When the RDP basketball Kings take to the court to open their ACAC regular season their roster won’t look exactly like head coach Darren Graham had envisioned it earlier this year.
Two recruits — Isaiah Flynn of Washington State and Jason Ramattan of Ontario — had their plans change, leaving Graham with two holes to fill.
He filled the import slot with six-foot-seven Guilherme Lacerda of Brazil and the second with local talent.
“Jason signed a pro contract and Isaiah was unable to commit, but Guilherme is a nice addition and the local kids are a good fit,” said Graham, who has 16 players on the roster.
Antonio Benjamin, a six-foot-seven forward from North Carolina, and six-foot-five guard Eduardo Crespo of Brazil fill the remaining import slots.
Although the Brazilians are first-year players they have experience.
“In Brazil, it’s different in that they’re playing more like European ball where you’re in a league against older players so they have that experience. Our league won’t be a shock to them.”
Benjamin is in Red Deer and finishing his quarantine while Crespo arrived Tuesday.
“Lacerda is enrolled in school and is putting the final touches on his travel arrangements,” explained Graham, who has seven veterans from the 2019-20 season, including outstanding point guard Tyronn King of Toronto.
King was second in team scoring and steals and first in rebounds and assists in his first season with the Kings after playing at the University of New Brunswick.
“I’m really impressed with Ty’s leadership skills on the court and in the room,” said Graham. “He’s mature and conducts himself in the right way.”
Darren also looks for veterans Cody White, Kevin Szymanek, Payton Baltzer and Brett Hochhausen to be leaders. The other two returnees are Cole Wicker and Mac Manyluk.
“Cody is a fifth-year veteran while Kevin is definitely one of our leaders. As for Payton, I call him our Swiss army knife as I can put him anywhere. Brett has had an impressive camp. He shot the ball well, moves the ball well and worked a lot on his footwork. He also came in stronger than ever, now I have to find the right fit for his skill set.”
One of the other impressive newcomers is guard Azro Abuzukar of Vermilion, who Darren hopes to groom to take over from King when he leaves.
“He comes from a good high school program who were top-ranked in the 2A division in 2019 before the playoffs were postponed,” Graham said. “He went to Thompson Rivers University (in Kamloops) after high school but that didn’t work out and we were fortunate to get him.
“He’s a smart player, savvy with the ball and has a motor that doesn’t stop running,. We can count on him to back up Ty and be a contributor off the bench.”
The other local additions are six-foot-seven Parker Weinrauch of Notre Dame, Kirklan Hall of Rocky Mountain House, Pierce Shybunka of Hunting Hills, Logan Roberts of Sylvan Lake and Jared Gamble of Lacombe.
The Kings had an exhibition game against CTA West, a prep school out of Calgary last weekend and Weinrauch impressed.
“It was a modified game with six, seven-minute periods, but a good chance for the guys to see some action and as a true rookie Parker played well,” said Graham. “As for the others, Pierce is smart kid, a good shooter and is working on his defence. Kirk is so strong and a great shooter and has the headiness and grit to play at this level while Logan and Jared and came in late but have a lot to offer. In fact all the local kids deserve to be here and have the high-end skill to contribute down the road.”
Overall the Kings have good height with three players at six-foot-seven or over.
“The league is getting bigger. SAIT has a seven-footer as does Lakeland. Also, Keyano has a highly-skilled six-foot-10 guy, so we’re just trying to keep up.”
But one important thing in the ACAC is a team needs to play a high-paced game.
“FIBA rules, with the 24-second clock, don’t allow for nonathletic players,” Darren stressed. “You have to be athletic and be able to move your feet.”
RDP will play an 18-game schedule in the South Division with six teams expected to make the playoffs.
“We played 21 games, playing everyone three times, but this year, starting later, we play three less games,” he said. “I understand they added two teams to the playoffs, which I like.”
The top two teams receive a bye in the first round of the single knockout tournament, which will be held over two weekends with the higher ranked team hosting each game.
The Kings host the Edge prep school this weekend before visiting The Kings University and Augustana Oct. 1-2. They host the two ACAC teams the following weekend.
Danny Rode is a retired Advocate reporter and member of the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame who can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org