Coach Ruff is ready to hit the ground running Saturday night, as his team kicks off the regular season against powerful Red Deer College Kings.

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October 28, 2016…Calgary-New coach. New year. New vision. That’s what first year head coach Nathan Ruff has his sights set on as him and his men’s basketball squad embark on their fifth Alberta Colleges Athletic Association (ACAC) season.

Ruff becomes the Lightning’s third head coach since the men’s basketball program’s inception in 2012, taking over for Dane Morris, who stepped down after two seasons with St. Mary’s.

Like Morris, Ruff also comes to St. Mary’s as an assistant from the SAIT Trojans men’s basketball program, and will begin his quest to lead his team to the program’s first playoff appearance this weekend, when the Lightning open their regular season Saturday night in Red Deer.

The men’s program has struggled in the win column the past few seasons and has yet to reach a post-season appearance- a feat Ruff knows will be all part of the growing pains of starting fresh.

In typical coaching transition fashion, the late hiring date for Ruff’s take over affected his recruiting pool for this season and had his work cut out for him over the summer to bring some talent to St Mary’s.

“Being a small school in arguably one of the hardest conferences in the CCAA, recruiting is key. Being one of five schools in Calgary that compete for the same athletes makes recruiting even harder. Realistically I want us to compete in every game and win as many as we can.” says an enthusiastic Ruff.

The Lightning return just four veteran players this season in Garrett Kawa (3rd year, Biological Sciences, Lethbridge), Jordan Trisevic, (3rd year, Liberal Arts, Calgary) Tavis Lee (2nd year, Business, Ponoka), and newly appointed team captain Brad Hassall (3rd year, General Studies, Melbourne Aus.)

Ruff also picked up former SAIT Trojan and Olds Bronco, Cordell Minnifee (3rd year, Liberal Arts, Calgary). Minnifee played his rookie season during Ruff’s time as an assistant with the Trojans in 2012-2013, before transferring to Olds the following year and landing at St. Mary’s after some time spent away from the court.

“I’m very happy with what we have brought to the year’s team.” says Ruff. The core group of guys I have returning, coupled with the new players we have brought in makes me excited for the future of this program.”

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With a few exhibition games and a couple tournaments under their belt, Ruff and his team are prepared to take the court Saturday against Red Deer. The Kings have been a powerhouse program for the past few seasons, but Ruff is ready to focus on the task at hand and set the tone early in the game.

“The guys have worked very hard to come together and run our stuff. If we can put together a game like our final preseason game, I think we will give ourselves a chance to be in the game at the end which is all I can ask for.” says Ruff.

The Lightning will start their regular season with three games on the road before returning to Calgary for their home opening weekend November 11th against Olds College.

Saturday night’s match-up is set for 8:00 p.m. in Red Deer, and can be streamed live on ACAC.TV.