Some day, Doug Cornelius will ditch the whistle and clipboard and reach for a pen and pad of paper.
The Yuba College men’s basketball coach is contemplating storytelling. And, wow, does he have some ripe material culled over 22 seasons, the past 16 spent on the Marysville campus with this season the unusual topper.
“You can’t imagine some of the stories,” Cornelius said. “(Assistant coach Ken) Griffin and I joke about it at least once a week: ‘We’re going to write a book.’ I’d love to travel up and down the state and hear all the stories.”
Cornelius has a tale to tell about his 49ers, seeded third in the California Community College Northern California playoffs, which start Wednesday. The tournament also includes eighth-seeded Sacramento City, No. 13 American River, No. 15 Sierra and No. 16 Cosumnes River.
17 Consecutive victories for the Yuba College men’s basketball team, the state’s longest streak
Cornelius has accounts beyond Yuba’s 26-2 record and state-best 17-game winning streak. It’s real-life stuff, the coach said.
“We have a player who was homeless once and who just lost a brother to a senseless shooting,” Cornelius said. “We have players who have been out with injuries, a player who literally died on the court in front of me a couple of years ago, and then the evacuation.”
The recent Oroville Dam evacuation clogged roadways for hours as residents fled to higher ground. How does a coach living in Sacramento round up a crew of wayward players? Players looked for guidance and went to “Coach Corn.”
“A lot of text messages and calls with players asking, ‘Do we really need to go?’ ” Cornelius said. “ ‘Yes, you need to go!’ I told them they got to pack now and get going.”
Players were displaced, as were thousands of other residents, for three days. Somehow, the 49ers soldiered on.
The regular-season finale was Friday in Ukiah against Mendocino. It took nearly five hours to get there as Highway 20 was washed out from flooding. Yuba won 113-79 to cap its first 16-0 Bay Valley Conference campaign. The 49ers host 14th-seeded Merced College (17-10) in the first round at 7 p.m. Saturday.
Erick Scheive, a 6-foot-10 center from Marysville, had 20 points Friday. He appreciates every basket and rebound. In a summer tournament before his senior year at Marysville, Scheive collapsed because of cardiac arrest.
“He was gone, dead,” Cornelius said. “But there was a doctor there who worked on him for 20 minutes to revive him. Incredible.”
Scheive now has a pacemaker and has had no issues since.
You can’t imagine some of the stories. (Assistant coach Ken) Griffin and I joke about it at least once a week: ‘We’re going to write a book.’ I’d love to travel up and down the state and hear all the stories.
Doug Cornelius, Yuba College men’s basketball coach
Jaaron Stallworth of Cosumnes Oaks in Elk Grove, perhaps the team’s top player, was sidelined with a broken foot before conference play. The guard returned to action only to have an opponent land on his other leg, breaking it and dislocating his ankle. Stallworth has eight screws and pins in the leg.
Brandon Ruaro, a guard from River City High in West Sacramento, is 5-foot-2 but plays big. He has led the 49ers in scoring in four of their past five outings. A Type 1 diabetic, Ruaro often has to inject himself with insulin during halftime.
“What a battler, a fighter, and he’s the littlest (community college player) in the state,” Cornelius said.
And there’s Donald Jackson. The guard from Encina High was once homeless. He is mostly cheerful, Cornelius said, but Jackson has been pained by his latest twist of adversity.
“He’s the most inspirational kid I’ve ever been around, a cheerleader on and off the court, so positive,” Cornelius said. “But he lost his brother a week and a half ago to a senseless shooting in San Francisco. He missed a game for the funeral. Still unsolved. Now he’s different, sad. We’ve been crying and hugging a lot, and we’re trying to keep him upbeat. Talk about a tragedy. It affects everybody. But we keep going. That’s all we can do.”