Jesse Sanders sets NCAA record

Posting a triple-double in the NBA is hard. In college it’s nearly impossible. To do this each season is a blessing, something for which Jesse Sanders is thankful.

Sand man — As Jesse Sanders comes to the final stretch of his college career, he’s hoping for a future in the NBA. Photo credit: Ruth Bibby

“It’s crazy,” Sanders said. “It’s a real blessing to have done something like that. It’s not something that I set a goal for but I am thankful for it. I think its really important that I realize it’s not a record reflective of me, it’s a record reflective of our program and the guys I have around me.”

In an 84-78 victory over High Point, Sanders became the first player in NCAA history to have a triple-double in each of his four eligible seasons. He also holds Liberty University’s assists record with 652 for his career. However, this story unfolding at Liberty almost happened elsewhere.

“(Liberty was) actually recruiting my younger brother before they recruited me,” Sanders said. “I was committed to play ball at Rice but the day before I was supposed to sign, their head coach was fired. So in an interesting turn of events, Liberty found out I was available. It took two days for me to commit to Liberty. I fell in love with the program and being able to get a Christian education. It felt like the place I was suppose to be.”

Hailing from Sugar Land, Texas, not far from Houston, Sanders played prep ball with the HCYA Warriors, where he led them to a 41-3 record against 5A competition and averaged a near triple-double. He was named as the Home school National Player of Year twice.

At Liberty, Sanders has learned plenty from past and current coaches.

“It’s definitely been life changing,” Sanders said. “The time being away from family, defining myself as a person under the leadership and mentorship that I had with the basketball program under guys like Coach Ritchie McKay and now Dale Layer, it’s been the experience of a lifetime and I would not trade it for anything else.”

To play collegiate ball is dream for many. Few have the opportunity to share that dream with a younger sibling. John Caleb started playing Liberty basketball last season and has become a major part of the offense. Currently, the Sanders brothers lead the team in scoring both averaging around 12 points per game.

“It’s really fun. No matter how close you are with other guys on the team the connection between brothers is tight,” Sanders said. “John Caleb and I have 15-16 years of experience playing together and you can’t beat that. It is something that we have talked about since we were little kids working out in the backyard, so being able to share this experience with him is something that I’m sure I’ll look back on for years to come.”

Although his career at Liberty is coming to an end, Sanders’ love for basketball is still deep and continues to grow.

“I still love basketball. The game has been great to me, so I hope to sign with an agent after the season, Sanders said. “My long term goal is to play in the NBA and if I’m able to do that in one year, great. If it takes four or five years to get there, that’s fine too. God willing, that’s what I want to do. After basketball, when my career ends, I hope to start a basketball ministry and give back to kids who aren’t fortunate enough to go to a school like this, working with inner city kids. I want to use basketball as a tool to get people to Christ.”

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