Playing for the RDC Kings volleyball team was something Jack Walton had on his mind since he was a little boy.
That dream came true last week when the Lindsay Thurber Grade 12 student committed to join the Kings for the 2021-22 season.
“I grew up around the Kings and Queens and felt it was a privilege to play for them,” said Walton, who is the son of RDC Queens head coach Talbot Walton.
“And it’s nice to follow in my dad’s footsteps.”
Talbot played for the Kings before moving to the University of Alberta Golden Bears.
The only negative affecting Jack from fulfilling his dream was the fact he’s taking engineering, which is a one-year program.
“I’ve been thinking about (joining the Kings) for a while and the last couple of weeks I was sure it was something I wanted to do, so I reached out to (Kings head coach Aaron) Schulha and talked to him about the possibility. I was fortunate enough he had a spot and I took it.
“I really wanted to play here, even for the one year.”
Schulha felt he was a good fit.
“We went back and forth on it, if it made sense academically for him, but he wanted to be part of the program and he filled a need we had in a libero/outside hitter. He comes from a good family and is a local kid who we watched play a lot. He fits in nicely.”
Jack isn’t sure what position he may fill with the Kings, but enjoys both.
“I prefer outside hitter as it’s more dynamic and can contribute all over the court, but I like libero as well as you can provide a spark to the team … adding energy when they’re down or when they’re on a run add to it.”
Walton believes playing libero only helps the hitter side of his game and also believes being a multi-sport athlete pays dividends.
“I struggled earlier with the passing side of my game and playing libero I worked a lot on that and helped me grow.”
He played a number of sports such as lacrosse, hockey, basketball, track and swimming.
“I learned a lot from each one,” he said. “Each sport helped me round out as an athlete. I could take those skills to volleyball and make me the best player I could be.”
Walton came up through the highly respected LTCHS system and the Kings Club program. LTCHS senior Raiders head coach and former RDC King Terence McMullen played a huge role in his development.
“I had some confidence issues when I was younger and it got in my head and Terence helped me improve that way and grow my game.”
As did his dad.
“He was always there and approachable … willing to give me feedback when he could … give me a few pointers if I needed them that helped me grow.”
The six-foot-two Walton played in the Kings Club program since U13 and is practising with them now.
“We’ve been allowed to practice a couple of times a week for a couple of weeks now,” he said. “It’s not ideal as we have a group of 10 and at times can run some two-on-two drills, but mainly work out with individual drills. It’s not the same as playing, but it will help once we do return.”
Jack indicates he’ll likely try out for the Golden Bears once he transfers.
“That’s a more haunting task yet, but I would love to play as dad was there, so it’s in the back of my mind.”
As for the Kings, Schulha had all but finished recruiting.
“It’s been such a weird year we’ve been approved to carry up to 18 players,” he said. “We can dress 14 for games and usually carry 16, but with teams having so many players returning and not having as much room for high school grads they want to add a few more.
“So we may add one more if it works out.”
The Kings are fortunate to have close to a complete roster returning from their ACAC gold medal-winning team of two years ago.
There was some worry 2019-20 ACAC rookie of the year Carter Hills wouldn’t be back, but he’s “committed to returning.”
Hills and Pat Toze, who were second team all-stars at the CCAA 2020 finals, return on the outside with Cody Boulding and Dillon Gauci back in the middle. Setter Brett Theise will take over from all-star Tom Wass with LTCHS grad Jacob Hicks backing up.
Two other additions from last year — Reece Lehman and Brody Kopec — both played U-Sport in Canada West and play on the outside.
Schulha has rounded out his import roster adding six-foot-seven outside hitter Nicholas Possingham who joins Gauci and Toze.
Now it’s a matter of returning to play.
“We usually don’t start our season until the middle to the end of October so hopefully by then everything will be to a point where we can go ahead.”
Danny Rode is a retired Advocate reporter and member of the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame who can be reached at email@example.com