By Ray Hamill — What a week it was for local basketball.
And, in particular, what a week it was for the College of the Redwoods men’s team, which is good news not just for the Corsairs, but for the entire basketball community.
Because when the Corsairs thrive as a program, it benefits basketball throughout the North Coast.
Along with the school’s women’s program, they are the most important basketball team in the area.
Not the biggest maybe, but the most important.
Because while Humboldt State basketball serves the North Coast fans, College of the Redwoods basketball serves the local players.
And that makes the Corsairs a more fundamental part of the game here on the North Coast.
It’s a concept that new head coach Ryan Bisio seems to understand.
Now don’t get me wrong, every team wants to win, but CR athletics has always been about far more than that mere wins and losses.
It’s about providing an opportunity for local student athletes to begin their college education while continuing to develop as athletes, either in preparation for a four-year program or just to keep competing at a high level for as long as possible.
The elite local athletes will always get plenty of offers to continue to play elsewhere, and often get their education paid for in the process, some even at HSU.
But there is a huge group of local student athletes that don’t have those same opportunities, or might not be ready for them.
And that’s what makes CR athletics so important to the lifeline of community sports, and crucial to carrying on a tradition passed down from generation to generation.
At every level of sports in this community, from Little League to high schools to the Humboldt Crabs, countless teams here have benefitted from the influence of CR athletics in some way shape or form.
Which in turn is why this week’s news of six local senior stars signing a letter of intent to play there is so noteworthy.
The news puts CR basketball back on the local map, immediately building excitement in a program that had become stagnant.
It also underlines how the perception of CR basketball is quickly changing under Bisio, and how this is a team local players want to play for again.
Some of these players could easily have gone to larger schools and played, or at worst sat on the bench for a while before playing, but they collectively chose to play at CR, in part because they wanted to continue to play alongside each other, and in part because they believe in the program and the direction Bisio is preaching.
The news was received with enthusiasm from the local sports community, in anticipation of seeing this high-energy, local high school all-star team continue to grow together for the next two years in our own backyard.
The six recruits included Fortuna’s Drew Gillette, Zac Claus, Bradley Willis and Donald Willis, along with the McKinleyville duo of Isaac Puzz and AJ Stubbs.
That’s a group that features 12 all-league awards combined over the past two seasons, as well as three league MVPs — Claus was co-MVP of the Big 5 a year ago, while Gillette and Donald Willis were co-MVPs this past season.
Add to the mix 2017 Big 5 MVP Thomas Nelson out of Arcata, who is also expected to be on the team next year for his sophomore season, and that gives Bisio four local MVPs on his roster.
It doesn’t guarantee success by any means, but it gives CR basketball a lot of credibility, and puts the Corsairs back on the North Coast center stage.
And that’s good news for local basketball.