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DEMAIN EVENT: Time to meet the new 49ers

The first time we saw the Yuba College's men's basketball team in action was more than a month ago. They were young, raw and still learning.

Fast forward to Friday night's game against a team who was picked to win the Bay Valley Conference — the 49ers were mature, polished and experts at running their game, and they thrashed Contra Costa.

A couple of weeks ago, coach Doug Cornelius said his team had turned a corner, and Friday's night's 89-60 win over the Comets was proof.

With just 11 freshmen and two sophomores, there's bound to be bumps in the road, but this team has the talent to make a run.

With that said, this isn't your older brother's Yuba team.

• First, there are no 7-foot Xavier Crawfords or even a 6-10 Sean Harris. The two biggest guys on the floor are Floyd Wormley and Jeremy Bubier, who both stand at 6-7.

• Second, superstars like a Julian Welch or Spencer Butterfield haven't emerged, yet.

• Lastly, completely absent from the roster for the first time is a Mid-Valley area prospect — no Tyler Frys or Lawrence Wrights.

Instead, this team relies on a handful of talented and cohesive role players.

As a quick wing, who has the ability to score at will, Chris Smith could very well develop into an all-state caliber-like player, but we haven't seen his best yet. And without naming any suitors, we should have the other two criteria filled next season.

One thing certainly rings true about these guys — character.

The amount of heart that is manufactured over at Yuba thrives each and every year, and these guys are no different.

Take for example, Achoki Moikobu. One of two sophomores on the team, he became the quiet leader. A quick guard, who likes to slash to the basket and handle the ball, has led with his heart.

Even though he dislocated his finger in every which way recently, and Cornelius said, "It was one of the most disgusting things I've ever seen," the vibrant guard hasn't missed a game. Instead, he starts with a splint on his non-shooting hand.

"He showed it to me on the sidelines when it happened and I almost puked," the coach said.

Apologies if you're eating.

The other sophomore, also quickly becoming the fan favorite, is Yev Dyachenko. There is always a fan "fave" out at Yuba. This year, it's Yev.

Last season, he was a late addition off the bench and received little playing time because of reoccuring pain due to a back injury.

At full strength, Yev is knocking down 3-pointers from the shoulder like it's nothing.

"He's a different player this season," Cornelius said. "We weren't really getting all of him last year." Aside from Smith, there were three freshmen who really stood out on Friday — Gary Melvin, Jaysen Williams and Vic West Jr.

Gary Melvin — Let's just say this: His nickname is "pogo," as in pogo sticks.

His legs are about as skinny as the width of your forearm, but will likely lead the team in blocks this season while only standing at 6-4. Yes, he's a 6-4 starting forward for a reason.

His offensive game isn't flashy, nor is he a big time shooter, but when Cornelius refers to him as "our Dennis Rodman," he's right on point. He outrebounds guys five inches taller than him, and is quicker and more athletic than most post players.

Jaysen Williams — The only setback the 6-6 forward appears to be having is knowledge of the offense, because other than that, he's simply a beast.

Contra Costa had no answer for him in the paint. With the little playing time off the bench he did receive (maybe 8 minutes), he had four points, seven rebounds, three steals and a block.

He has a huge upside with his physique, skills in the post and instincts. With that said, he still needs to be more aggressive and understand that no one can stop him underneath.

Vic West Jr. — And speaking of quality minutes off the bench, West Jr. scored 13 points — and most of that was during Yuba's 25-7 run in the second half.

The kid is a spark. He plays with passion, which is nice to see on a young team. He has a lot of energy and showed off, not just aggressiveness and his ability to score, but quality passing skills as well. And for a 6-5 forward, that's huge.

Put simply, this year should be fun. The youngsters can mature by winning a seventh consecutive conference title, setting up what should be a very hopeful 2014 season.

CONTACT Bryan DeMain at bdemain@appealdemocrat.com or 749-4789. Find him on Facebook at advarsitysports or on Twitter at @ADbdemain.


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