C. Milton Wright senior guard Corey Bays was a key component to the finest basketball season in school history last year, when the Mustangs won a program-high 22 games and made their first state tournament. This season, he is vigorously attacking the challenge of trying to top it. In his fourth varsity season and third as a starter, Bays has improved as his role has grown. Now the team's go-to player and captain, he's averaging 19.8 points, six rebounds, two assists and two steals with the No. 10 Mustangs enjoying an 11-1 mark so far. The numbers are downright impressive, but Bays has more on his mind: Winning a state title. The Mustangs fell to eventual Class 3A champion Centennial in the semifinals a year ago and Bays found plenty gained from the experience. Maintaining a 3.5 grade-point average, he is still undecided on a college, but has already been accepted at St. Mary's, Randolph Macon and Salisbury.
What has been the key to the continued success this season?
This season, all our returning players knew what we had to do, we knew the expectations would be back for us. So we all got together a lot over the summer, played a lot, tried to build our relationships. We have four senior starters so we have a lot of leadership on the court, a lot of experience and we're all playing together as a team.
What's it like being the go-to player as a senior?
I like it. It's fun. A lot of teams are keying on me, so every time I get the ball you see the help [defense] kind of slide in more. But that helps our shooters knock down their shots. I'm just going out there and we're having fun this season. That's the main goal.
What's your approach as a team captain?
I try to lead by example, but if a guy is really struggling, I try to go up to him and talk to him and pick him up. I let him know what he's doing right before I let him know what he's doing wrong. I just like to lead by example, try to show the younger guys — we have four sophomores on the team this year — what expectations we have and the intensity we bring day in and day out in practices and games.
What do you remember most about the team's run to the state tournament last year?
I remember everything about last year. It was the best season ever in C. Milton Wright history, so there's no way you're not going to remember everything. It was definitely how we grew as a team as the season went on. We didn't realize we were going to be that good. We kind of started out and then it was like, 'Wow, we're 10-0 now.' Then, we played John Carroll and ended up losing by two which opened our eyes up a lot. I think we needed that loss to show we were beatable. Then, we never looked back and went to Milford Mill [and won the region]. Going to states was an awesome experience. Just the school rallying behind us, that's all people were talking about all week. Unfortunately, we lost but it makes this year's team more hungry to try to get back and finish what we started last year.
Take from that experience?
We had some mental lapses last year like during practices we weren't going as hard, I think we were just all so excited we got there. So this year we really have to push and push and not stop until we get the ring.
What do you love most about basketball?
Basketball really gets my mind off things. It's a time when I can just be myself and makes me forget about all the stresses in life. It's something that's always been there for me. It's something I've always been pretty good at, so I've always tried to keep working hard at it. I think it's given me a good work ethic. I'm always trying to get better, not stopping until I perfect a certain move or something and I think that's translated into school.
Outside of basketball, what's it like being a senior in high school?
I definitely love being a senior. It's more relaxing now that I have all my college applications done early, so now I just want to keep my grades up and kind of enjoy the ride and make sure I participate in everything the senior class is doing for us.
What do you want to get out of your senior year?
I just want to enjoy senior year because I know this is my last year here and I'm never going to get this year back. So I want to try to have as much fun as possible. With the basketball season, I want to go out winning. I want to try to win a state championship because last year showed us that we can get there and it's possible for us. It's a tough road, but this is my last year playing for CNW so I want to end it with a win.
What are the important factors in determining what college you'll select?
The main thing is seeing how I Iike the campus and the students around it. The second thing is how I like the players on the team [and if] I'm able to connect well with them. And the third thing is can I see myself going to school there. And the last thing would have to be coaching — do I like the coaches, do I trust the coaches.