New-look CR men’s team gets set for season opener

Ray Hamill/ – The CR men tip off the new season this weekend.

By Ray Hamill — The local basketball season officially tips off this weekend with a new-look College of the Redwoods men’s team playing three games in Napa.

The two-time defending Golden Valley Conference champs will open against De Anza on Friday night and will also play Folsom Lake on Saturday and Napa Valley on Sunday.

This year’s team features an almost entirely new lineup, but first-team all-state center Jon Nchekwube is back for his sophomore season and will provide head coach Ryan Bisio with a very good foundation to build around.

A number of other players have been around the program for the last year or two and Bisio expects them all to step up this season as they continue to develop.

Most notably Jett Cheong, who red-shirted with the team last year and will get the start at point guard this weekend.

Bisio admits he’s still tinkering with the lineup, but a pair of former Arcata Tigers will likely start in the opener, including Aidan Atkins-Salazar, who saw limited time a year ago but appears ready for a much bigger role.

“Aidan has really emerged to be a leader out there,” Bisio said,.

Last year’s Big 5 co-MVP Kai Purcell joins the team this year and looks set to have an immediate impact, while a third former Arcata Tiger, Niko Zambas, will also see substantial playing time this season in his third year with the program.

Two newcomers who are also expected to play a major role right off the bat are twin brothers Tyson and Treyson Neff from North Medford.

Treyson, who is “off to a really good start,” according to Bisio, will likely get the start at shooting guard this weekend, although both brothers will see significant minutes.

Another player who appears ready to step into a bigger role this year is Lucq Anderson, a Marin Catholic graduate who red-shirted last year.

Bisio got a look at his team in a game situation during a scrimmage at Cal Poly Humboldt a couple of weeks ago.

“I thought we played really well,” the head coach said. “We were very competitive in stretches.”

Through the preseason practice, the head coach also likes the way his team’s defensive identity is coming together and the pace of their transition game.

“There are a variety of defensive lineups we can put on the floor that I feel very comfortable with,” he added.

The weekend games all are against non-conference opponents and each of them will present a different challenge in terms of styles and strengths.

And Bisio is excited to see how his players react to the challenge.

“It’s going to be just kind of throw them to the fire and see how everybody reacts,” he said. “We’re going to have to be adaptable.”

The Corsairs play their home opener next Wednesday, with Santa Rosa coming to town for a 5 p.m. tip off.

The CR women also tip off the new season this weekend, with three games at the Delta College Tournament on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

More on the CR women to follow.

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