Sports

Former Le Grand star Sanchez to play pro basketball in Mexico

LE GRAND -- The visions only get a little clearer, a little more realistic, when Adrian Sanchez turns the lights down and settles into bed.

As his head hits the pillow, his mind wanders -- stirring up images of a professional hoops league somewhere in the world.

And there is Sanchez, the former Le Grand star, cast in the lead role.

Most nights, his dream picks up during the final few seconds of a championship game.

10, 9, 8, 7 ...

Sanchez, a 6-foot-5 shooting guard, is camped out in the corner as the ball swings around the perimeter.

6, 5, 4 ...

With hardly any time left, Sanchez makes his move, racing around a baseline screen to the opposite corner -- the left one, his favorite spot on the court. Like clockwork, the ball meets him there. He quickly sets his feet and launches.

3, 2, 1 ...

The ball touches nothing but nylon. The crowd goes wild. His bench clears. Game over.

Time to wake up.

"Give me the ball and I'm knocking it down," Sanchez said with a chuckle. "Off a screen or just sitting there, it doesn't matter -- I'm stroking."

And now it's no longer just a dream.

The pro part, at least.

Sanchez will sign a one-year contract with the Leon Lechugueros of Mexico's LNBP in the coming weeks. Terms of the contract have not been disclosed.

"It's not the NBA, but I see it as a chance to get paid to do something I love to do," Sanchez said. "I'll get to travel a little bit while I'm still young, see some different places.

"Hopefully, this leads to something bigger with more money down the road."

Like the NBA? He hopes so.

The NBA didn't want Sanchez, the dead-eye shooter from tiny Fresno Pacific.

There were no phone calls for tryouts or game tape. The draft came and went.

And when summer leagues began in Orlando, Fla., Sanchez was in El Paso, hanging out with his grandparents and uncles.

All he had going for him were a few phone calls from clubs in Mexico.

"Coming from a small school, no one has ever heard of you," said Sanchez, who averaged 13.3 points and 3.1 rebounds as a senior at Fresno Pacific last season.

"If you were a (Division I) player, they'd probably have some knowledge of you. Hopefully, if this year goes good, I'll have some kind of shot.

"This might be a small step, a small opportunity, but it could lead to something big."

Le Grand coach Raul Alvarez won't rule out the possibility.

"That's the next step for him," said Alvarez, who began coaching Sanchez at Planada Elementary School and remains a close friend.

"There are a lot of variables that impact that. It takes skill, commitment and some luck. You have to get lucky. He's demonstrated all of that.

"Players at that level are all good, but what separates them is that special something. He has that."

Shooting guards thrive in long-shot situations. Sanchez is no different. He was a dominant prep player at Le Grand, leading his club to the Southern League title while being named Most Valuable Player.

"His shot is pretty -- prettier than he thinks it is," former Le Grand teammate Michael Vasquez said. "He'd go 9 for 10 and be (upset) about missing that one shot.

"Once he passes halfcourt, it's like a layup for him. That's his range. He strokes it nice. We'd always play HORSE or games like that and he'd be the one shooting from halfcourt or from the sideline. We couldn't even reach the basket. He always had the advantage.

"No one could shoot it like him. No one from the neighborhood we grew up in."

His impact wasn't limited to his hometown courts, either. Sanchez's smooth stroke made fans throughout the valley.

Golden Valley coach Keith Hunter was one of them.

Sanchez played one season with GV's summer ball team.

"It was hard because you want to develop your own players, but he fit right in," Hunter said. "He could absolutely shoot it. There were times where the game would be close, and I'd put him in so we could win."

Now, after two seasons at Fresno City College and two more at Fresno Pacific, he'll begin his professional career in the shadows of the NBA.

"Each step has led to something else, a new set of goals. My goal was always to at least play at a junior college. That was my only goal growing up," said Sanchez, who won a state title with Fresno City.

"Once it got to that, I was happy but I had new goals. I just never thought it would get me this far."

Unlike his nighttime dream -- where he's constantly racing against the buzzer -- time is on the 22-year-old's side.

Sanchez still has a shot.

Literally.

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