Michael Corchiani’s time playing point guard for Country Day is coming to an end.
It could come as early as Wednesday, when the Cajuns play Riverside in the Class 2A semifinals at 8 p.m. in Lake Charles.
Or it could be Saturday after the championship game.
Either way, the backbone of the team will soon be departing.
“He’s really been the heart and soul of the program,” said Country Day coach Mike McGuire. “It’s just his toughness and grittiness and his never-say-die attitude. He doesn’t appear to have a whole a lot of talent as far as passing the eye test, but he just goes out there and competes and everybody is always asking me after the game: ‘who is that kid wearing No. 13?’ ”
That jersey number, much like the game of basketball, runs deep in the Corchiani bloodlines. He was almost born to do it.
Michael’s father, former UNO point guard Gabe Corchiani, wore that number at UNO. Michael’s uncle Chris, a former guard at North Caorlina State, who went on to play in the NBA, also wore that number. So did Michael’s late grandfather, Gabe Sr., who went on to become a coaching legend in the state of Florida.
And it’s those deep basketball roots that have helped make Corchiani the tough floor general that he is.
“It put a lot of pressure on me having that last name,” said Corchiani. “Especially ust knowing the history behind it with my uncle and my dad. It’s hard to fill those shoes, and I’ve been trying to do that, and hopefully I can continue doing that as my career continues past high school.”
Michael seems to be filling those shoes just fine. He beat his dad in their most recent game of H.O.R.S.E.
“It was close though, but I got the W,” Michael said. “But he can still shoot.”
Gabe Corchiani, who still holds the UNO career assists record, concedes that his son has passed him by on the court.
“I see a lot of myself in him,” Gabe Corchiani said. “But I see a lot more of Chris in him. I was more of a 3-point shooter. Michael is more of a flat-out competitor and does everything to win. That’s how Chris was. He competed at the highest level and never backed down from anything and that’s how Michael is.”
Michael said it’s the only way he knows how to play the game. Listed at 6 foot, he says he has no choice.
“I’m not the biggest or fastest guy on the court and I understand that and I can’t jump really,” he said. “Some may see a slow white kid who can’t jump, so I just use other things to my advantage. I just try to be more crafty and try to know the game. That has taught me I can still get further against players who are more athletic.”
Corchiani tends to bring his best when the lights are the brightest. He was named Most Outstanding Player in Country Day’s state championship victories as a freshman and a sophomore. He didn’t get to the title game last season when the Cajuns lost to Madison Prep in the semifinals. That loss still stings and fuels his fire.
“I really want to feel that special feeling again,” he said. “It’ll be one of my last times putting that uniform on, and I’m finishing my career playing with some of my best friends.”
As long as Corchiani is on the court, the Cajuns have a shot. They split their two meetings with Riverside during the regular season. Even more impressive, Country Day won the game it played without junior guard Romin Williams, the other half of Country Day’s dynamic backcourt duo.
Riverside coach Timmy Byrd said slowing down Corchiani will be a key to the game.
“Everything flows through Corchiani,” Byrd said. “He’s a big-game player. We have to make sure he doesn’t have a huge game. He just has such great mental and physical toughness. He plays with a tremendous amount of heart and just has a will to win.”
Corchiani is averaging 19.1 points and 6.7 rebounds. But it isn’t just his numbers on the stat sheet that make the Cajuns go.
“I try to control the game and lead vocally on the court and run the offense and make sure everyone is settled down,” Corchiani said.
Corchiani has drawn strong interest from Louisiana-Lafayette and Southeastern Louisiana but said he is keeping his options open.
But for now, he is focusing on trying to help the No. 3-seeded Cajuns pull off wins against No. 2 Riverside and then a possible matchup with top-seed Madison Prep.
Gabe Corchiani will be in the stands watching. So will his mother Karen, his biggest cheerleader.
And McGuire will get to watch No. 13 from the bench, one or perhaps two more times.
“He just has that basketball pedigree,” McGuire said. “Gabe gave him that toughness and he loves the game. He does whatever it takes. He’s going to be hard to replace.”