Larry Sanders Lands on Right Foot After Starting on Wrong One
He grabbed the ball at the start of the second half, saw a clear path to the basket and scored without being challenged. He wasn't good back then, and he hardly ever scored, so any basket was a big basket for him.
Except this one.
He scored for the wrong team.
"They didn't tell me you switch baskets at halftime. I didn't know. I'd never played before,'' he told FanHouse Wednesday by phone from Richmond, Va. "The whole gym got real quiet for a moment after I scored. No one knew what to do, or what to say. The other team didn't know if they were supposed to take the ball out. It's kind of funny when I look back now. But we still won that game, and I've come a long way.''
Sanders has come a long, long way from that humorous beginning, growing up to become one of the most intriguing prospects in Thursday's NBA Draft. Although still raw and short on basketball background, he is now one of the most athletically gifted and hardest working big men available.
After three years at Virginia Commonwealth University, he is expected to be a middle-to-late first-round pick. He is a 6-10, 222-pound shot blocker and rebounder, but he runs like a guard.
"I never, ever expected to be in this position,'' Sanders said. "I started so late. Growing up, I didn't like playground basketball like other kids. I couldn't cross over, couldn't dunk, couldn't shoot a 3, so it just wasn't much fun for me. But once I got in organized ball, learned about defense, got on a real team and learned team basketball, I fell in love with it.''
Sanders has spent the last three weeks flying around the country, doing personal workouts for 14 of the league's 30 teams, all this after the traditional NBA Draft Camp in Chicago. He returned home Tuesday from his last stop in Minnesota, which came after visits to Milwaukee, Portland and Utah.
"This has been a wonderful time for me. I've seen the whole country in a few weeks. It's been a little crazy, but I've soaked it all in,'' he said. "I worked hard, and I think I surprised people with the things I can do. I'm excited, and a little nervous, to see how this turns out.''
Sanders averaged 14.4 points, 9.1 rebounds and 2.6 blocks in 26.9 minutes as a junior at VCU. He has developed a knack for offensive rebounding and finishes well around the basket. With a 7-7 wingspan, he also has great defensive potential.
Various mock drafts have him going anywhere from 15 (Milwaukee) to 25 (Memphis). Almost all of the teams picking between those two spots had him in for private workouts.
He'll be watching the draft from the VCU campus, where the basketball program there has helped prepare his own draft party. His parents will be flying up to celebrate from their home in Ft. Pierce, Fla.
"This is a big deal for me. I don't have any preference where I go. You can't be picky. I'll be thrilled just to go to a team that wants me and can use me,'' he said. "This has become a dream come true for a guy like me.''