By Ray Hamill — After recently rediscovering his love for the game of basketball, Mason Railsback is now getting set to join one of the hottest community college programs in NorCal.
On Wednesday, Railsback committed to play at College of the Redwoods next year, joining a Corsairs program that captured the imagination of the local community last year and played to packed houses on the way to a conference championship and playoff win.
At CR, he will be reunited with his former Arcata coach, Ryan Bisio, who has overseen a dramatic turnaround for a CR team that was winless in 2018/19 before he took over.
And that played a big part in the Arcata graduate’s decision.
“I actually got to play for Ryan Bisio for one game as a freshman (at Arcata),” Railsback said. “And I know he’s a great coach. When you take a team that was 0-20 to a conference championship in one year, you know he’s a great coach. That was definitely a big part of my decision.”
Railsback signed his letter of intent in front of friends, family and some of his new teammates at CR on Wednesday, continuing a journey that started 13 years ago when he first began playing the sport.
In recent years, however, the talented 6-foot-5 Tiger wasn’t sure he was going to continue to play after high school.
But he admits that the long layoff caused by the pandemic reignited his love for the game and he began to enjoy it all over again.
This past spring, Railsback was named to the H-DNL All-League First Team after helping lead the Tigers to an undefeated 8-0 season.
And Bisio believes he has a huge upside.
“We’re just ecstatic to have him,” the CR head coach said. “We’ve been watching him since the seventh grade. He’s just a great, great kid.”
Railsback will join a loaded CR roster that features four returning starters — Fortuna’s Drew Gillette, Zac Claus, Donald Willis and Bradley Willis — as well as numerous other H-DNL stars.
And Bisio believes he will fit right in.
“We think it’s a perfect fit,” Bisio said. “Not only personality wise, but his game and the values he has are made for CR basketball.
“No. 1 is his unselfishness. He’s a very gifted passer who has a three-dimensional feel for the skill. I think he has a real reservoir of creativity.”
Railsback, however, knows that as a freshman coming in he will have to fight for his place on a deep championship winning squad.
“I do hope I can be a good team player and fit whatever role they ask,” he said. “And work as hard as I can.”
Railsback says he doesn’t know if he will go on to play at a four-year program after his time at CR, but added that he has “a good feeling with this program” that it will happen.
He also believes his time playing at Arcata High helped prepare him for the collegiate level, especially the way head coach Dusty Scofield runs the program.
“What I’ll always remember from my time playing at Arcata is always working hard,” he said. “Coach Dusty instilled that in us, playing hard and moving fast all the time.
“Our team played fast at Arcata High, and I think that helped prepare me to play at CR.”
Railsback also says he will remember his teammates and friends as much as anything, and how the bond they had together helped the team succeed on the court.
“I’ll remember the team chemistry,” he said. “I think every year we were more than a basketball team. We were really good friends and that’s a big thing I’ll remember. Whatever team I was on, we were really close.”
In addition to the four returning starters at CR, Railsback joins a roster that will also feature Del Norte’s Omar Banuelos, Arcata’s Niko Zambas and Ferndale’s Gio Magdaleno, among others.
“We’ve got a lot of players,” said Bisio, who also returns multiple players who red-shirted last season and expects to have around 25 in total for his summer class. “We’ll have to see how all of this plays out, but we want to give as many local kids as possible the chance to jump start their (college) careers.”
The summer class starts in two weeks.
“It’s starting to feel real,” Bisio said. “We start on July 19, and from that point it’s a go, pretty much all the way until March.”