Sanders prepares for Chapel Hill

Life has changed for Byron Sanders since he gave Matt Doherty & Co. the word he'd be coming to Chapel Hill next fall. The 6-9, 215-pound Gulfport (Miss.) Harrison Central senior gets inundated with autograph requests and also takes a verbal beating on the court from the opposition now that he's a UNC guy.

"They have been talking, the opposing teams," Sanders said. "The last game I got poked in the eye and they said, ‘Duke's going to do the same thing next year.' I could hardly see, but I didn't say anything. My teammate, Fred Kennedy, was talking plenty for me, though."

Sanders has been facing plenty of double- and triple-teams and has had difficulty scoring of late because his teammates have had trouble getting him the ball. He's averaging 12.7 points, 12.4 rebounds and 5.3 blocks per game this season.

"We had a team meeting the other day because we're struggling and our guard play is killing us," said Harrison Central coach Ricky Stone. "But Byron is really playing well right now. It seems like a lot of pressure has been lifted off his shoulders since he committed. He had a game last week where he had 12 points, 17 rebounds, seven assists, three steals and six blocks."

But the problem for both Stone and Sanders has been repetition. The team has played just a handful of games in the past month.

"We have a real bad schedule this year," Sanders said. "We only played four games in the last month. People down here want a good record, so they don't want to play us. We're not very sharp because we're always practicing against each other."

Stone said that's been the case ever since Central won the state title two years ago with a 32-3 mark.

"We just haven't played any games," added Stone, whose club is 14-8. "Nobody wanted to play us. We're allowed to play 30 games but we'll finish the regular season with 23. We've only had five games in the last five weeks."

Sanders main goal is to add 25 pounds before he gets to college in September. He just got some help from UNC strength trainer Thomas McKinney ns his weight-gaining quest.

"I'm working at it," Sanders added. "I just got some protein supplements from the trainer last week. It's a shake and I've gotten used to it. It was nasty at first."

Sanders is also working on developing a score-first mentality, and is looking forward to helping turn around the program at UNC.

"I'm a team player so it doesn't matter to me whether I'm one of the main guys or not," he added. "I just love to win."

Stone also said that Sanders needs to work on his power game instead of settling for finesse moves. But that the aggressiveness has come a long way from the outset of the season.

"It's still a work in progress," Stone said. "He dominates as far as rebounding and defensively, but he needs to work on his post moves. He needs to be able to go through people."

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