When Rudy Soffo first saw the RDC basketball Kings roster he was a bit surprised to be listed as a red shirt.
“I didn’t expect that, but decided to make the most of it … take the opportunity to get better and prove I should be on the roster. It was something to strive for,” said the six-foot-two, 240-pound Notre Dame grad.
“I think I showed in the exhibition games I could play … I just went out and gave it my all.”
He impressed everyone in the stands but more importantly the coaching staff.
“We had to declare early and so we just put the kids coming in from high school as red shirts,” explained Kings head coach Clayton Pottinger. “We though at first he may be a red shirt, but he came in and worked super hard.
“As well we’ll give everyone a chance to try to earn a spot on the roster and based on his body of work he easily earned himself a roster spot.
“He said ‘not me coach’ and showed he was willing to work his butt off. He’s a quick study, especially when it comes to the defensive end. He gives you that Rudy-style hustle.”
Soffo proved from the opening of practice to the end of the exhibition season that what Pottinger saw wasn’t a one-time thing.
“He did it consistently … I was compelled to give him a chance.”
Soffo admits he still has a lot to learn, especially considering he always played on the inside. Now asked to play more of a wing position.
“I’m having to adjust being up against taller and quicker players,” he said. “I have to expand my game … work on my outside shooting. But I’ve worked hard in practice to make those adjustment easier.”
The fact he knows how to handle himself inside makes him more valuable.
“It’s good to be able to post up and once I get more comfortable shooting from the outside it will help my game even more.”
The 17-year-old was born in Cameroon and moved to Ottawa in 2003. From there the family moved to Fort St. John, Prince George and eventually Red Deer.
“I came to Red Deer halfway through Grade 9,” he said.
But he was already in love with the sport.
“I used to play with my older brother in Ottawa but really got into it in Grade 4 (in Fort St. John) and took it even more seriously in Grade 7.”
His game quickly developed once he arrived in Red Deer.
“They gave me an opportunity at St. Francis to play and it pushed me to work hard all summer. I was blessed to make the senior team (at Notre Dame) in Grade 10. Playing at a higher level at a younger age helped me develop.”
Playing with the provincial U16 team when he was 15 also helped.
“That was a good time. I was fortunate to be the MVP at several tournaments and getting exposed to the competition in the States helped me a lot.”
Soffo also played with the Central Alberta Kings Club team.
“The opportunity to play with Team Alberta and in the club program as well as high school helped prepare me for college,” he added.
Rudy is one of six pure rookies on the Kings with three others transferring in. Five players return.
“With so many new players we’re still working on coming together as a team,” said Soffo. “It’s a new system for many of us and we’re still adjusting, but we’re working every day, especially on defence. Once there I believe we have a championship calibre team.”
The Kings opened with a tough 87-85 loss at Ambrose with a three-point shot just off at the final buzzer.
The RDC teams host their home opener in the new Gary W Harris Canada Game Centre tonight against Olds. The women tip off at 6 p.m., followed by the men.
Danny Rode is a retired Advocate reporter who can be reached at email@example.com