RDP Kings basketball head coach Darren Graham has some tough decisions to make before his roster is settled for the upcoming Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference season.
“In my experience a lot of times nothing is completely finalized until September, but we have some important decisions to be made and we’d like them done by the first two weeks in May,” he said. “In terms of the direction we want the team to go I’d say those decisions will be made early in May.”
Darren expects to have seven to 10 returnees from last season, which saw the Kings post a 13-8 record and lose 80-77 in their second playoff game to St. Mary’s University, which went on to finish second in the provincials and advance to the CCAA finals.
“No excuses but we had a couple of things go against us in the playoffs, having to play a tough game against Medicine Hat team ( a 78-60 win) before meeting St. Mary’s,” he said. “But we learned a lot and we showed during the season we could play with the best. We were the last team to beat SAIT before they went on to win the provincials and the nationals.”
The Kings should have all three Brazilian imports returning in Eduardo Crespo, Jose Mauro Barrozo Jr, and Bernardo Moller.
Crespo was on the first-team South Division All-Conference team, finishing with 19,8 points per game, which was seventh in the ACAC, 3.6 assists per game, which was fifth, and 7.7 rebounds, which was 10th. Jose was fourth in rebounding at 11.3 per game and second in field goal percentage at 57.7 per cent. He scored 15.2 points per game.
Moller scored 11 points per start and was third in the conference in three-point shooting at 41.8 per cent.
“They’re all older guys who have experience playing at a high level in Brazil,” said Graham. “They bring us a winning brand of basketball, a physical brand and a more experienced brand.”
Others returning for sure include forward Cole Wicker, who averaged 11.1 points per game, six-foot-seven Parker Weinrauch, and guards Pierce Shybunka and Lucaas Kuprowski, who redshirted last season.
Fifth-year forward Payton Baltzer, who averaged 10.4 points per game, is likely to return while the status of six-foot-five Brett Hochhausen, and guards Davin Eskin-Isidore, Mac Manyluk, Dylan Sims and Josh Jean are up in the air.
Six-foot-six Dennis Enns has transferred to the University of Lethbridge.
Graham has added at least two new faces from Ontario in Keyon Wisdom and Romain McCalla, both of whom have college experience in the OCAA. In fact McCalla led the conference in scoring in the 2021-22 season with 25.4 points per game.
“It’s always hard to find a natural scorer,” said Graham. “He’ll certainly add to the team as will Keyon, who brings a different dynamic in that he’s a defensive specialist, is very athletic and can score on the break. Both will certainly help our rotation.”
Both were at the Kings ID camp, which ran Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday evening,
“The first couple days we had a number of out-of-town kids, several from Edmonton and Calgary,” explained Graham. “After the first two days we cut down to about 15 guys, including several of our returnees.”
The Kings will bring back several players who were on hand the opening two days as they play in a college tournament in Edmonton this weekend.
“It gives some of the guys a chance to see college competition and to start to work on chemistry,” Darren said.
Graham was pleased with several local players on hand, including Gabe Gillies from Lindsay Thurber and Nolan Taylor from Notre Dame As well 15-year-old Isiah Capicio of Notre Dame caught everyone’s attention.
“We thought he’d be here for a day or two but he kept impressing and we had to keep bringing him back,” added Graham.
“Isiah is a couple of years away, but there are several others who are pushing the veterans for a spot. I was certainly pleased with the local talent.”
Graham was also pleased with six-foot-eight Owen Davies of Calgary and three players out of Leduc, which is coached by former King Vince May. All three, including big man Memphis Gambler, will play this weekend in Edmonton.
Danny Rode is a retired Advocate reporter and member of the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame who can be reached at email@example.com