RDC Kings basketball head coach Clayton Pottinger couldn’t be more excited about the upcoming Alberta Colleges Men’s Basketball League season.
Despite having only four returnees, as of now, Pottinger feels the Kings could be even better when it counts and that’s saying something considering they finished second at the CCAA championships last season, losing 88-86 to Langara College in the final.
“I’m not sure we’ll have the talent level of last year, but they’re all very coachable,” said Pottinger, who was the national coach of the year last season. “I accept we will be playing at a higher level than last year, at least when it counts. Last year we lost by two points in the nationals and our goal this year is to win the nationals so we have to be better.
“As well everyone in the league will be setting their sights on us and where we set the bar, so if we don’t improve we could be sitting at home when it comes time for the nationals.
“But I’ve never been more pumped about a season than I am now,” Pottinger continued.
“I like the changes and the unity of the guys plus the opportunity we have to develop and the challenges ahead of us. This is truly my team with only Jacob (Cusumano) here when I took over.”
Cusumano returns for his fifth season while forward Brian Prenoslo and guard Matt Johnson are third-year returnees and guard JP LeBlanc is back for his second season. There’s also a strong possibility six-foot-eight forward Dallas Hancox will be back for a second season.
“Dallas wasn’t going to return, but he’s been out at practice and it looks like he will be back,” said Pottinger.
One of the team’s biggest losses is point guard Lloyd Strickland, but with Johnson and LeBlanc returning and the addition of three former ACAC players, Pottinger likes what he sees at both point and shooting guard.
Mike Zurakowski played with Keyano College in Fort McMurray while Brayden Daniel was at St. Mary’s University in Calgary and Benny Bankazo at Medicine Hat College.
“Benny was heading to the States, but we convinced him to come back (to Alberta),” said Pottinger.
“Benny is a solid two-way player who was close to four triple doubles last season. He can score, rebound, pass the ball . . . a very unselfish player.”
Bankazo averaged 20.4 points per game, 7.6 rebounds and 4.8 assists with MHC.
Pottinger also brought in guard William Beard-Camp, who played with Medicine Hat two years ago
“William averaged close to 20 points per game, but sat out last season with an ACL injury,” explained Pottinger. “But he’s slowly regaining his form.”
Other impressive newcomers are forward Tyler Wise, who played with Grant MacEwan University, where he averaged 14.4 points and seven rebounds per game, and Matt Matear, who transferred in from Mount Royal University.
However Matear will be out until at least the second semester after breaking his arm during the Kings first practice.
“Normally it would be six to eight weeks but he had complications and just had his fourth surgery on the arm, so we’re keeping our fingers crossed he’ll be back for the second semester,” said Pottinger, who is also working on one other former CIS player.
“We can’t say anything right now but if he comes he’ll be a big addition.”
As well Pottinger added six-foot-seven forward Marcelus Clay from Oakland, Calif. Clay played last season at Ohlone Community College in California and joins Beard-Camp as an import.
Pottinger has four players just out of high school on the roster, including three from Central Alberta. Six-foot –four forward Ethan Minde and five-foot-eight guard Brandt Seibel are from Ponoka with Matt Cummings from Innisfail and Riley McCallum from Calgary.
“We like what we see from those kids and while they need to fight to get on the starting roster, they’re all talented kids, who work hard.”
The Kings first real action will be the ACAC Showcase tournament in Edmonton.
“We’ll face a few other teams in scrimmage situations, but nothing formal,” concluded Pottinger, who has Luc Stevenson, Joel Carroll and Clint Unsworth returning as assistant coaches.