Ricky Sanchez is suiting up for the Pump N Run All-Stars from Southern California on the circuit, and helped them reach the finals of the Rose City Showcase in Portland, Oregon in mid-June. He'll be running with the All-Stars during the evaluation period in July as well as other international basketball events.
"I've been in California training two times a day and getting preparing for the summer schedule," said Sanchez. "I'm playing for the national team and I have a full schedule, so I have to get prepared. Weight training and basketball training." Sanchez is a member of Puerto Rico's 21-and-under team that has already started playing in some tournaments. They recently competed in the Global Games down in Dallas, where they lost in the Bronze Medal game to the United States. More competitions lie ahead for what Sanchez feels is a talent-laden squad that includes Northeastern's Jose Juan Barea, Memphis's Ivan Lopez, Miami (FL)'s Guillermo Diaz, and Arizona's Jesus Verdejo.
"We've got a tournament in Puerto Rico and we win that and qualify, we'll go to Canada to play in the (21-and-under Tournament of the Americas)," said Sanchez. "We have a good team and we have a great chance to win it all."
Sanchez's talents on the basketball floor are obvious. While he's almost seven-feet tall, he has the basketball skills of a smaller player and is a matchup nightmare. At the Rose City Showcase, Sanchez showed an extremely soft touch, not only draining deep threes, but also putting the ball on the floor effectively and create his own shot.
Sanchez does tend to drift on the perimeter both offensively and defensively and like many international players, could stand to get tougher. But he knows he's still got a lot to learn and is willing to work on his game, which includes trying to develop a post game.
"I've come to prove to myself how I am doing and if I can play at this level," said Sanchez. "I'm doing good, but I have to go and prepare myself because no one's perfect. I want to make my weaknesses my strengths and be a complete player. Everything little by little I'm getting prepared."
Because Puerto Rico has its own professional league, some of the top players from the "PR" have eschewed college to turn pro at home. One such example is Peter John Ramos, who was a second round selection by the Washington Wizards in this year's NBA Draft. Sanchez however, is not looking to go that route. "Next year I'm going to be a senior, so I'm looking at going to IMG (Academy) in Florida," said Sanchez. "I don't want to play on a pro team in Puerto Rico; I want to play (college basketball) in the States."
With that said, it's no surprise that many schools are lining up in an attempt to obtain his services. Florida, Indiana, Kansas, Louisville, Texas, UCLA are just some of the many high-major programs that have expressed a high interest in Sanchez.
He's completely wide-open right now, not thinking too much about college but rather what he has to do right now for the national team. "Everything right now is based on getting prepared for this summer," he said. "I've got some choices and I have to sit down with my parents and the guy that's guiding me, Orlando Cepeda, but right now I'm getting prepared and that's what I'm looking forwards to."
However, he does know what he wants in a college program - the opportunity to contribute, and contribute immediately. "I want to go to a place where I can play - I don't want to spend four years on the bench," said Sanchez. "I want to go to a place where I can be a starter or a sixth or seventh man. That's my goal."