By Ray Hamill — Playing basketball on the North Coast has whetted AJ Stubbs’ appetite for more success.
After winning league championships on two different teams in two of the past three years, the former McKinleyville and College of the Redwoods standout announced on Wednesday that he will be heading to Cal State Maritime to play for the Keelhaulers.
“I really love coach (Ryan) Bisio and how he coaches, I just didn’t see much opportunity for myself at CR on such a great roster, and so I’ve decided to take my talents elsewhere,” he said, adding that he did enjoy his time with the team.
In the end the decision was a relatively easy one for Stubbs, who had considered playing for the Keelhaulers right out of high school after they showed a lot of interest in him during his senior season.
“I went down and visited the campus twice, and I really fell in love with their coaching staff,” he said.
Stubbs will be hoping to carry over the success he enjoyed with the Corsairs to the NAIA level.
“The goal is to just get better over the next couple of years, and in my junior and senior year to try and lead the team to the national tournament,” he said. “That’s the end goal.”
His presence will be missed at CR, where he provided some valuable minutes off the bench and was a constant motivator on it.
“I couldn’t be prouder of him for continuing on his career and for giving us a year with him,” Bisio said. “The thing that he brought the most consistent was just an incredible attitude. Day to day he was a pleasure to be around, and I know his teammates appreciated his enthusiasm, not just for the team but for them individually.”
Both player and coach believe Stubbs benefitted from his time at CR and will be better prepared for Cal State Maritime because of it.
“I thought he made great improvement this year, particularly on the defensive side of the floor,” Bisio said “How can you not get better when you practice against Thomas Nelson and Donald Willis and players like that.”
Stubbs is expected to play small forward and be more of an outside shooting threat for the Keelhaulers.
He added that he will remember the time he spent with his teammates as much as anything from the last few years at Mack High and at CR.
“I’ll just remember being super close with my teammates,” he said of playing for the Panthers, who won a Big 5 title in his junior year before struggling a year later. “We all stuck together through highs and lows.”
A personal highlight, he added, was scoring 40 points against Eureka as a senior.
Playing for CR in front of huge crowds also was something he won’t easily forget.
“I was glad to see my team bring back the home support to CR,” he said.
Stubbs will major in Global Studies and Maritime Affairs and wants to be a game warden some day.
For CR, it’s another success story, and a loaded men’s basketball team will no doubt be sending several more players on to four-year programs in the coming years.