Both Previously Played for Head Coach Scott Kirkpatrick

By Nik Kowalski

Frankie Tocci (left) and Mark Ridd (right) are two forces under RRC’s rim. NIK KOWALSKI

If you’re at a Rebels men’s basketball game this season, a quick glance inside either team’s paint will likely show two Rebels taller than anyone on the court — Mark Ridd and Frankie Tocci.

It’s no surprise they are number one and two in the MCAC’s (Manitoba Colleges Athletic Conference) rebounds statistic, Tocci grabbing 40 and Ridd 20.

Tocci’s suited up in all four of RRC’s games this season, while Ridd’s played in just two due to program ineligibilities. 

Some simple math shows that each are averaging 10 boards per game.

“A few times I’ve been reading a play and about to go and move over and block the shot and then I see Frank there, so I step back and let him have one,” said Ridd, a three-year Rebels veteran. “It’s almost like turn-taking sometimes, I quickly realized he’s got good position.”

Tocci’s been taking most of those turns, leading the MCAC with 15 blocks. No other player has more than two.

“I’ve never played on a team with another big man that has the same skill level as me or even better,” said Tocci, a first-year Rebel.

Tocci, 22, especially feels the effects of Ridd, 28, on the offensive side.

“If I’m not in a position to score at all, I look at him,” said Tocci. “We both have a really good feel for the game. He’s a little more patient with the ball where I’m wanting to catch the ball, turn the corner, and try and get a layup or a dunk.”

Frankie Tocci (left) and Mark Ridd (middle) have played two gams alongside each other, both wins over the Providence University College Pilots. NIK KOWALSKI.

Ridd picked up on Tocci’s athleticism as well.

“There’s no denying he can jump higher than me,” said Ridd. “I like to say he can basically dunk anything… I tend to like throwing my weight around.”

Both stand above 6’7, but size isn’t the only thing the two have in common — each spent time playing in high school under current RRC head coach Scott Kirkpatrick.

“I started to miss the more serious level of basketball, so when I got contacted by him (Scott) he found out I was going here (Red River College) and it just made perfect sense,” said Ridd, who played two seasons at Oak Park High School with Kirkpatrick.

Tocci’s known Kirkpatrick since 2014, playing two prior seasons with the RRC head honcho.

“He’s concerned not only how well I’m doing on the court, but how well I’m doing in my life and in school,” said Tocci. “He likes to check up on us even when he wasn’t coaching.”

Kirkpatrick coached Tocci for two years at Maples Collegiate, where the former bolstered Tocci’s game.

“We came every Saturday at Maples and spent an hour or two working on layups, jump hooks, basic footwork that he needed to work on,” said Kirkpatrick. “Grade 11 to 12 he improved a tremendous amount.”

Growing six inches in the summer of 2013 was a bonus too. Tocci was a career baseball player, but when he grew out of his back-catcher position he turned to basketball and Kirkpatrick.

Frankie Tocci is hoping he can be the extra piece for RRC to bring home a NIAC championship. NIK KOWALSKI.

“Coach K is my favourite coach I’ve ever had for any sport,” said Tocci. “Even when I was a kid, he still approached me as if I were an adult… it always felt like a relationship set up to grow.”

Ridd was always one of the taller kids in his classes, a trait that dates back to his grandfather Carl, an Olympian and member of the Canadian Basketball Hall of Fame.

“My grandfather was a big influence,” said Ridd. “He was always one of my role models.”

Ridd’s set to bid his farewell after this season, making a Northern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (NIAC) title all the more important after previously falling short.

“Goal number one would be finish up the season and finish up the MCAC and once we move on to NIAC we’ll try to have the longevity to maybe make it to that third game in a row with enough guys and no injures to go on and win that final.”

After graduating from the electrical program at RRC, Ridd’s hoping to put in some work and eventually buy a house.

“Who knows, maybe I’ll own a business someday,” said Ridd.

Tocci’s got a couple more years in the school’s educational assistance program, where he then hopes to teach in a professional setting while also coaching and developing basketball players.

Before a winter break or any championship aspirations, the big men of RRC are hosting the Canadian Mennonite University Blazers (0-2) on Nov. 29 at the North Gym at NDC.