In the spring of 2013 Spencer Klassen made a commitment to himself and RDC Kings basketball head coach Clayton Pottinger that he would eventually make his way to RDC.
Two years later the Lindsay Thurber grad fulfilled his commitment.
“I talked with Clayton at the end of my Grade 12 year (in 2013) and told him I wanted to take some time off and I would come back. He told me at the time when most guys step away from the game they don’t return. But I said he’d see me again.”
Pottinger admits he was a bit surprised when he was contacted by the six-foot-two native of Red Deer.
“In most cases when guys take a year or two off that spelled a death sentence to their career,” said Pottinger. “He was out of sight, out of mind until he showed up and said he was interested in trying out. When he walked in he looked fit and ready to go. He’s an exception to the rule in that regard.”
Pottinger invited Klassen to attend an ID camp and he impressed right away.
“He asked me to come back and it’s worked out better than I even expected,” said Klassen, who worked for two years following high school and didn’t even play senior men’s basketball.
“I tried something different and after the two years I decided it wasn’t for me and I wanted to go back to school and try to play some basketball,” he explained. “I figured I’d give it a try as I was going to school no matter what.”
Klassen said he was overwhelmed at first.
“But Clayton said to keep coming back.”
He was listed as a red shirt to start training camp, but quickly earned a spot on the regular roster.
“It was a bit of luck and I kept busting my butt,” he said. “It was a huge difference between high school and college, but I believe the two years off helped me a lot. I worked out, got stronger and quicker and way more mature. If I was still 18 there’s no way I’d be where I am today.”
In high school Klassen was one of the premier offensive players in Central Alberta, but admitted his defence needed some work.
“Still does,” he said with a laugh. “But that’s the No. 1 reason I wasn’t playing that much to start the season. My defence wasn’t where it should be.”
But with the help of the coaching staff and his teammates Klassen has worked hard on that side of his game.
“I’m up against some of the best players in the country at practice in Anthony (Ottley) and Rodney (Teal) and matching up against them is huge.”
Because of injuries and team rules, Klassen has been asked to play even more than expected. He’s played in 14 games and has 61 points and 25 rebounds.
“He’s been a pleasant surprise,” said Pottinger. “We believed he’d come in and take time to develop, but he’s played well and was thrust into a situation where he had to play more minutes than expected. We feel kind of bad as we’ve forced him in a bit, but he’s taken it in stride and loves the opportunity.”
Like a majority of Central Alberta kids Klassen played hockey until he was in peewee. In Grade 5 he found basketball and made the switch.
“I played in the Hoops program and in school and loved it,” he said, giving credit to Stephen Pottage for his early development.
“He coached me from Grade 5 to Grade 8 and helped me learn the game. I attended some camps in Edmonton and Calgary and in high school I had a good coach in Dwayne Lalor. Dwayne helped me a lot, he allowed me to play my game and shoot a lot.”
It was his shooting that gave him an opportunity to make the Kings roster.
“In preseason I was red shirting but still got to play and hit 100 per cent on my threes, so that helped,” he said.
Of the 61 points he has this season, 24 have been from three-point range as he’s hit on eight-of-16.
Klassen knows he still has work to do, but isn’t afraid of what’s ahead of him.
“I try to focus and put in the effort. I know it’s a process but I want to work hard and go from there.”
The nice thing for the Kings, is that he’s in education and will be with the team for at least three years.
“I could be here all five. I know I grew up watching the Kings and it’s awesome to be playing here, so I’m going to enjoy it.”
Klassen and his teammates will be in action this weekend as they face the St. Mary’s University Lightning of Calgary in a home-and-home series — today at 6 p.m. at RDC and Saturday in Calgary.
The Kings sport an 11-4 record while St. Mary’s is 5-11. The Queens will have their hands full against the 13-3 SMU squad, which is second in the South. RDC, 7-8, needs the wins as they sit two points out of a playoff spot.