Ole Miss' Frequent Flier

March 5, 2003

By Nick Garrard Athletics Media Relations Student Asst.

His high-flying antics make him easy to spot on the court. But this player is way more than just a slam dunk waiting to happen.

David Sanders started playing basketball many years ago on a goal in his friend's backyard. Now, as he winds down his senior year at Ole Miss, Sanders says he still has the intensity and desire that he had back then.

"I think people recognize that genuine love for the game when they see you play," Sanders said. "They can tell by the expression on your face if you're having fun or not. And it's just a joy for me to go out there for 40 minutes and play basketball."

He's right. Many fans that don't follow basketball too closely still keep their eyes peeled for No. 15. They know that in just a matter of seconds Sanders can hit a quick three-pointer or dash by a defender on his way to a spectacular finish.

Sanders, a member of the highly-touted "Posse," says that this year is very special to him. He is averaging nearly 10 points and 4 rebounds per game. But that doesn't seem to matter to him as much as the chance to get back to the postseason for the third-straight year.

With the season drawing to a close, most people have counted out the Rebels. But Sanders thinks differently. He says the team still has a long way to go.

"A lot of teams haven't faced their tough stretch yet," he said. "Now the schedule is in our favor. If we can get a few wins at home and go and sneak one on the road we'll be all right. And with the SEC Tournament coming up, anything is possible."

Not long ago Ole Miss basketball was just an afterthought. But that has all changed over the past five years. Sanders says the basketball program has come a long way because of the work ethic of the entire team - players, coaches and staff.

"You don't have to have the most talented guys. When you have guys that are willing to work and trust in each other, you are going to be successful," he said. "We have guys that work way beyond the normal work hours. The coaches do a great job, and the players come out and give it all they've got."

One of those guys that Sanders admires for his work ethic is head coach Rod Barnes. He says in his three years here, Barnes has helped him through a number of tough situations. That's another reason that Sanders is so grateful he decided on Ole Miss.

"He's been like a father figure to me," Sanders said of Barnes. "There aren't many schools in the nation where the coaching staff really cares about its players and we have that here. They care about us on and off the court. They make sure we go to class and make sure our families are OK.

"They extend it so far past basketball that you have a connection for life and that's something that I really enjoy," he said.

But it is on the hardwood where Sanders has been featured on both local and national sports highlight shows for his open court ability. His ability to leap over defenders leaves everyone stunned. If he does it at home in the "Tad Pad," the crowd will undoubtedly come to its feet and help spark the Rebel squad.

But does Sanders practice these acrobatics?

"It's really hard to practice," he said. "A lot of times when you jump up in the air, you don't know what you're going to do. It's just kind of like a reaction. It's one of my trademarks and it's really what people want to see out of me."

Sometimes a basketball player can be just a player. For Sanders, it's much more than that. He's a student and someone that anyone can feel comfortable to walk up and talk to. He's a teammate, someone that others count on to perform. But he's also a man looking forward to a bright future.

Sanders says hopes to play professional basketball after this year. He is looking at the possibility of playing overseas if he's not given the right chance in this country. With his positive attitude there isn't one person that should count him out.

 

 

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