Stewart closing in on milestones

Bob
Bob Gray
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But off-court gesture speaks volumes

What would you do if you had 499 points?

Al Stewart of the Summerside Storm controls the ball against the Saint John Mill Rats in a recent National Basketball League of Canada game at Eastlink Arena.

Get another one, I would hope. And that's what Summerside Storm point guard Al Stewart will certainly do Thursday night as the road-weary Storm hit the pavement one more time, playing their fifth straight away game – this time in Moncton.

When Stewart does score, it will make him only the second player to ever have scored 500 points for the Storm – the first being Mike Williams, who had 590 last season (from the Where Is He Now Department: Williams is toiling for a Mexican pro team at the moment, which made him an offer too rich for a National Basketball League of Canada team to match).

Stewart also has 242 career assists, which makes him the career leader in the very short annals of the NBL of Canada. So, with eight more helpers, he has a nice round 250 of those, also. He could hit that mark on Thursday night in Moncton if the Storm are playing well, or it may come Friday night when they finally appear again at Eastlink Arena, once again against Moncton.

No, I didn't count all these things up myself. They come graciously from legendary West Prince stataholic Harvey Mazerolle, so I know they're right. He should know: he records every statistic at the scorer's table during Storm home games.

Stewart is a 29-year-old five-foot-10 point guard from Chicago. In the dictionary, for the word "quick," there's a picture of him. He played his college ball for Drake University in Iowa, where he is still a bit of a legend for his jaw-dropping speed.

Five hundred points and 250 assists are nice milestones to reach in the same week, but just a small indication of how valuable Stewart is. Add in his many steals and his selection to the league's All-Defence first team last year, and it makes one wonder where the Storm would be without him.

Key signing

"Al was our main 'must-have back' player when we started putting the team together for this season," Storm head coach Joe Salerno said this week. "He's one of the top point guards in the league, and the percentage of our offence, which he was individually responsible for last year, was ridiculously high.

"We couldn't have a better player or a better person than Al.”

Need more evidence?

Let's go to the cafeteria at Three Oaks Senior High School last week, where the Storm were guests of the school to share a turkey dinner with the students. Principal Nicole Haire noticed one of the school's special needs students shyly standing back, but sneaking adoring looks at the players as they were eating lunch and chatting with other student fans.

She inquired of the young lady if she had a favourite player, and she giggled and softly said, "Al."

As soon as the principal mentioned this to Stewart, his face lit up, he looked around and then grabbed his tray, saying, "I'm having lunch with her."

He got up from his teammates, went to the table where his special fan was sitting (and was almost turning inside out as he approached), sat down, and continued with his lunch while he engaged her in animated conversation.

Her huge smile lit the room. It may still be on her face today.

 

Bob Gray is a freelance journalist with a long history of P.E.I. basketball reporting. He welcomes comments at bgray@pei.sympatico.ca, and can be followed on Twitter @bgray5.

Organizations: National Basketball League of Canada, Drake University, All-Defence

Geographic location: Canada, Moncton, Chicago Iowa

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