Sunday, September 4, 2016

Lakeland's Sanders Built Guard-Geared Image at West Oaks

Fueled by a never-ending supply of adrenaline and freakish outbursts of soaring athleticism, Corey Sanders was one of the most electrifying high school basketball players to roam the planet.

There's very little embellishment or exaggeration in that statement.

If you peruse his highlight films you understand. If you get a feel for his man-child like above the rim game, body control, and sheer fearlessness as a slasher, Sanders' beyond-his-years' acumen is evident.

Sanders' jumper and beyond-the-arc game is still very much a work-in-progress. This aspect of his game is developing with his scoring role.

In piloting West Oaks to a 32-5 record, the Lakeland, Fla.-bred Sanders' potent handle and wowing finishing ability circulated throughout the internet. While his game developed, Sanders grew in stature and national name recognition.

A high-engine point guard with a wealth of natural showmanship ability, Sanders' work vaulted him into YouTube Sensation status.

Perhaps his rap videos, which you could also find throughout the internet, just added to his appeal.

You may have heard the various stories regarding legends and their otherworldly high school performances (think DuJuan Wagner scoring 100 points in the game)... That's the level of fame and fanfare he generated.

Corey Sanders is the household name most commonly associated with West Oaks Academy.

These past couple of seasons, West Oaks has been synonymous with gritty and playmaking guards, an attribute which propelled them to another SIAA state title in 2016.

Sanders averaged 18 points, five rebounds, and three assists in spearheading West Oaks to a 32-5 record and SIAA state championship in 2015, earning first team All-State honors and a number of fans from all across the world in the process.

Now at Rutgers, Sanders the 6-foot-2, 185-pound sophomore will return as the focal point of a downtrodden program striving for relevance and respect.

Sanders emerged into the program's leading scorer with 15.9 points, albeit the team struggled mightily with a 7-25 campaign.

While Sanders went on to Rutgers, Kenny Gilliam's team was paced by a veteran and battle-tested backcourt in Richardson Maitre and Andres Feliz.

Both high-scoring guards, the tandem accounted for a significant percentage of West Oaks' offensive output. Look for that trend to continue in 2016-17, as West Oaks will continue to build its image through the backcourt. The program has already planted the seeds for a new era of growth, reeling in 6-foot-2, 170-pound guard Sylvain Francisco.

Francisco, a transfer via Liberty Christian Prep (FL), will help cushion the loss of Feliz, a 20+ PPG scorer. West Oaks recently bolstered its front court with the addition of 6-foot-11, 260-pound center Christian Lora. The class of 2019 big adds an immediate post presence and much-needed rim protection. West Oaks also has a youth movement with promising young talent in sharpshooting guard A.J. Neal and Chihe Williams.

Neal, the son of Showtime Ballers AAU boss Diana Neal, has been traipsing the sidelines since he was a four-year-old. The ball was basically put in his crib. Last season, Neal played on the modified, J.V. and Varsity level as a seventh-grader, rarely ever getting a break in action. He averaged 26PPG under Harold Lilly with the J.V., a portent of future promise from a kid capable of scoring the ball in a variety of ways.