It was a last-minute deal that brought Ashaunti Hogan to RDC — a move that’s paid dividends for the Kings.
Hogan, a native of Burnaby, B.C., planned on attending a junior college in Texas this season, but when the move fell through because of visa problems, he looked for another school to attend.
That’s where the Kings and head coach Clayton Pottinger came in.
“I knew a little bit about Clayton before as one of my friends was recruited by him,” said Hogan. “I also attended an open camp when he was at Douglas College (in New Westminster) and he talked to me, but I was going to the States at the time.”
Hogan, who graduated from Burnaby South High School took a year off then spent a year at a prep school in Madison, Wisc. He then looked at going to Texas.
“When that fell through Clayton and I hooked up about a week before school started and he told me if I got here before another guy I’d make it, which was a good choice,” Hogan said with a laugh.
“He just kind of fell into our lap,” said Pottinger.
“When his aspirations of going to the States fell through he contacted me and asked if there was a spot and I said yes.”
All this and Hogan knew little about Red Deer.
“A friend of mine told me a little, but other than that I knew nothing . . . didn’t know where Red Deer was,” he said. “But it’s been great. I’m a city kid, but I like the country atmosphere.”
The five-foot-11 shooting guard has played a major role in the Kings success, averaging 13.8 points per game. He’ll need to continue his strong play this weekend as the second-seeded Kings head to Fort McMurray for the Alberta Colleges Men’s Basketball League championships. They meet the NAIT Ooks at 3 p.m. Friday.
Not only does Hogan fit in nicely on the court he does so off the court as well.
“He’s a great kid,” said Pottinger. “He’s very coachable, works hard on and off the court, and exemplified everything we want on this team. Plus on the court he’s been very consistent.”
Hogan believes the Kings camaraderie is a strength.
“We gelled quickly as a team,” he said. “Everyone gets along on and off the court, which reflects in our success.”
The Kings have had the slight hiccup this season, but overall were solid finishing second in the league, back of Briercrest. They did that despite changing their team slightly at Christmas when they lost Sam Lolik and added Demaine Nelson and Mari Peoples-Wong.
The six-foot-seven Nelson replaced the six-foot-eight Lolik while Peoples-Wong gave them added scoring.
“We were still a fast-paced team with Sam, but we did have to slow down a bit with him. Since Christmas we’ve picked it up a bit. Demaine isn’t as big, but can run and is agile, so we made a few little changes and run a high-tempo offence . . . we really try to push the ball.
“Mari has been a good addition as teams were looking to stop Rob (Pierce) and myself, now Mari adds between 15 and 20 points a game (15.1),” said Hogan. “But we need that. We also need Lloyd (Strickland) and everyone else to contribute to have success.”
Hogan played point guard prior to arriving at RDC, but doesn’t mind being one of the team’s scoring leaders.
“They wanted more scoring from me, so that’s fine . . . it’s my job.”
Hogan does the majority of damage from the outside, hitting a three-point basket in all but one game this season. And despite not being one of the bigger guards in the league, he can play with the best of them.
“I am a smaller guy, but one of the stronger guys on the team, so I can handle it,” said the 20-year-old, who remembers his first start for the Kings.
“I was so nervous,” he said. “I was sweating and my hands were all sweaty. I started a bit iffy, but as it went along I became more confident.”
The Kings beat NAIT 101-67 in their only meeting this season, but expect a more difficult time Friday.
“They’ve added two new players, a shooting guard and a seven-footer, so they’ll be tough,” said Hogan. “But the key for us is to play our game and make things happen.”
Pottinger agreed, adding “they’re a different team now, but once you get to the Elite Eight all the teams are tough. Last year when we reached the final and went to the nationals, all the cards seemed to fall into place. This year we have a rougher path to get there.”
In other games Friday, Lethbridge meets Grant MacEwan at 1 p.m., Briercrest takes on the University of Alberta, Augustana at 6 p.m. and Concordia meets Keyano College at 8 p.m.
l The hockey Queens open their best-of-five ACAC final against the NAIT Ooks Thursday at NAIT. The second game is Saturday at 5:15 p.m. at the Arena with the third game March 8 at NAIT. If a fourth game is necessary it’s March 9 at 2:30 p.m. at the Arena with a fifth game, if needed, March 10 at NAIT.
The Queens finished the season one point back of the league-leading Ooks.
“We’re evenly matched, but play different styles,” said Queens head coach Trevor Keeper. “They have a lot of offence with their strength in their forwards while we led the league in goals-against. We think offence as well, but focus on defence and penalty killing.
“But I know it will be a battle and the key for us is to play well in their arena, which has a little bigger offensive zone than we have here.”
• Volleyball Kings power hitter Tim Finnigan was named the Boston Pizza RDC male athlete of the week and shared the ACAC men’s athlete of the week award.
Finnigan was named all all-star and tournament MVP at the provincials, won by the Kings.
Laura Salomons, who scored twice in the Queens 3-0 win over Grant MacEwan in the deciding game of the best-of-three hockey semifinal received the top female award.
Volleyball Queens Amber Adolf and Julie Primrose of the women’s curling bronze medal winning team were also in the running.
The volleyball Kings received the Breathing Room Yoga Studio and Cafe team of the week award.