham isn't complaining. After all, he's playing in the pros.

"I'm happy (head coach) Joe (Salerno) gave me a chance," said Graham.

Storm point guard Al Stewart missed Thursday's practice because of two wisdom teeth being removed. He's doubtful for tonight's game, but could return to practice Monday.

Shawn Vanzant and Greg Plummer are nursing ankle injuries, but are expected to play.

The Storm's other Canadians are Toronto native Dwayne Smith and Charlottetown's Doug McKinney.

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Quick hits

A quick look at the Saint John Mill Rats-Island Storm season series:

Head-To-Head: The Storm lead 3-1.

Smallest Margin of Victory: 106-103 for the Storm.

Widest Margin of Victory: 129-93 for the Storm.

Leading Scorers Head-To-Head (four games)

Saint John: Anthony Anderson, 20 points per game, top game 25 points;

Island Storm: Antonio Ballard, 21 points per game, top game 31 points.



Storm at Saint John, 7 p.m.

Dec. 26

Halifax at Storm, 2 p.m.

Dec. 27

Storm at Moncton, 7 p.m.

Dec. 28

Storm at Moncton, 7 p.m.

Dec. 31

Halifax at Storm, 7 p.m.

Organizations: Franklin Pierce College, National Basketball League of Canada, NCAA Division University of Tampa Spartans Harbour Station

Geographic location: Toronto, Saint John, Windsor Tampa, Fl. Div New Hampshire Tampa Moncton Charlottetown

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