Last season the southern division was the stronger conference in the Alberta Colleges Men’s Basketball League, with the RDC Kings leading the way.
That is until the playoffs when they were upset by the host Keyano College in the opening round. The Kings went on to defeat northern champion NAIT in the fifth-place game while the medals were swept by the other top three South Division playoff teams. Lethbridge downed Medicine Hat in the final with Olds taking third.
Kings head coach Clayton Pottinger feels his team let the other teams in the division grab the momentum the Kings held while winning the ACAC title for two years in a row.
“We lost at the wrong time last year,” he said. “We have to be more ready for those situations. Those other (South) teams finished one, two, three and stole the momentum we had. So this season everything is on the line for us to steal that momentum back. If not we’re just another team.”
The Kings have the veteran and rookie talent to get back to a championship level with seven returnees and eight newcomers.
However, one of their key veterans – guard JP LeBlanc – may be out for the season with a dislocated shoulder.
“He played so well for us and work so hard during the off season we were looking for big things from him. Even with the American guards we’re bringing in he would likely started at shooting guard and played a major role.”
Point guard Matt Johnson returns for a fourth season and will anchor the team along with guards Benny and Henry Bankazo and forwards Matt Matear, Tyler Wise and Dallas Hancox. The six-foot-eight Hancox is returning after taking last season off and is expected to fill the shoes left by Brian Prenoslo.
“Brian was the heart of what we did for the last few years,” said Pottinger. “But Dallas returns and basically we’re looking at him being a bigger Brian.”
Matear, who averaged over 11 points per game last season, will be around for a full year. Last year he was injured in the preseason and didn’t play until Christmas.
“He is very solid, mature play who has the potential to be a first-team all-star,” said Pottinger, who looks at Johnson as a team leader.
“He proved last year he could play in this league as a starter,” said Pottinger. “But he was playing 30 minutes plus, which was too much. We need the consistency of a tandem like we had two years ago when Lloyd (Strickland) and Matt were together.
“I think we addressed that with some of the guys we brought in.”
Of the newcomers Kelvin Omojolo of Henderson, Nev., is as a point guard with Rodney Teal of Oklahoma, Karrahm Sultan of Edmonton, Michael Gini of Vernon and Braeden Koteck of Regina also listed at guard.
Other newcomers are impressive six-foot-six forward Anthony Ottley, who was last with Trinity Western University, six-foot-five walk-on forward Jabin Binnendyk of Penhold and Lindsay Thurber grad Spencer Klassen
Ottley has the potential to be an all-star in the league.
“He’s a special player,” said Pottinger. “His goal is to play professionally one day and there are times at practice where that’s obvious. There are other times when you see he still needs some work. This is his last year of eligibility and there will be a few games were he has 40 points and 12-15 rebounds. He’s athletic, long and can score in a variety of ways. He’s a pro-level guy.”
The Kings won’t have an abundance of height, but will be quick and very athletic. As a result Pottinger will look to chance his style a bit.
“We’ll have to make some defensive adjustments based on our personnel. We will have depth on the wing and with more speed be able to pressure the ball more. Offensively my style has been to use the forwards, but I can see us using the perimeter guys more. Even Wise and Ottley can play like guards.”
The Kings first action is Friday when they visit the University of Lethbridge. They host their own tournament Oct. 8-12.
“We will also have a couple of practice scrimmages with Mount Royal University and Grant MacEwan University,” said Pottinger.
The RDC teams open the regular season Oct. 30 at home against SAIT.