"Island" team adds another key piece of puzzle

Jason Simmonds
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With signing of a veteran point guard

SUMMERSIDE - The "Island" franchise in the National Basketball League of Canada has added another important piece to its puzzle for the 2011-12 season.

National Basketball League of Canada

The yet-to-be-named club, which will be based out of Summerside, has announced the signing of Al Stewart, 27.

"Al is a veteran point guard that I believe every team wants," said Joe Salerno, head coach and vice-president of player personnel for the "Island" team. "Al played at Drake University. He (Stewart) is from Chicago, born and raised there."

Drake University, located in Des Moines, Iowa, is an NCAA Division 1 school in the Missouri Valley Conference.

"He (Stewart) is actually known as perhaps the quickest player to ever come out of Drake University," said Salerno. "He is a lightning-quick point guard, a true floor general, someone that can run the team and will probably be our best perimetre defender."

Previous signing

Salerno also announced the signing of six-foot-eight and 235-pound power forward Mike Williams of Camden, Alabama, on Wednesday.

"With Mike Williams and Al Stewart under contract. . . I am confident in saying that having those two signed with P.E.I. out of the gate makes us a contender in the NBL (of Canada)."


Pro experience

The five-foot-10 and 185-pound Stewart previously played pro with the Manchester Mill Rats, now Saint John Mill Rats, in both the American Basketball Association (ABA) and the Premier Basketball League (PBL). Salerno also coached Stewart with the PBL's Vermont Frost Heaves during the 2009-10 season. Stewart is a former co-defensive player of the year in the PBL.

"Al is a veteran point guard that I believe every team wants. Al played at Drake University. He (Stewart) is from Chicago, born and raised there." “Island” team head coach Joe Salerno

"When I received the ("Island") job, there were two point guards in my mind," said Salerno. "Really, going with either one of them would have been a huge success, and Al Stewart was one of those guys.

"Just to have the comfort level of an experienced veteran point guard coming to Prince Edward Island, someone who is comfortable in my system, knows my system is a great situation for us."



Salerno is continuing to sign players to the 12-man roster, which also must include two Canadians. The league recently held its draft in Toronto, where teams selected one free agent and two Canadians.

"I'm very pleased with where we are at," said Salerno. "We have two players (Williams and Stewart) under contract and are in negotiations with our draft picks. Hopefully, we can firm those three guys up by the end of the week.

"We do have offers out to three or four other players to attend training camp."

Training camp is expected to begin the second week of October. The "Island" team's home opener is at Credit Union Place on Thursday, Nov. 3, at 7:30 p.m.



Organizations: Drake University, Premier Basketball League, American Basketball Association NCAA Division Credit Union Place

Geographic location: Summerside, Chicago, Des Moines, Iowa Missouri Valley Camden Canada Prince Edward Island Toronto

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