When Jacob Cusumano left RDC last spring he was sure it was for the last time.
But after requesting, and receiving, an extra year of eligibility because of medical reasons the Windsor, Ont., native is back in the RDC Kings basketball uniform for one more season.
“I requested an extra year after missing my first year in the States, following injury problems, and I found out in July I got that year back,” explained Cusumano. “I was training at the time because I hoped to get it back and when it happened I was ready.”
Cusumano was more than happy to return to Alberta.
“It was tough to leave (after last season) because this is like family to me. Even the new guys who come in are ready to accept the RDC spirit and be part of the family,” he said. “I wanted to be back as I wanted another shot (at a national title) and I feel we have the team to do it. We have a group of guys who are willing to believe in the coach’s system and philosophy.”
Cusumano, along with Matt Johnson and Brian Prenoslo, who are both in their third season, are team leaders as is second-year guard JP Leblanc, who missed most of last year with an injury.
“All the veterans have stepped up and embraced the leadership role,” said the 24-year-old Cusumano. “You can see it in practice, in the gym, in the weight room and the new guys are feeding off it.
“The (new) guys are asking us questions all the time. They ask what it takes to get to the nationals and what they have to do to prepare . . . what they have to work on. They ask about different plays and they appreciate the help and guidance.”
The Kings, who won silver at the nationals last year, are just starting to come together and showed a lot of their ability Saturday in defeating Ambrose College of Calgary 106-61 and The King’s University Eagles 89-49.
Cusumano, who had 10 points against Ambrose and seven against the Eagles, is a pure outside shooter, but looks to expand his role this season.
“I hope to take a little bigger role than just a spot up shooter,” he said. “We have guys who are great at penetrating, scoring and finding the open man so in some ways I’ll have a similar role, but just expanding it a bit. We also have several others who can play my role as well.”
The players, young and old, fit into the system head coach Clayton Pottinger has put in place.
“We have guys who can run and gun and are athletic,” said Cusumano. “They want to play D and are what the coaches are looking for.”
Cusumano, who is taking sociology, also spends time away from the court promoting the Kings.
“I work with the Hoops program and also spend time working with younger kids in the city whether it’s officiating or helping them learn the game. It’s a chance to promote the game and promote RDC basketball.”
The Kings are coming together as a team despite the fact they’ve suffered a number of injuries over the first few weeks of camp and also couldn’t use a couple of their players in the ACAC/CIS Showcase the pevious weekend because their transfers weren’t completed.
“We’re closer to a full team than we have been for sure,” said Pottinger. “This was a good weekend for us. I’m glad the two teams could make it so we could get a couple of good solid games in. We certainly were better at some stuff than we have been. Better at things we’ve been working on in practice.”
Pottinger stresses there are still things to work on.
“We still have a long way to go. We’ve said this team has to be better than last year’s team to be a contender. We’re still working to get to that point, but the truth be told we’re ahead at this point compared to where we were last year.”
The Kings showed their ability on defence against the Eagles and also showed their depth. Both players just out of high school — Matt Cummings of Carstairs and Riley McCallum of Calgary Centennial High School — didn’t look out of place.
Cummings finished with 10 points against the Eagles while Benny Bankazo of Kitchener, Ont., had 20 points, Johnson 14 and Keyano transfer Mike Zurakowski 11.
Johnson had 15 points against Ambrose with Bankazo, Leblanc, Tyler Wise and Marcellus Clay scoring 13 each and Prenoslo 11.
The RDC teams open their regular schedule Friday when they host SAIT. The women tip off at 6 p.m., followed by the men.