The RDC Queens basketball squad will once again have a true international flavour.
Last season Queens head coach Ken King had Eva Bonde and Emily White from Denmark and Sandra Garcia-Bermal from Spain. This year Garcia-Bermal returns while King added Zeina Elbarky from Egypt and Nomqhele Mahlangu from Zimbabwe.
“We lost two really good players in Eva and Emily but we’re excited about the international girls we’re bringing in,” said King. “Any time you look at the States or around the world you have to make sure the players are a good fit and they all are.”
Garcia-Bermal was one of the Queens true leaders over the second half of last season when they made a serious run at a playoff berth. Despite battling injuries all season, the Queens finished just two points back of league champion St. Mary’s in the South standings and four behind Medicine Hat, who won silver.
Despite being one of the shorter ploayers on the team Sandre finished second in team rebounds and was one of the team’s top defenders. She also was second in assists and sixth in scoring.
King believes she will increase her scoring this season as she feels more comfortable taking shots from the outside.
The six-foot Elbarky is listed at power forward who could move inside.
“We learned about her from the same network Eva and Emily came through,” said King. “She has the skills to play in our league and was looking at coming to Canada to play basketball and work on her business degree, so she was a perfect fit for RDC.”
Mahlangu is listed at five-foot-eight and will likely play both forward positions.
“She reminds me a lot of Lauren Bailey in that she drives the basket and is physical,” said King, who has been in contact with Mahlangu for a couple of years.
“It was a matter of her getting her visa, which takes time,” he said.
King has eight non-imports returning with several important additions from across Canada.
He has commitments from Cally Strongman, a shooting guard from Ontario, who has college experience at Mohawk; Heena Sidhu from Lord Tweedsmuir High School in Surrey, B.C., Sammy Wade of Estevan, Sask., Katie Ballhorn of Wetaskiwin and Amy Szymanek of David Thompson.
“Amy is another strong player coming out of our club program while Katie is also from Central Alberta and is a complete package — strong academically, has an excellent attitude, a high basketball IQ and a nose for the basket,” said King, who’s likes what he sees for next season.
“I’m really excited. It’s easy to build on last year where injuries played a major role in missing the playoffs. I feel we could have easily had two more wins. As well the new facility (Gary W Harris Canada Winter Games Centre) definitely helps recruiting. We’ve also been able to show the girls around and it motivates them.”
King is also thrilled about having close to six players out of the Queens Club program on his roster.
“We’re excited about the club program,” said King, who is in his fourth season with the program.
“I’ve seen the program grow significantly over the last few years. This year we have two solid U17 teams. We didn’t plan on two teams but there were so many worth players at camp we were able to put together two teams of the same calibre.”
King coached the U13 girls club team.
“It’s been a blast,” he said. “It’s certainly different (than college) as a lot of girls come in who never handled a basketball before but they all have a great attitude. Having U13 and U15 teams will only make the U17 teams that much stronger … more toward what the club teams in Calgary and Edmonton are.”
Danny Rode is a retired Advocate reporter who can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
King is also coaching the provincial U15 girls team, which includes Marissa Richards of Hunting Hills.