Palo Alto’s Fleming elated with St. Olaf College choice
Palo Alto native Raymond Fleming spent two seasons perfecting his game at the junior level with the USPHL’s Wisconsin Rapids Riverkings.
Next, he is taking his act to St. Olaf College, located in Northfield, Minn.
The 20-year-old defenseman first laced up his skates as a youth in the Silicon Valley, but moved on to hockey in British Columbia, with the Okanagan Valley Hockey Academy as a Bantam and then to the Wenatchee Wild for his Midget seasons from 2015-17.
In the summer of 2017, Fleming met Marty Quarters, head coach of the Riverkings, and the next two seasons were massive for the blueliner who transformed into a complete player who was a threat at both ends of the ice.
The 10 goals (five on the power play) and 24 assists Fleming put up this past season was his highest total since Minor Midgets.
“Raymond really matured,” Quarters said. “When he came in, he was pretty introverted, but very driven. He has a very strong inner drive. He works extremely hard. You know, he took it upon himself that one of the main reasons he wanted to come back was that he saw Eric Schuette, Tom McManus and Austyn Quarters give so much more back to the community, and that really meant a lot to him.”
Schuette, McManus and Quarters are all former Riverkings players themselves. Schuette played last season at Concordia University in Wisconsin and Quarters played at Robert Morris in Illinois.
“Raymond wasn’t sure who was going to do that if he didn’t come back, so he really made that a priority,” said Quarters. “He bought into our belief of giving more than you receive in life. He really bought into that and he commanded it from the players. His first season, he was just trying to find his own place and in the second year, he was a leader. He was on guys in a positive way, but in a way that there was no questioning it.
“He’s a player that’s out early and stays late at practice. He pushes guys at practice. He’s really cautious about his eating. He has a belief that everything you do, you earn, so to eat food, he would work out to earn his meals. He’s a guy that wouldn’t just work out hard after practice, but he would work out after games.”
Fleming agreed he learned from the players in his rookie junior season and he was ready to fill that role when he returned, adding he wasn’t sure if any of the other returners were interested in taking that role.
“I thought, you know what, I can just do it,” said Fleming. “I did it last year, so I might as well do it again. I got the rookies and a couple of returners from the year before to do it with me.”
Quarters said when the season ended for the Riverkings, one win shy of a return trip to the USPHL Premier National Championship Tournament, Fleming was one of the players that spoke in the locker room, something he is not normally comfortable with. He urged the returners to follow the same aggressive off-ice routines in future seasons that has made the Riverkings so popular with the fans and community in general.
Fleming is also a 3.9 student who scored a 1480 on his SAT.
He started looking at schools early on and performed in front of scouts at three different USPHL Showcase events with the Riverkings during the season.
“Yeah, I looked at some other schools, but St. Olaf was the first one that kind of met academically what I was looking for,” said Fleming.
The young player is obviously hoping to continue his development as a player. He will likely ease into his role, much like he did as a player with the Riverkings, but also ease into his academic role, waiting until possibly his third year to decide on a major.
“They promote not really knowing what you’re going into. You can figure it out, take a bunch of classes, see what interests you. You can declare in two years or so. I mean, I’ve narrowed it down to Natural Sciences and Math,” said Fleming. “I’m leaning toward Physics and Math as a double major right now, but I’m definitely not 100 percent set yet.”
No matter what he decides though, Fleming is convinced St. Olaf is the right choice.
“I am really excited to get going, academically and athletically,” he added.
Fleming was partnered with Jordan Stear, an 18-year-old Texas-raised defender. They logged a lot of ice time together and were the first pair on the power play. Part of the plan was getting the puck to Fleming so he could pound the disc with his heavy shot from the point.
“I think we meshed really well together,” said Fleming. “He is a really good player. I think he got me some points and I got him some points. We worked together well.”
Fleming and his team just missed a return to the USPHL Nationals, dropping a best of three series to the same Minnesota Blue Ox team the Riverkings defeated the previous season. A couple months later, Fleming can look at the positives of a great season in a great community.
“It was a good run,” said Fleming, after playing a key role in turning around the season for the Riverkings. “The team stumbled out of the gate a bit, but were nearly flawless after Christmas. Hopefully, next year they can make it back.”
St. Olaf is getting a hard-working perfectionist who will represent the team well both on and off the ice and Quarters is hoping his contributions to the Riverkings will pay off with another group of inspired returners this fall.
— Jim DenHollander/USPHL.com
(July 11, 2019)