Reunited — former teammate joins loaded Corsairs

Submitted photo – Gio Magdaleno, center, with Zac Claus, left and Bradley Willis after CR played Napa Valley last season.

By Ray Hamill — Gio Magdaleno is looking forward to more than just joining an explosive and successful College of the Redwoods men’s basketball team this year. He’s also excited about reuniting with some old friends.

Magdaleno, a 2019 Ferndale High graduate, played at Napa Valley College last season, but has transferred back home and will join a CR team that will be looking to defend its Golden Valley Conference championship when the season gets under way in the new year.

“They’ve already had a successful year and I’m glad I get the chance to be a part of that,” Magdaleno said after his first practice with the team on Wednesday evening. “And I get to play with some old friends.”

Magdaleno, a Rio Dell Native, has played with three of the Corsairs starters — Fortuna’s Zac Claus, Bradley Willis and Donald Willis — for most of his basketball career, and remains close with all of them.

They first took the court together as fourth graders and along with a fourth CR starter from Fortuna — Drew Gillette — all five of them played AAU ball together on Team Beasts.

Submitted photo – Gio along with Zac Claus and the Bradley twins after a tournament win while playing middle school basketball at Rio Dell.

Magdaleno, an all-league honorable mention as a senior at Ferndale, joins a loaded CR team, with 18 players signing up for the fall conditioning/skills class.

“We’re happy to have Gio in the program,” CR head coach Ryan Bisio said. “Having played a year of junior college basketball, that type of experience is very valuable.

“I think it’s great to have him in the class. The more experience we have the better.”

In addition to the four returning Fortuna standouts, Bisio and his staff are expected to feature a much deeper bench in their second year in charge.

Magdaleno will have to fight for his spot but says he is looking forward to the challenge.

“I’m just planning on going in there and working as hard as I can, and getting better,” he said.

Magdaleno says he made the move home for personal reasons, wanting to be closer to family, and that he was happy in Napa where he believes his game matured.

“Napa was great. I loved it there and I learned a lot from the coaches,” the 5-foot-11, 167-pound guard said. “Mentally I learned a lot of new things from the coaches and physically I was able to gain some more weight.”

The former Ferndale Wildcat says he plans on majoring in kinesiology, although he admitted that could change, and that he wants to continue his playing career after his days at CR.

“I plan on playing as long as I can,” he said.

After moving home at the start of the COVID-19 sports shutdown, Magdaleno has been spending time with family and working on his game as much as possible.

“I’ve been practicing a lot,” he said. “I’ve been playing with friends and practicing at home, mainly a lot of individual stuff by myself. I’ve been working on my ball handling a lot.”

Submitted photo – Gio, Zac Claus and the Bradley twins after Ferndale played Fortuna when they were high school seniors.

He admits taking classes online at CR has “been different,” but says he’s enjoying the switch.

And like his teammates, he was more than happy to be out on the court again at practice this week.

“It was really nice to be out there,” he said.

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