Sensational Sophomore

Arkansas has already offered 6-8, 200-pound Springdale sophomore Michael Sanchez a scholarship and he has other suitors like Kansas and North Carolina as well.

It's pretty heady stuff for a high school senior to be drawing the interest of coaches like Arkansas' Stan Heath, North Carolina's Roy Williams and Kansas' Bill Self.

Much less a sophomore who has yet to even play a high school game.

But that's the case with 6-8, 200-pound Springdale sophomore Michael Sanchez, the 2007 prospect who got a scholarship offer from the Razorbacks last week and who has been told by the other two coaches they are coming after him as well.

"I'm pretty amazed by all the attention," Sanchez said. "I never expected all this and I am just thrilled. It''s amazing, but I know if I don't go out and work hard and get better it will all go away, too."

The fact that Arkansas jumped out there and put down an offer is meaningful to the Sanchez family, whose mom is former Lady Razorback great Kim Bunge Sanchez, whose dad Bert ran track at the UA and whose sister Krista is a sophomore for the University of Oklahoma women's hoops team.

"I've been through this before and we went through it with Krista, but it wasn't this big of a thing this early," Kim Sanchez said. "I really didn't expect he would get this type of attention until the summer before his senior season. I thought maybe he would just get a few letters. But he had such a great summer, things really blew up for him and all three of those schools have told him they are going to recruit him.

"Certainly there is a great level of interest in Arkansas from Michael and they realize his potential and wanted to jump out there first and let him know how much they want him," Kim Sanchez continued. "He's good now, but his best basketball is untapped and that's what schools are looking at right now."

Indeed Sanchez had a great AAU summer, capped by grabbing MVP honors and leading his Arkansas Hawks team to the 15-and-under title at the Reebok Big Time Tournament in Las Vegas.

That performance has him ranked as one of the top 40 sophomore prospects in the country by at least one recruiting service's rankings.

"It was a very good summer," Sanchez said. "I played well and had great teammates."

Sanchez has regularly played with current Razorback players in pick-up games, something he thinks is raising his game - especially when he is paired with long time friend Ronnie Brewer.

"I think playing with them takes me up to a whole another level and Ronnie can make me go two levels up," Sanchez said. "He's just amazing. He makes the guys around him so much better and allows them to do things they don't normally do. He's going to have a fantastic season this year. Playing will all those guys makes me see I have to keep working on my strength and quickness. We're (Arkansas) going to have a great team this year."

Sanchez, whose growth plates are still open and who could grow to 6-11 plus according to his mom, is just back from a weekend trip to North Carolina after attending a Bob Gibbons' sponsored Backs to the Basic Camp, an invitation only event for 240 players.

He'll be back at it this weekend with a camp in Oklahoma as he continues to develop his game. "It's another fundamentals camp," Sanchez said. "I am just trying to do everything I can to get better. If I am not at some camp, I am lifting weights, working out, running or shooting."

Sanchez, who averaged 18 points and 9 rebounds as a 6-5 ninth grader last season, got a chance to meet with both Williams and Self while on unofficial visits this summer.

Kim Sanchez's sister Tracy is the head softball coach at Kansas, where Williams used to coach and so both the former and current Jayhawks coach have known of Sanchez for awhile.

All heady stuff as was playing in the Nike Jamboree in St. Louis this summer when he suddenly found himself guarding the son of one of the best to ever play the game.

"All of a sudden Michael Jordan walks into the gym and it turns out my son Jeffrey was guarding his," Kim Sanchez said. "John Lucas' kid was there, Jerry West's kid. It was quite the revelation for Michael (Sanchez) and he's worked even harder since he came back from that."

Sanchez and Springdale High will be one of the eight teams on hand for December's Holiday Hoops Tournament at Bud Walton Arena, where Heath would love to see him play in college.

"I am going to keep my options open since I am so young, but I love Arkansas," Sanchez said. "I certainly can see me playing there one day. It's all very exciting to think about, but I've got a lot of stuff to get better at first before I play anywhere. I'm all about high school ball now."

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