What’s that disappearing into the setting sun?
Why, it’s our latest hero, Ralphy Holmes, who this week – somewhat like Butch and Sundance years ago – headed south into a combination of legend and oblivion.
‘Ralphy, we hardly knew ye.’
Holmes, who delighted Summerside Storm fans with his peripatetic debut 10 days ago, certainly didn’t wear out his welcome as he jumped to a Venezuelan team after about an hour and a half with the Storm.
Welcome to the minor leagues of professional basketball, where players come and go in the blink of an eye.
It’s hard to blame Holmes, or any player, who gets a better offer and takes it. Players in leagues like the National Basketball League of Canada play for hardly any money, are almost always miles and miles away from home leading a very lonely existence, and at best have about a four-year career.
After their playing career, they are hardly on Easy Street, so any chance to enhance their economic status during their playing days has to be taken.
So, farewell Ralphy. Thanks for a good game. You probably won’t get any lifetime achievement awards from Summerside, but that one game was certainly fun. Maybe the most disappointed people that he’s gone are the referees, who sadly will miss the chance to tee him up during warmups, after he showed them up with such delight in his debut.
The Storm certainly didn’t miss him Sunday as they exploded all over the Halifax Rainmen in a regionally televised game from the Metro Centre, 113-90, in front an announced crowd of 2,040 – which appeared on television to be about 23. It likely was 23 by the fourth quarter as the Storm blew them out early.
The Storm had it going offensively, defensively and spiritually for that matter as they held the Rainmen to 17 points in the first quarter, led by 30 in the third quarter and kept the pedal down right to the end.
Summerside had a remarkable seven players in double figures, led by Chris Cayole’s 19. Cayole was 5-for-7 from three-point range.
The Storm has now won three of their last four, and except for a stinker of a fourth quarter last Friday at home, would be riding a winning streak. They are barely leading the super-tight Atlantic Division, where the four teams are separated top to bottom by all of one game.
Antonio Ballard is leading the way for the Storm. He leads the NBL of Canada in rebounds with almost 10 a game, which is not bad for a player who is just 6’5” on his tiptoes. The 25-year-old native of Indiana played his college ball at Miami of Ohio, in the Mid-American Conference.
Ballard always draws the toughest defensive assignment too. His work around the basket in a forest of tall trees is a sight to behold.
The last player on P.E.I. who worked this hard, and played way above his height like Ballard does, was UPEI’s legendary Andy Packard in the early 1970s. Packard’s jersey hangs high in the rafters at UPEI now, and Ballard’s will do the same in Summerside one day if he can keep up this level of play.
Bob Gray is a freelance journalist with a long history of P.E.I. basketball reporting. He welcomes comments at firstname.lastname@example.org, and can be followed on Twitter @bgray5.