Pushing the pace
Canadian Alex Campbell off to strong start running the point for Island Storm Wild hosts final home game before Christmas Saturday as it gets ready for Quebec trip
Alex Campbell is filling the stat sheet for the Island Storm, but what he does that never shows up there might be just as valuable. The 25-year-old Brampton, Ont., native has been a lockdown defender who has helped the squad improve its ability to defend against penetration this season. The vocal member of the defence said he takes pride in his play when his team doesn’t have the ball.
“Especially as the starting point guard of the team, I feel like if I can lead with energy everyone will follow suit,” he said. Campbell is averaging 12.3 points, 10.3 rebounds and 4.7 assists in the Storm’s first three games of the National Basketball League of Canada regular season. The six-foot-three, 200-pound guard’s work on the glass has always been a big component of his game, and rebounding guards fit with head coach Tim Kendrick’s system.
“When the ball goes up, I hit my man, and at my position, I kind of have the size advantage, so I hit my man and just go for it, wherever it is,” Campbell said, noting it is just a mentality and desire to regain or maintain possession. “Just staying hungry for the ball. If the whole team is like that, we’ll lead the league in rebounds.” And when the squad gets the ball on the defensive end of the floor, it is looking to push the pace and turn boards into easy baskets in transition with an athletic collection of players.
“The faster we get the ball, we’re able to run,” Campbell said. “With this group of guys, we’re able to get it, whoever it is, and just go and push (the ball up the floor).”
Kendrick has been pleased with the early returns from Campbell. “We couldn’t be any happier with him,” he said. “We knew he was a good defender. I didn’t know he was that good of a defender.”
Kendrick’s system doesn’t rely on specific positions. He doesn’t number players based on positions. He wants guys who are versatile and can play the game. “Once we get the basketball moving, the traditional point guard spot isn’t as important as it might be in some systems,” Kendrick said. “Once we get into our systems, (Campbell) becomes, I think, even more of a weapon.” Campbell, who played university ball for the Windsor Lancers, has been a wing most of his life and is still learning all the facets of running the point. He’s described by his coach as eager to learn, a good communicator and teammate.
“He’s very coachable,” Kendrick said. “He realizes he needs to learn things. Not only is he willing, but he wants to do whatever he can to become a better point guard.”
Campbell is embracing the new role and said he is excited to continue to grow in his new squad’s system. The Storm host the Cape Breton Highlanders tonight at 7 p.m. at the Eastlink Centre. The Kensington Monaghan Farms Wild will play its final home game before Christmas on Saturday.
The Wild entertains the Saint John Vitos at Credit Union Centre in Kensington. Puck drop is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.
It will be the second of backto-back games for the Wild, who took a 15-2-1 (won-lost-overtime losses) record into Friday night’s road game against the Charlottetown Bulk Carriers Pride (8-9-1). Kensington and the Moncton Flyers (15-1-1) enter weekend play tied for first place in the six-team league with 31 points each. The Flyers were scheduled to visit the Northern Moose (1-21-0) on Friday night, and host the Pride on Sunday at 1:30 p.m.
Saturday will mark the fifth time the Vitos and Wild have met in regular-season play. Kensington has won three of the first four games – 6-5 in overtime in Kensington on Oct. 13, along with road decisions of 6-3 on Oct. 19 and 6-2 on the road Nov. 30. The Vitos’ defeated the Wild 6-4 in the seasonopening game for both teams in Quispamsis, N.B., on Sept. 14. Wild forward Dixon MacLeod has been red hot of late. He took a nine-game point streak into Friday’s game, and had recorded 17 points during that stretch. MacLeod’s linemate, Colby MacArthur, has also put up some impressive offensive numbers since returning to the Wild after starting the season with the Summerside D. Alex MacDonald Ford Western Capitals of the MHL (Maritime Junior Hockey League). MacArthur recorded at least a point in 11 of his first 12 games with Wild, averaging two points a game. The third member of the Wild’s high-scoring line, Ryan Richards, had a nine-game point streak snapped against the Vitos on Nov. 30.
Due to the Wild, winners of the 2018 Monctonian AAA Challenge, participating in the 2018 CCM Midget AAA Challenge tournament in Chicoutimi, N.B., next week’s home game against Northern has been rescheduled for January.
After Saturday’s game, the Wild will not play at home until their annual Boxing Day game against Charlottetown at 7:30 p.m. That will begin a stretch of eight of the Wild’s final 13 regular-season games at Credit Union Centre.
Colby MacArthur of Summerside went into Friday’s action averaging two points a game for the Kensington Monaghan Farms Wild of the New Brunswick/P.E.I. Major Midget Hockey League. The Wild hosts the Saint John Vitos on Saturday at 7:30 p.m.