By Ray Hamill — The College of the Redwoods men’s basketball team made a welcome return to the court this week, the first time the Corsairs have been together since their thrilling playoff run in early March.
And head coach Ryan Bisio said his players are happy to be back.
“I think above all else, being able to be back around each other, that feeling is what prevailed, and how great it is to see these guys,” Bisio said after Wednesday’s first practice session. “Some of them I haven’t seen since the San Francisco game (in early March).”
All the Corsairs sports teams have been given the go-ahead to hold conditioning/skills classes twice weekly with COVID-19 restrictions in place.
The coaches and athletes are limited with what they can do in the sessions, but just getting together is a big part of it.
“Just being able to walk out on the floor was great,” Bisio said, adding that in the face of the restrictions “I think we did a really good job of focusing and being mature and being disciplined.”
Bisio and assistants Justin Claus, Taylor Morrow and Blake Rossman have 18 players signed up for the class, practicing in separate nine-player groups for social distancing purposes.
And that should give the Corsairs more depth for the 2020/21 season, which is currently scheduled to begin in the new year.
“I think so,” Bisio said of the depth. “We’ve got 18 guys in the class, that’s actually more than we had last year by far.
“The interest in the program we hope is up, and in the middle of a pandemic to have that many is very encouraging.”
In addition to four standout returning starters — Drew Gillette, Zac Claus, Bradley Willis and Donald Willis — the Corsairs will feature several players who red-shirted last season, including Eureka’s Zach Reed, as well as some talented newcomers such as Omar Banuelos and Niko Zambas.
And on top of that, they will have talented third-year sophomore EJ Jackson, who was injured early last season after an outstanding start to the campaign.
“He won games for us down the stretch early last year,” Bisio said of the impressive Jackson.