Rode

Rode: Red Deer’s Brett Lower progressed quickly and impressively for RDP Kings volleyball

Brett Lower had no idea when he arrived in camp this fall what role he’d be playing with the RDP Kings volleyball squad.

Earlier in the year, it appeared as if veteran right side Carter Hills, who was the rookie of the year in the 2019-20 season, would be returning.

But all that changed when Hills decided to move to NAIT.

Suddenly Lower and Aussie Nicholas Possingham were the front runners to fill the starting slot.

The six-foot-seven Possingham started in the preseason but when sidelined with a concussion Lower stepped in and didn’t look out of place.

“Some may have been surprised how far Brett came in a short period of time but we knew coming out of high school he had a real high upside,” said Kings head coach Aaron Schulha. “Nick has returned and it’s a good battle between the two which has made the team better.”

Brett isn’t one to worry about fighting for playing time.

“Nick is a great guy and a great teammate,” said Lower. “We have a good battle every day which is good for the team. Competition makes everyone better. You don’t improve without someone pushing you.”

Lower came out of one of the top high school programs in the province, the Lindsay Thurber Raiders, and credits coach Terence McMullen for much of his development.

“He’s an awesome coach. Every player coming out of his program works hard … he instills that in everyone and believes in being mentally prepared from the first point. A match can fly by and you have to be ready.”

Brett had outstanding coaching with the Kings Club program, which also prepared him to step into college.

“All my club coaches played here and knew the system so I kind of knew what to expect,” said the six-foot-three left-hander. “It’s different for sure but I knew I had to work hard from the start if I wanted to get some playing time and so far I have.”

Brett had started all six Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference league games — all victories — has put together a solid resume with 44 kills — second on the team to Pat Toze’s 66 — and 28 digs, third on the team, and seven blocks.

“I feel my defence is one of my strengths, while I need to continue to work on my blocking. Play at the college is a lot higher paced and the setters are way better so they can isolate you one-on-one. As for my attack, I’m still working on a couple shots. I just have to be craftier.”

The 18-year-old came out of a volleyball family with his father, Dan, playing with Mount Royal College.

He got involved in the sport in Grade 6 with former King Mitch Irvine his head coach. He advanced through the school system as well as at the club level. He was also invited to attend the provincial U16 camp, which played a role in his future.

“It opened my eyes to the belief I could go somewhere in volleyball,” he said.

“As well I’ve known (Kings starting libero) JJ Graham since Grade 10 and he’s helped me a lot and I knew when he came here I wanted to follow him.”

Brett always played school sports, mainly volleyball and basketball, as well as hockey.

“I played hockey until Grade 9 when I had to make a decision to stay with hockey or school sports.”

He made the right decision, earning himself a spot on the most successful men’s program in the CCAA.

And he’ll be around for some time.

“I’m in nursing so I’ll hopefully be here for at least four years,” he said

The addition of veteran setter Maddux Greves this season has benefited Lower.

“He’s been great,” he said. “Coming in as a first-year player he’s made it so much easier getting a lot of single blocks. He also plays the same position on defence and has helped me there … in fact has helped in all aspects.”

Lower isn’t about to say how the rest of his season will go but the Kings have an excellent shot at attending the Canadians.

“Such a great legacy,” said Lower. “There’s all the photos in the room and championship banners … it’s something to look forward to and strive for every day.”

The RDP teams conclude their 2021 portion of their schedule this weekend, hosting SAIT Friday and visiting the Trojans in Calgary Saturday.

Both Red Deer teams are 6-0 with the Kings sporting an 18-2 win-loss set record while the Queens are 18-0. SAIT men are 3-3 and women 2-4.

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

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