PC Looks For JUCO Help With Sanchez

One thing that has become painfully clear this season is that the Friars need a major talent upgrade in the frontcourt to compete against the rugged foes they face each game in the Big East. Towards that end, Ed Cooley has made recruiting a priority, and junior college big man Orlando Sanchez fits the bill.

Rumors swirled at the Dunk Saturday night, floating among those in the know. One rumor concerned Orlando Sanchez, a 6'9, 205 pound forward for junior college power, Monroe College in New York. According to some, Sanchez had already popped to the Friars and it would come down to a decision by PC's Admissions Office. According to others, Sanchez was the Friars' but the NCAA has decided that up to 48 credits earned at Monroe would not transfer.

We contacted head coach Jeff Brustad, in his 10th season as coach of Monroe, as he prepared his 24-3, nationally 4th-ranked Mustangs for a game later tonight against Harcum, and he attempted to put some of those questions to rest.

"Everything is preliminary right now," said Brustad. "Nothing official has been done. We haven't sent Orlando's official transcripts out to anyone. It's possible that someone may have unofficial transcripts that they're looking over, but not to my knowledge and I would know about things like that."

"No decisions have been made yet," Brustad continued. "He and I haven't done a lot of talking yet. We both agreed at the beginning of the season that we'd kind of put recruiting off until after our season finished. That way, he could fully concentrate on his academics and our season."

"He's done a great job with his academics. He's been a good student. There should be no problem with the NCAA. His grades are good and he's taking what he needs to take. We've had a ton of players transfer to Division I schools during my time here, and none of them ever had a problem. We know what the players need to take. Let's face it, we're not Harvard, but our players don't take basket weaving either. It's a challenging academic environment and they take legit courses."

Sanchez grew up in the Dominican Republic and attended Colegio Nueva Luz before coming to America and settling in at Monroe. "He's done a good job adapting to America," said Brustad. "Naturally, language is his biggest challenge but he's improved in leaps and bounds and done well in class."

Also, naturally, colleges have taken notice and have flocked to see Sanchez. Recruiting, while it may be on the back burner for now, has really taken off. "No question, if Orlando had a top five, Providence would be in it," Brustad confirmed. "They've been doing a great job recruiting him. Brian Blaney has been lead on Orlando, and I have to say, so far Providence has done the best job. They've been very visible."

"But I want to make sure Orlando gives himself a fair shot and takes a fair look at everyone and we'll discuss that after the season. You have to remember, he grew up in the Dominican, so he's not as familiar with U.S. college basketball as other kids are. I want to make sure he does his due diligence."

"Cincinnati has come at him hard," said Brustad. "South Florida, Mississippi State, St. John's with Steve Lavin has been in quite a bit, Texas Tech and Texas A&M have seen him. Oklahoma and Auburn are coming in for our game tonight."

As a freshman, Sanchez averaged 8 ppg, 11.8 rpg and 4.2 blocks. He ranked 7th in the nation in rebounding and third in blocks and was named an honorable mention All-American. This season, Sanchez' scoring has increased to 10.8 ppg but his rebounding (7.9) and shot-blocking (2.0) have fallen off a bit. None of his numbers jump off the page at you.

"We have a very deep team," the coach commented. "Our two-guard is averaging about 16 ppg but then we have a bunch of players averaging 10, 11 ppg. Orlando is not a 25 ppg player. He never will be. What he is, is a high level athlete who is a rebounder, a shot-blocker, a distributor. He can pass, he can run the floor. He's a high energy type of player who is good in all facets and can really raise the level of the other four guys he's on the floor with. He has the potential to block a shot, take it the length of the court and either dish off an alley-oop or receive an alley-oop."

"When he first got here, there was a hunger and he did what he did well, which was rebounding and shot-blocking. As he's improved in other areas, sometimes when that happens, a player takes a step back in some areas, which is why some numbers are down. Plus, we have a 6'9 freshman, Maurice Ndour, who is also on Providence's radar, who has cut into some of Orlando's numbers, like rebounds. I need to get him back to what he was doing before."

"Orlando is a face-up guy," Brustad said. "He played for John Calipari on the Dominican National Team over the summer and John had him playing the 3. He's a 4 here at Monroe, but we do use him sometimes at the 3 and I can see him playing a lot of 3 at the next level. What he needs to do is be more aggressive offensively and have more confidence in his jump shot, which is good out to 15 feet. I also want him to be a force on defense for 40 minutes and not just 34, which he's learning."

"He definitely won't be making a decision until after our season is over." Brustad concluded. "But Providence is right there. They've done the best job recruiting him."

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