Editor’s Note: In honor of Memorial Day tomorrow, the Appeal-Democrat sports department decided to feature a military person who exemplifies excellence in both their career and athletics.
Playing basketball at the collegiate level is hard enough, but juggling it with serving our nation is even more impressive.
Yuba College basketball player Phillip Judson did just that last season as he was stationed at Beale Air Force base before being inspired by a close mentor to tryout for the 49ers.
“I was originally playing for the base’s team, but it fell apart. That’s when my pastor told me to tryout for Yuba’s team,” said Judson.
Being able to play for the 49ers isn’t just a normal ordeal. Head coach Doug Cornelius has built a winning tradition and always expects the most out of his players. Luckily, Judson exemplified that and more.
“He was everything to us. From an emotional leader to being fearless on the court,” said coach Cornelius. “He never quits on any play and it shows not only in the games but in practice as well,” coach Cornelius added.
Having to balance being in the military and playing basketball as well as being a full-time student was definitely not easy for Judson this past year. Multiple times the coaching staff noticed how tired he was; but he came to play hard anyways. Cornelius said that majority of people on the planet would have quit, but he never even figured that was an option in Judson’s mind.
“Everything I do, I do for my family. They mean everything to me and they’re always there for me,” said Judson. “Also my girlfriend Nanci, she’s my best friend in the whole wide world,” Judson added.
One moment from last season that really stuck out to the 49ers decorated coach was in a game against Los Medanos.
Judson was hustling the whole game and at one point got four straight steals at half court, not to mention his 3-point game was on fire en route to career high 28-point night.
As for Judson’s future, playing professional basketball is a definitive aspiration.
“Ultimately my goal would be to be able to get paid to play ball. Whether that’s overseas or here in the states, it doesn’t really matter. That’s just what I want to be able to do when I’m older,” said Judson.