By Ray Hamill — The excitement is building at College of the Redwoods as the Corsairs get set to tip off the new men’s basketball season at home next week.
Redwoods will host Mendocino on Tuesday evening at 5 p.m., which will be the first basketball game at CR since the historic playoff doubleheader in February 2020.
The team began preseason practice on Oct. 1 and head coach Ryan Bisio says he is more than happy with this year’s roster, which returns four starters from two years ago while adding plenty of depth.
“I love our players right now,” Bisio said. “We have more depth, I feel like, than we have had in the past and quite a bit of versatility.”
The talented Fortuna quartet of Drew Gillette, Zac Claus, Bradley Willis and Donald Willis all return, and will be joined this season by the Arcata trio of Niko Zambas, Mason Railsback and Aidan Atkins-Salazar.
And all of them have been everything expected through the preseason.
“Zac Claus has really been driving the ship,” Bisio said. “All four Fortuna guys are. That four are really setting the tone for us. They’re three-year guys at this point.”
The four former Huskies should enjoy one more season playing alongside each other and will continue to benefit from having played together for so many years now.
The Tigers trio, meanwhile, will give Bisio and assistant coaches Justin Claus and Blake Rossman an added dimension.
Zambas graduated Arcata in 2020 and has been practicing with the team since then.
“This is his second year with the program and he has a voice,” Bisio said. “He’s helping out the newcomers.”
Railsback and Atkins-Salazar are both expected to have an immediate impact.
“Mason has been a major contributor for us,” Bisio said. “And Aidan has blossomed into a really unique defensive player. We’re thrilled about Aidan.”
Heading into the new season, the CR men are the 14th-ranked community college team in the NorCal coaches preseason poll and are the highest ranked team from a deep Golden Valley Conference that features three schools in the top 23, including Butte at No. 20 and Siskiyous at No. 23.
The Corsairs will also play a home game against Napa on Nov. 13 and will host the annual Coach Treggs Classic in mid December.
“We’re going to have eight teams (at the tournament) for the first time, and we’ve got some really good junior college teams coming into town,” Bisio said. “I’m really hoping the community will come out to see some good college basketball.”