Point guard Al Stewart will play his last game as a member of the Summerside Storm on what is being called “Al Stewart Day.”
Stewart, a fan favourite over the Storm’s two years of existence, is leaving the National Basketball League of Canada team to take a full-time teaching job in his hometown of Chicago. Stewart does teach during his pro basketball off-season, and a full-time position was waiting for him after the season.
But recent changes within the Chicago School System mean that he will have to take his teaching position beginning next week, or lose it. With a family to support and pro basketball being six months during the year, letting the full-time teaching position go was just not an option for Stewart, notes a media release issued by the Storm.
"I know this has been very tough for Al, as it should be, for he truly cares about this franchise,” said Storm head coach Joe Salerno. “I think it is a reflection of his character, making the right decision for him and his daughter. We will miss Al in many ways."
Storm co-owner Duncan Shaw added: “Of course Al has been critical to our performance on the court. More importantly, he’s been a leader in the locker room, a positive force in the community, and the face of our franchise.
“He’s going home now because it’s the best thing for his daughter, and that will just be one more thing she’ll be proud of her dad for.”
“Of course Al has been critical to our performance on the court. More importantly, he’s been a leader in the locker room, a positive force in the community, and the face of our franchise.He’s going home now because it’s the best thing for his daughter, and that will just be one more thing she’ll be proud of her dad for.” - Storm co-owner Duncan Shaw
Stewart will leave the Storm as a franchise leader in almost every important statistical category. Stewart is the franchise leader in points scored at 751, rebounds with 338, assists with 438, steals with 145 and free throws made with 203.
A true professional, Stewart led the Storm team off the court as well. Over two seasons, Stewart made countless visits across P.E.I. to schools, hospitals, parades and many, many events to sell professional basketball and the Storm to the Island community. His outgoing personality and big smile made people he came in contact with an Al Stewart fan, and a Storm fan.
"You really can’t put into words what Al has done for this organization, both on and off the court,” said Salerno. “From the first day he stepped on the Island, he has been the heart and sole of our team.
“Not only has he been a great player for us on the court, he has been a role model in the community and a fan favourite."
Storm fans will have an opportunity thank Stewart for his contribution to the Island sports community in a pre-game ceremony on Sunday.
Stewart could not be reached for comment before deadline.