Catching Up With: Byron Sanders

Former Tar Heel Byron Sanders ('06) will soon be headed to Switzerland for his fourth season of professional basketball.

How about we start with an update on your current situation ... your relationship with former Tar Heel LaToya Pringle (most recently with Minnesota of the WNBA), where you live in the offseason and what you have been doing this summer?

Yes, we are still together. I asked LaToya to marry me this past June and she accepted. During the offseason I have a basketball camp back home in Gulfport, Mississippi. The camp is under my non-profit organization "Byron Sanders' Think Success Foundation." Other than that, I'm here in Chapel Hill working out with past and current Tar Heels.

In July you signed to play in Switzerland with the Lugano Tigers. What made you decide on that?

The Lugano Tigers did very well last year making it to the Swiss League (LNA) finals. They have a very good team and organization. Also, the city is very nice.

The city of Lugano has reportedly become a vacation spot for the rich and famous, becoming known as the "Monte Carlo of Switzerland." What do you know about Lugano?

I don't know much about Lugano yet. My agent told me it was very nice. I know it is very close to Lake Como (in northern Italy) and Milan, Italy.

Last season you played in Yambol, Bulgaria, where you averaged a double-double of 12.5 points and 10.5 rebounds and you were the defensive player of the year. Tell us about spending time in Bulgaria?

I played in Portugal and Germany (both in western Europe) my first two years and the living transition was easy. Living in Bulgaria (in eastern Europe) took some time to get used to. Yambol is a small town. My coach there understood some English but didn't speak any. I had three teammates that could translate Bulgarian to English easily, so that helped me some. The "yes/no" gestures there were backwards, though. A nod up-and-down was "no" and a head moving side-to-side was "yes." A wobble of the head was for "I don't know" or "okay." The people there loved basketball and were very nice. The Bulgarian pro league was very physical which is something you have to get accustomed to playing in Europe.

How about Portugal in 2007-08?

Portugal was very nice. The weather was the best part. The sun was out year-round. The beaches there are beautiful too.

Did you play any pick-up games at the Smith Center this summer?

I played in the first game at the Roy Williams Camp. The alumni team consisted of me, Raymond Felton, Melvin Scott, Jackie Manuel, Shammond Williams, Jawad Williams, Brendan Haywood, Sean May and Jerry Stackhouse. We played against the current team and the alumni team won.

You were on the 2005 NCAA championship team with Felton, McCants, May and Jawad Williams. Then came the 2009 NCAA champs with Hansbrough, Green, Ellington and Lawson. Which team would win if they squared off?

Of course we will! '05!

Why do you say that?

I think it would be a great game, but '05 is better from top-to-bottom. ?

On that note, the UNC Pro Alumni Game is set for September 4 in Chapel Hill. Do you plan to be there?

Unfortunately, I will be in Switzerland at the end of August. I wish I could make it. I would love to see everybody together before I go overseas.

Which former teammates do you still keep in touch with?

I keep in touch with most, if not all, of my former teammates. We all come back to UNC to work out together during the offseason. When we get together we have a great time.

What advice do you have about playing overseas for the guys like Quentin Thomas, Mike Copeland and Bobby Frasor that might be thinking about giving it a try?

I talk to Cope and Q all the time. I told them that it is tough living in a different country but it is worth the experience. You get to do something you love, travel the world, and see different cultures.

You are going into your fourth pro season. What has been the hardest part about living and playing overseas?

The hardest part is being away from family and the people you love. Everything in Europe is much smaller, like the cars, the food portions at restaurants, etc. The basketball clubs do their best to make you comfortable though.

How long do you think you will play pro basketball?

I ask myself this question a lot. I'm not sure, but I'm doing something I love and I'm seeing the world.

How do you keep up with the Tar Heels during the season from the places you have been like Germany, Portugal, and Bulgaria?

I could not play overseas if I did not have the Internet. I have all the chatting and messaging programs on my Mac. And I have a device called the Slingbox. It streams my cable TV to my Mac through the Internet, so I can watch all the Carolina games during the season. The only thing is the 5-7 hour time differences can make it hard to catch all the games.

Your former teammate Marcus Ginyard (from the 2005-06 team) is still at North Carolina. Give us your thoughts on Marcus and this year's squad for the 2009-10 season?

I remember going to the RBC Center (Raleigh, N.C.) and watching Marcus play in a high school tournament his senior year. I knew he was going to be a great player, leader, and teammate at the college level just by watching the way he lead his high school team to victory in a tough game. The new squad is young, but very talented. The coaches did some great recruiting, as usual. There is going to be some very exciting basketball during the 2009-10 season. I'm glad Marcus was given another year to use his leadership ability to help UNC succeed this upcoming season.

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