2006 Focus: Damian Saunders

Damian Saunders is a guy that few people outside of Connecticut know much about. However, one Big East head coach came by his school in April and there may be more in the future.

Damian Saunders didn't get a chance to show what he could do in front of college coaches in April. Despite playing for UConn women's coach Geno Auriemma on the Nike Team Connecticut squad, Saunders didn't attend any of the big-time tournaments.

Instead, they stayed in the northeast, traveling to New York and Boston. However, Saunders will get a chance to show all the big-time coaches what his game is all about in July at the AAU Nationals.

The scouting report on Saunders reads: Big-time athlete. Shot-blocker. Runs the floor. Raw offensively.

Think a 6-foot-7, 215-pound version of Hakim Warrick.

No wonder why Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim found time to make it down to Crosby High in Waterbury, Conn., to watch Saunders work out. Boeheim wasn't the only one, but there were only a few college coaches to meet with Saunders. Boston College assistant Bill Coen also made an appearance at Crosby.

Saunders, a distant cousin of former UConn forward Edmund Saunders, averaged 12 points, 12 boards and 8 blocks per game for Crosby, which went 26-1 is his junior campaign and finished 27-0 this past season.

``He's more defense than offense," Crosby coach Nick Augelli said. "He's very, very athletic and is a lot like Emeka Okafor. That's how he plays."

``He's definitely a power forward at the next level," added Augelli. "He's working on his post moves. He's a coach's dream because I never have to worry about him dogging it."

``He's a big-time talent," Connecticut Select coach Wayne Simone said. "He's a great shot-blocker and is advanced defensively, but still has a ways to go offensively. He dunks everything and should be a Big East recruit."

One of the reasons why Saunders is certain to progress quickly is because he's only been playing organized basketball for three seasons.

``I never played until high school, so I know I have things to work on," Saunders said. "I need to improve my low-post moves and my outside shot."

In addition to Syracuse and BC, Augelli also mentioned UMass and St. Bonaventure as schools that have expressed interest.

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