Rode

Kings could be better than last season

The loss of Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference Men’s Basketball League scoring champion Ty King leaves a big hole for the RDP Kings to fill.

However, this year’s edition of the Kings could well be better than last year.

Head coach Darren Graham has nine players back from last year’s squad that reached the Final Four, finishing fourth, and has added significant depth, especially at the forward position.

“Under FIBA rules it’s important to share the ball … move the ball unlike the NBA where it’s more of a one-man game,” said Graham. “We have a lot of different guys in different positions who can score at different times and at different rates which ultimately could make us a better team and more of a multi-dimensional team and harder to defend.”

The Kings showed some of that in their opening two exhibitions games against TKU Eagles — winning 89-77 and 79-70.

“I was impressed with that opening game especially, scoring 89 points. Last year we didn’t score 80 in the preseason.”

And they accomplished that without starting point guard Eduardo Crespo, who is also playing with the Kings soccer team.

The Brazilian native, who had 21 points in Wednesday’s victory, had a strong finish to last season and not only can provide offence, but plays a fast-paced game.

“Last year it took him a while to adjust from the Brazilian game to the Canadian game, but after Christmas he was a dominant player,” said Graham. “He came into this season with a different mind-set and has shown leadership on the court and off the court.

“He can impact the game in so may ways. He can score, distribute the ball and rebound. He can be the best player on the court at any time and not be the top scorer.”

Graham has two other Brazilian athletes in six-foot-seven Jose Mauro Barrozo Jr. and guard Bernardo Moller.

Barrozo can dominate inside with his height and athletic ability. He scored 21 points the Kings opening game and 14 on Wednesday.

“He adds to our height, which we could use,” added Graham. “We now have five or six guys we can use inside and they all can offer different attributes. They won’t match up with a couple of the seven-footers in the league but their tactics and fundamentals will make it tough on those guys.”

Veterans Kevin Szymanek, Brett Hochhausen, Parker Weinrauch and Dennis Enns of Camrose, who played last season with Medicine Hat, can all play the five (centre) position. As well veteran Payton Baltzer can move inside as well.

Also returning is guards MacGregor Manyluk, Pierce Shybunka and Kirklan Hall and forward Cole Wicker. who also had 14 points Wednesday.

Azro Abuzukar of Ottawa, who missed all last season after ACL surgery, is healthy.

The Kings also added six-foot-three guard Josh Jean of Kamlopps who was with Trinity Western University last season and six-foot-three guard Tyrique Walters of Brampton, Ont., a transfer from Durham College. Walters isn’t expected to play until the second half.

A fourth import — Jean Pierre Otero Rodriquez — from Columbia was a late addition. He knows a thing or two about Alberta, having played high school in Clarsholm before returning home.

Graham added a pair of high school players in guards Dylan Sims of St. Albert and Lucaas Kuprowski from Lindsay Thurber High School.

The roster is rounded out by Davin Eskins-Isidore of Scrborough, Ont.

“He’s a friend of Ty’s and was a late addition,” explained Graham.

The fact the Kings finished third in the ACAC South Division at 9-7 and had success in the playoffs will be a huge benefit this season, says the veteran coach.

“For the players who have been around for a while it was a benefit for them to test themselves in deep competition and in under the bright lights,” said Graham. “That experience will breed more and more confidence and ultimately make us a deeper team and more difficult to play against.

“Defensive intensity and tenacity comes from those playoff experiences. They can’t be taught only experienced. I trust it will pay dividends throughout this season.”

The Kings play nine exhibition games, including three in their tournament, Oct, 6-8. Their next action is Friday against Concordia University in Leduc. They host Augustana Wednesday.

Ed Major, who finished last season as Queens head coach, is back as an assistant along with Spencer Klassen and Jesse Bonsu.

Danny Rode is a retired Advocate reporter and member of the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame who can be reached at danrode@shaw.ca