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Sydney Kings sign US College star Jesse Sanders
Saturday, June 08, 2013, 08:00:00 AM

Sydney Kings - Matt McQuade


The Sydney Kings are pleased to announce they have filled one of their import slots for the 2013/2014 National Basketball League season with the signing of point guard Jesse Sanders.

Born in Sugar Land, Texas, the 24 year old Sanders comes to Sydney after a brilliant four year career at NCAA Division One school Liberty University in the United States , where he started 124 of 127 games and improved every season since commencing as a freshman in Liberty’s 2008/09 campaign.

The son of Tom and Nancy Sanders most recently played for Fileni BPA Jesi in the second division of the powerful Italian League, where he averaged nearly ten points and five rebounds per contest.

But it was at Liberty University where over a four year period Jesse built a reputation as one of the best point guards in US college basketball. He is regarded as a hard-nosed defender, a tremendous leader, and someone who will do anything to win.

He closed his outstanding stint at Liberty as the university’s all-time leader in assists, and in his senior year, Jesse’s eight assists per game were ranked third of all Division One players in the United States. He also finished in the top ten nationally that year in assist to turnover ratio. In his final season for Liberty in 2011/12 he led his team in rebounding, assists, steals and free throw percentage.

He won the Big South Conference Player of the Year in 2011, was named to the All Big South First Team in 2011 and 2012 and gained selection in the Big South All Freshman team in 2009.

Jesse also holds a rare distinction in being the first player in NCAA history to record a triple-double – scoring double figures in points, rebounds and assists in a single game – in all four years of his college career.

To give that achievement some perspective, only three other players in the history of US college basketball have posted a triple double in three collegiate years – one of those being NBA legend Shaquille O’Neal, who accomplished the feat when he was at Louisiana State University.

Sydney Kings Head Coach Shane Heal is thrilled to add a player of Jesse’s calibre to the Kings’ program.

“After watching a lot of games of Jesse playing in Italy – which is a big thing given it’s a high standard league in Europe – I feel like he’s going to be a fantastic defender, a great creator in terms of getting other people shots, a terrific rebounder and a very capable scorer for us,” Coach Heal said.

“I think he’s just a good all around player who really fits with the traits of what we are developing at the Kings. He brings great leadership, and he really ticks all of the boxes we need.”

“We feel like we needed someone who can score, but primarily we needed someone who can be our best defender and is capable of getting shots for guys like Ben Madgen, AJ Ogilvy and James Harvey, and I believe Jesse can do that for our team.”

Jesse’s game has drawn comparisons to both three-time NBL Defensive Player of the Year, Perth Wildcats’ Damian Martin, and Australian college star Matthew Dellavedova.

“I think Jesse rebounds and defends like Damian Martin,” Coach Heal affirmed.

“I also think that he’s similar to Matt Dellavedova in terms of his unselfishness, the way he plays the pick and roll and getting the ball to the right people while still being able to score.”

For his part, Jesse is excited about the opportunity to come to Australia and play for the Sydney Kings.

“It’s a dream for me to play professional basketball, but especially so to do it in a place like Sydney, Australia. It’s a great opportunity and a real blessing,” Jesse said.

“My agent told me that I had a tremendous offer from a team in Australia, that it was a great organisation with a big-time coach with a great resume and that they were very interested in me.”

“After researching the team and the league I became very excited about the offer, but what really closed the deal for me was a conversation I had with Coach Heal. He’s knowledgeable and passionate about what he does, and that passion is kind of what I’m like as a player. He’s the type of coach I want to play for.”

Jesse also spoke about what he feels he brings to the Sydney Kings.

“I think I’ve established myself as a playmaker – I think one of my biggest strengths offensively is being able to create for my teammates. I can penetrate to the rack and finish myself or kick it out to the open shooters,” he said.

“A big thing for me is that I try and play as hard as I can every time I’m on the court, so I think I bring a lot of energy to the team in areas like defence and rebounding.”

“It’s flattering to know that Coach Heal has compared me to guys like Matthew Dellavedova and Damian Martin, because they’ve established themselves as very good ballplayers and they’ve earned a lot of respect.”

“It’s a bit of pressure to be compared to those guys, but I don’t shy away from that. If that’s the level of expectation coming in then that excites me and I’m going to be preparing for that as hard as I can each and every day.”

Jesse will arrive in Sydney prior to the Sydney Kings’ team camp in late August.

His signing brings the Sydney Kings to eight contracted players as he joins Ben Madgen, AJ Ogilvy, Ian Crosswhite, Brad Hill, James Harvey, Tom Garlepp and Kevin White in the 2013/2014 squad. The team will now be searching for a second import and someone to fill the important backup point guard role – that will be determined after the Sydney Kings Development Camp this month.

Check out a highlights package of Jesse Sanders below.

Sydney Kings. My City. My Team.

Position: Point Guard
Height: 190cm (6’3”)
Weight: 91kg (200lb)
Birthplace: Sugar Land, Texas
Birthday: 5th June 1989
College: Liberty University
Professional: Fileni BPA Jesi, Italy Lega B

Fileni BPA Jesi 2012/13: 8.7ppg, 4.9rpg, 1.9apg

2008/09 (Freshman):   6.9ppg, 4.3apg, 5.2rpg, 1.2spg
2009/10 (Sophomore):   8.1ppg, 6.7rpg, 4.9apg
2010/11 (Junior):   11.3ppg, 6.0rpg, 5.7apg, 1.1spg, 75.6% FT
2011/12 (Senior)   12.5ppg, 7.8rpg, 8.0apg, 1.2spg, 48.6% FG, 78.5% FT
CAREER:    9.7ppg, 6.4rpg, 5.7apg, 1.2spg, 46.2% FG, 74.8% FT

2011 NCAA Big South Conference Player of the Year (College)
2011 NCAA All Big South Conference First Team (College)
2012 NCAA All Big South Conference First Team (College)
2009 NCAA Big South Conference All Freshman Team (College)
Home School National Player of the Year (2007 & 2008) (High school)