Stewart, Salerno walk away with awards
Atlantic Division coach Joe Salerno speaks to his team as they face off against the Central Division at Harbour Station on Sunday. Topher Seguin/Telegraph-Journal
SAINT JOHN – With the National Basketball League of Canada’s second season wrapping up Friday the 2012-2013 NBL All-Star weekend began on Saturday in Saint John.
Winning big was Summerside Storm’s Al Stewart, who picked up his second straight Defensive Player of the Year award, and head coach Joe Salerno, who shared Coach of the Year honours with London Lightning coach Michael Ray Richardson.
Neither of the awards may come as a surprise for Summerside fans. Stewart was fifth in league steals and Salerno led his team to the finals, finishing the regular season with a 26-14 (win-lost) record.
A slew of Summerside players along with Salerno were selected to participate in the events. Those chosen were Brandon Robinson, Omari Johnson, Antonio Ballard, Chris Cayole and Stewart.
The events opened up Saturday with a legends game, which saw league commissionaire Andre Livingston, Windsor Express owner Dartis Willis and Salerno taking the court.
Following the legends game, 13 of the leagues best marksmen suited up for the three-point competition, with Summerside’s Chris Cayole having a respectable outing, finishing second.
The last event of the evening was the slam-dunk competition. Omari Johnson of the Storm participated but was out dunked by Windsor’s Stefan Bonneau, the competition’s winner.
Sunday was the main event, which saw the league’s top players going head-to-head in a high-scoring thriller that the Central Division all-stars claimed over the Atlantic Division by a score of 150-145.
Summerside’s Ballard was big for his Atlantic squad scoring 28 points and grabbing 11 boards in a losing cause. That monster performance came after Ballard had been sidelined the past six weeks with an injured foot and was unable to play during the Storm’s playoff run.
Stewart made a trip from Chicago to partake in the events and played well for his team with 12 points, eight assists and six rebounds.
Cayole had 16 points and 7 rebounds while Johnson added 15 points and eight rebounds. Robinson didn’t play in the game due to an ankle injury.
London’s Marvin Phillips was huge for the Central team, scoring 37 points while rising for 14 rebounds.
The event drew thousands to Harbour Station over the two days and marks another successful All-Star weekend for the league.
"It was a great All-Star weekend in Saint John. I really tip my cap to Ian McCarthy and the Saint John Mill Rats organization for putting on a wonderful event,” said Salerno. “Having five of our players, as well as myself and my coaching staff, all here to be part of it made it that much sweeter."
He also said it was an honour being named Coach of the Year.
“That award should really be called Team of the Year, for my guys are the ones out there on the floor getting it done. It also says a lot about my assistant coach Mike Leslie and the rest of my staff, as they did an unbelievable job this season,” added Salerno. “I'm proud of this season, my players, my staff and all the hard work it took to win this award. It is truly an honor."
Mill Rats general manager Ian McCarthy was happy with the event and said they’ve already gotten positive feedback in Saint John.
“We were very pleased with the outcome of the weekend. The spirit of co-operation and camaraderie is very high in this league between players, coaches and owners. Overall the event was a tremendous success and showcase for the league,” said McCarthy.
All of the all-stars will be back on P.E.I. in time to join the rest of their team at fan Appreciation Night being held Monday at Credit Union Place.