The way Payton Baltzer has performed with the RDC basketball Kings this season has come as no surprise to head coach Clayton Pottinger.
The RDC mentor watched the Rocky Mountain House native play two years with the Central Alberta Kings club program and felt he’d fit right in.
“I knew through the club program he was a special player and we were excited to get him and were expecting big things,” said Pottinger, who was surprised at how quickly the six-foot-three guard picked things up.
“He’s a quick study and is 100 per cent bought in. He slowly but surely crept up and we were compelled to play him.
“The opportunity (for him) came up with a string of injuries. He performed well in practice, and while that sometimes doesn’t transition into games, we put him in and he continued to do what he did in practice.”
Baltzer didn’t know what to expect when he arrived at camp in September.
“I came into the season just wanting to do what the coach had in mind and it’s developed into minutes,” he said. “The coach wasn’t specific in what my role would be so I wasn’t expecting anything.
“But when we ran into injury problems I was able to step up and make the most of it,” he added.
Baltzer has played in nine of the Kings 10 games, averaging a little under nine minutes a game. However, last game at St. Mary’s in Calgary — a 108-82 victory — he played 25 minutes, scoring eight points.
Payton was born in Yellowknife, moving to Rocky Mountain House when he was one. He grew up in a basketball household with his dad a coach.
“I was always around the game, always in the gym, having fun, and watching the NBA,” he said.
He also played under West Central High School Rebels head coach Justin Klein, a former RDC King.
“He helped for sure,” said Baltzer. “He had similar systems to here and there was lots of team play and intense practices. That made for an easier transition once I came here.”
Playing two years with the club program was also a benefit.
“It certainly helped playing against better competition,” he said.
“The Central Alberta League is alright, but it helped playing against top players from other clubs and other provinces.”
Still it was, and is, a learning process.
“For sure. The guys here are overall bigger and stronger. I’m a bit undersized so I have to work a bit harder in the gym and have to find other ways to get an advantage and step on the guys. I have to read the plays better.”
Baltzer, who started drawing interest from college coaches in Grade 10 and 11, grew up playing guard but has played the wing for most of the season with the Kings.
“I’ve played every position from one to five, but mainly on the wing,” he said.
“I play where ever the coach wants me. I try to run the floor, crash the boards and use the back door cuts, where I get most of my points from.”
Baltzer is one of seven Central Albertans on the Kings, something that brings a smile to Pottinger’s face.
“You know how much I like that,” said Pottinger. “I’m really excited about this whole group. The guys we have gives us a really solid core of home grown guys and a chance to train year round.”
Baltzer is likely to be around for some time.
“I’m, taking a Bachelor of Arts, majoring in history, but I’m not really sure what the future holds and what I will ultimate take in school,” he said. “I’m lucky in that the schooling part is not particularly challenging, what is different than high school is time management. But it’s working out. We’ll see what happens but I’m looking forward to continuing to play basketball and having fun and seeing what I want to do with my life.”
Danny Rode is a retired Advocate reporter who can be reached at email@example.com