Sanders is ‘Maine’ Man This Season
Jermaine Sanders is ready to defend Rice’s state title.
Jermaine Sanders’ stock as a major Divison I prospect has been growing, growing, growing, Jack and The Beanstalk Style, this fall. Coaches have hounded him down and kept tabs on his all-around game.
Sky is the limit for the young gun.
According to Sanders, his recruitment is an afterthought right now. Talk to him at the end of his heavily anticipated junior campaign at Rice HS—a traditional New York City basketball breeding ground—and this likely won’t be the case.
As of now, however, the subject of the electrifying 6-4 wing’s recruitment is in the shadows. What’s front-and-center for the Rice HS junior guard/forward? Carrying the torch proudly for the one of Gotham’s several hoops hotbeds.
Sanders must immediately fill the scoring void left by high-volume scoring machine Durand Scott. June 2009 graduation claimed Scott, one of the most exciting kids to watch on the high school level last year. Some ownership of Mo Hicks’ squad is now funneled down to Sanders.
Scott, now a freshman at Miami, was a highly sought item on the recruiting agora last year. He would end up spurning UConn and Pittsburgh—both of which hounded him throughout the recruiting process last year— as the 6-4 scoring buzz saw bolted for his new ACC hardwood home down south.
Sanders added to his all-around game this summer. A budding class of 2011 game-changer, Sanders evolved into one of the city’s most versatile ballers, handling the chore of guarding any position on the floor. He’s suddenly shed his cast member role from last season when he played Pippen to Scott’s Jordan, Robin to Scott’s Batman, and Drake to Scott’s Hov.
“Everybody’s looking at him,” said Hicks. “Everybody’s starting to give him a look. I could name about 20 schools on his list. A lot of ACC and Big East schools have inquired.”
The onus is on Sanders to take scoring matters into his own hands. He’ll have help from Shane Southwell and 6-8 big Kadeem Jack, albeit they’re more likely to pad the scorebook. It’s Sanders’ role to stuff this stat book and have a hand in everything this season.
“He (Sanders) is one of the most versatile dudes I’ve played against,” said Christ The King guard Corey Edwards—who has also emerged into a hotly pursued prospect. “He can play anywhere from the two to the five.”
Sanders shredded some fear from last year, showing a proclivity for putting the ball on the deck, penetrating, and finishing on super-sized bigs. He employs that rush-hour attitude, he loves to play in traffic. He has grown into his body and learned to jump at contact. He’s a ball of athleticism and energy, frequently splitting defenders on his way to the cup.
Playing in the same Division-I launchpad that produced Edgar Sosa, Kemba “E-Z Pass” Walker and Scott, Sanders has become a linchpin in the uptempo, go-go style that Rice coach Mo Hicks utilizes. In addition to bringing his track shoes to every game, Sanders also dials in from long distance. He can heat up from beyond the confines of the arc, as he proved during the Big Apple Classic and in various games.
He’s cleaving to grand aspirations to lead the High School situated near the famed Apollo Theater and the widely-recognized Harlem Underground fashion store on 125th St. back to the promise land. Rice has a New York State title to defend this season.
After thoroughly dismantling Lincoln HS in the semis, the Raiders pulled of an epic overtime win over Newburgh Free Academy in the state championship at the Glens Falls Civic Center last spring. Down three with 15 seconds remaining in regulation, the aforementioned Scott took one look at the basket and buried a mammoth trey, sending the game to overtime. In the overtime session, Rice staved off Newburgh, which stopped Mount Vernon’s heart (and gave the Westchester County perennial power an early exit) on a buzzer-beating, 55-foot prayer in the semi-final. Scott gave Sanders a memorable sendoff. Now Sanders’ must author the next chapter and leave the same type of lasting legacy.
Sanders, who’s receiving interest from Syracuse, Villanova, UConn, Pittsburgh, St. John’s, Marquette, Virginia, Virginia Tech and a slew of others, is undoubtedly the player to watch. He’s the most acclaimed player on a squad that’s produced plenty of Big East/ACC talent (Sosa, Walker, Scott as of late) time and time again.
Offers from Villanova, Providence, and St. John’s all on the table. Sanders said that those select three happen to be pushing the hardest for his services. Maryland has also popped up, but it’s hard to gauge how much interest they have.
These are fast times at Rice High. One walks out the door, another walks in.
Sanders has seen his then Big East-bound teammates do it. It’s Sanders’ turn.
Zach Smart has written for Big East Basketball Report, Hoops Addict and The East Coast Bias. Read more on his blog.