Rode: Building the Queens basketball program

When Ken King arrived at RDC he had an idea of what he had to do to rebuild the Queens basketball program.

He knew to have success he had to put together a solid core of veterans while adding recruits, who fit his team concept.

He’s getting close.

King has nine regulars and two girls who red shirted last season, returning to go with six solid recruits.

“The big thing we’re looking for is to get a solid culture with a solid core group to keep the continuity moving forward and we feel we’ve finally achieved that,” he said. “We can build on the concepts instead of starting over every year.”

And what makes the veteran group even more impressive is the return of Danish imports Emily White and point guard Eva Bonde, both back for a third season.

There was a strong indication that White, who is one of the premier inside players in the ACAC, may move on to the U-Sport, but she indicated she wanted to finish what she started at RDC.

“Emily indicated she’s committed to continuing what she started here two years ago … making a significant change to bring the program to the top of the league,” added King. “As for Eva she’s a traditional point guard, who passes the ball real well and doesn’t turn it over. She’s also an outstanding rebounder and one of the league’s best defenders. She could play 40 minutes if she needed to. She’s that quarterback for us.”

The third import — Hannah Foley from Conroe, Tex. — is also returning.

Two of the more impressive rookies last season — guard Brooke Kirkpatrick and six-foot forward Kayla Guillet — are returning and expected to see even more playing time.

Guards Lauren Bailey and Kaylee Kuba return for a third season with former Olds Broncos — Maya Parker and Mary Krause — in their fourth season.

Madi Nimmo of Hunting Hills and six-foot-three Riley Baquie of Didsbury, both red shirted last season although Nimmo played seven games late in the season.

“We continued to see the development of these girls last season and as long as they’re moving forward and not spinning their wheels, we’re excited about where we’re going … we’re going in the right direction,” said King, who added a pair guards from Red Deer this season — Jesse Handley of Hunting Hills and Shae Best of Notre Dame.

Both are playing with the Queens club program.

King added a pair of solid forwards in Lauren Cardinal of St. Albert and Mallory Uskiw of Beaumont along with impressive guard-forward Julia Friesen of La Crete and guard Paige Schultz of Saskatoon.

“We added girls who may need a couple of weeks to fit in, but if they’re anything like Brooke last season they’ll adapt quickly. We feel they all have a positive attitude and fit the culture we’re trying to instill here.”

The five-foot-nine Friesen was one of the more impressive players to come out of the provincial 2A program last season, leading La Crete to a silver medal at the provincials.

“She’s a spectacular kid with a great work ethic and the type of person we’re looking for,” said King, who has been watching Cardinal since Grade 9.

“I met her when I first arrived here and she’s been on my radar since,” he said.

King is excited about adding local talent to the roster.

“The goal of Clay (Kings head coach Clayton Pottinger) and myself is to build a solid local recruiting base and the last couple of years has been for good for us.”

What’s helped is the development of the club program.

“We’re excited to get the girls out of the club. Last year we got two or three and this year we have Jesse and Shae. We also have a U17 program that has six to 10 girls who have the potential to play college ball. It’s exciting to see them grow and develop, and to see them fit into our system and our philosophies.

“Last year I’m not sure any of the girls would have made the college team until they played club, and a credit to them they worked hard to get where they were. It’s the same with Jesse and Shae. You could see them working and when the light went off their level of performance went up, which is exciting to see.”

Danny Rode is a retired Advocate reporter who can be reached at drode@reddeeradvocate.com. His work can also be seen at Danny’s blog at rdcathletics.ca

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