Spencer Klassen grew up idolizing the players on the court at RDC.
He remembers watching teams that went to national championships and ones that had top-level scorers. The guard can still rattle off those names with relative ease. One of them, Eric Bakker, is even his teammate this year and one of his best friends.
But what Klassen knew more than anything back in his high school days at Lindsay Thurber Comprehensive High School, is the process would lead to where he is today.
It’s taken time, but the Red Deer product has emerged this year as one of the top players in the Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference.
In his fourth year as a member of the RDC Kings basketball team, Klassen has suddenly grown into one of the most feared scorers in the league.
He is currently the top points-per-game player (25.3) in the ACAC, but he tries not to get caught up in the individual numbers. Like most athletes driven to succeed, the former Lindsay Thurber Raider standout is constantly striving to make his teammates around him better.
“It’s been fun this year. Just the group of guys have a lot of faith in me and I knew if I put in the work my time would come and it just so happened that this year we were looking for more of a scorer, it worked out really good,” he said.
If Klassen can continue to score at his current pace, it would be a historic season. Only three Kings in the last two decades have led the ACAC in scoring. Graham McCallum in 2009-10 at 21 points per game, Troy Arnett in 1998-99 at 18.37 and Derek Zaharko in 1997-98 with 27.33 points per game.
What’s even more remarkable about Klassen is how quickly the meteoric rise happened.
In his first season at RDC, Klassen averaged just 3.9 points-per-game. He played sparingly, in 20 games that season and made 14-67 field goals, along with 10 of 25 three-point attempts.
He jumped to just under 10 points a game in his second year and 8.7 last season. In each of those seasons, he hit just 32 three-point shots. Already this year, Klassen has hit almost as many three-pointers as in his previous three seasons.
Through 12 games his 25.3 points-per-game is two points up on Ryan McLaren of Concordia University of Edmonton. The 6-foot-2 RDC guard has 30 points or more in six of 12 games this year.
He’s made the most field goals with 114 and the second most threes with 39. He’s also been a workhorse as a guard, logging the second most minutes in the ACAC at 36.3.
“I always knew I had it,” he said.
“I’m the type of person that will take whatever my role is, that’s what I’m going to do. My first year I was more of a defensive stopper and pass the ball a lot. Second-year, got a little bit more of a starting role and third year was more scoring… this year they said this is what they’re looking for, so go do it. It’s worked out so far.”
One of his coming-out party moments came last weekend against SAIT, the top collegiate basketball team in Canada. Klassen quietly had 20 points in the first half and the guard on the other side, Trojan Ian Tevis, who was once a standout at RDC, let him know.
“Tevis came up to me at half and said ‘you have 20 already. I said ‘what’? I had no idea. I think if you get fixated on the outcome, you get lost in it,” Klassen said.
Even though he finished that night with a game-high 32 points it was the shot at the buzzer by Trojans’ guard John Smith that stung him. It sailed just over Klassen’s outstretched hand to steal the win away from the Kings and it still hurts. It’s just the type of person he is.
It’s in moments like that, where family picks him up. Through all 46 ACAC games that he’s played, the most memorable have come on home court. There’s always several family members in the crowd, always friends that make the trip to watch him play.
“My family comes to all my games and that’s the coolest thing, because every big moment I’ve had this year, they’ve been there,” he said.
“It’s so cool for them to see me all the way through it.”
What he’s starting to appreciate even more than that, is seeing kids idolize him, just as he did for the stars of his younger days.
“They come to big games and I’ve talked to them in class and they say ‘that’s amazing’ and ‘I say I’m from Red Deer. I was in your shoes,’” noted the fourth-year Bachelor of Education- elementary student.
“If you want to do this, it’s no problem, do it and have fun and be successful in whatever you choose to do.”
As Klassen looks to continue his assault on the ACAC, the Kings are on the road this weekend in Medicine Hat. Their next home game on Feb. 25 against the Lethbridge College Kodiaks.