Sanders spurns senior season for NBA dream

Adam Stern
Sports Editor

First a post-game comment put the writing on the wall, now a post-season press release has put the debating banter to bed.

Fifteen days before the set deadline and 12 days after making a comment that all but alluded to what would be his decisive decision, VCU’s junior forward Larry Sanders (Fort Pierce, Fla./Port St Lucie) declared for the NBA Draft Saturday and stated that he intends on hiring an agent, meaning the six-foot-eleven-inch star will forfeit his fourth and final season of NCAA eligibility.

The decision ends months of speculation about if Sanders would leave early or not, which hit fever-pitch following VCU’s final home game of the season.

After the game, in which VCU soundly defeated St. Louis 68-56 in the first game of the College Basketball Invitational Tournament, Sanders spoke to reporters about how he would miss VCU’s fans, before wryly throwing in “until next season” after a drawn-out pause and a soft chuckle from teammate Joey Rodriguez (Oviedo, Fla./Lake Howell), who was seated alongside him.

Regardless of whether the comment was indeed an act of foreshadowing or not, Sanders asserted that he didn’t take the decision lightly.

“This is a decision that I spent a lot of time thinking about and was very difficult to make,” Sanders said. “But after talking it over with my mom, my coaches and everyone that has supported me throughout the years, I have decided to pursue my dream of playing in the NBA.”

The looming NBA Lockout two seasons from now, when Sanders would be drafted if he didn’t enter this year, is said to have been a major factor in his decision making; Sanders also stated the desire to take care of his family financially as another contributing factor.

The Florida native came into the season with a heap of hype after being one of the standout performers at Lebron James’s summer camp, and was originally projected by many scouts to be a late lottery pick (meaning one of the later of the first 12 choices in the first round). However after a good but not great season, and with more underclassmen entering the draft this year than usual because of the possible lockout, Sanders’ draft stock dropped to a projected late first-round pick.

“I still think Sanders can go as high as he was originally projected … but there are a lot of questions regarding his readiness,” said NBADraft.net president Aran Smith. “A lot of people (coming into the season) thought he’d be a first rounder if he had a good year just because of potential. He didn’t have an outstanding season but good enough to justify his talent and his potential.”

Even without a senior season, Sanders will leave VCU with many records and even more memories. In his three years, Sanders finished fourth all-time in rebounds with 776, third all-time in double-doubles with 28 and second all-time in blocks with 277. He was twice named defensive player of the year and made the First-Team

All-Conference list this past year.

Perhaps most impressively of all, Sanders tasted defeat only four times at the Stuart C. Siegel Center in the duration of his collegiate career, a place where he developed a special bond with everyone from the coaches to the custodians.

“Coming to VCU was the best decision I’ve ever made,” Sanders said. “This place is one close-knit family, from the fans to the coaches to the players. Everyone has each other’s back and this place is the main reason I am able to take this next step.”

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