It was a long year for junior college forward Orlando Sanchez. The 6'9" big man known as Primo (and Orlandito to some) spent a year waiting for the NCAA and St. John's to fight it out about his eligibility. A late assist by lawyer Robert Orr helped the NCAA reverse its decision, but late in the year with only a few games to play for the Red Storm.
So after a year where murmurs were that he was the best player in practice, that he could play in the NBA, that he was mature and smart, the secret weapon steps onto the floor in an official Division I game, clad in reds and whites (and not some blue), Orlando Sanchez is in the red and white, wearing number 33, ready to make an impact for the Red Storm.
So what will the Johnnies see from the big man?
"He's a very unusual player for his size," coach Steve Lavin said. "The skill set he possesses is an asset and when you add his maturity and experience, we're pleased to have him. As you can see if we had him last year, we would've been a different team."
The skill set Orlando brings is a diversified game. Like Sir`Dominic Pointer, he is athletic but not a big-time scorer (as far as we've seen on campus and in junior college). Sanchez is wide enough to defend in the paint and grab rebounds, but skilled enough to shoot all the way out to the three-point arc. His ability to pass from the high post will help crafty guards find looks.
And in the preseason games, he looked effective in defending players into the paint, able to run with smaller players and stick a hand in to deter their dribble.
Sanchez won't be a high possession guy. He won't be James Michael McAdoo at North Carolina or Syracuse's DeJuan Coleman.
But he will help the Red Storm's poor defensive rebounding, keep the interior defense strong, and hopefully help players get better shots with deft ball movement.
From our preview of Sanchez last year:
From Monroe College, Orlando Sanchez [Rumble recruiting preview] has impressed in early workouts, and is said to be highly versatile and skilled. On video, it's clear he can run like a wing, and his defense is said to be good. At Monroe, he shot just under 59% inside the arc, and rebounded 24% of opponents' misses. If he can come close to that mark, he'll be a better per-possession rebounder than Moe Harkless was last season - he rebounded 18% of opponents' misses.
As an added bonus, Sanchez blocked 7.2% of opponent shots - an elite percentage if it translates to NCAA Division I basketball. He assisted on 15% of his teammates' baskets, got some steals, some offensive rebounds. Sanchez may not be one of the Red Storm's big three scorers, but if he plays like he did in junior college, he'll be an essential element for the Red Storm.
More from Rumble In The Garden:
- Player preview: Sir`Dominic Pointer aka CostCo looks to add an offensive aisle
- Preview: Phil Greene, growing into his role
- St. John's vs. Wisconsin: season opener
- St. John's vs Wisconsin pregame: 5 questions with Bucky's 5th Quarter
- St. John's vs. Wisconsin game preview + TV info: digging for a golden start in the Dakotas