The waiting is the hardest part.
In the spring, Steve Lavin traveled to Monroe College and beat out a number of suitors for talented 6'9" forward Orlando Sanchez, native of the Dominican Republic [commitment story]. Gifted with speed enough the hang with guards, a producer of good rebounding numbers, and a well-rounded game that co-existed with shot-happy guards.
He was rumored to be a one-year player for St. John's.
Right now, he is a no-year player as St. John's waits for word, two months into the season, from the NCAA about his collegiate eligibility.
The NCAA can move at a glacial pace with respect to eligibility concerns, but Sanchez's case has dragged on longer than the cases of rumored amateurism rules violators Shabazz Muhammad and Myck Kabongo. Initially, the concern was about Sanchez' age. After the Sonoma State exhibition game, head coach Steve Lavin said that "with Orlando['s case], it's related to age and eligibility," while expecting a definitive ruling in early November.
In the broadcast of the St. John's/ South Carolina game at the end of November, ESPN's color commentator Kara Lawson mentioned that part of the issue with Sanchez isn't just his age, but that he spent time working to support his family before going back to school.
One wonders if the NCAA found something that would "compromise" his amateur status, in the Association's language. The length of time the eligibility decision is taking is more reminiscent of issues where the NCAA is determining whether a player played overseas or received extra benefits - or are still collecting more information.
In other countries, playing for youth teams comes with traveling money and some benefits; in the Enes Kanter case, the NCAA struggled to determine whether Kanter had received improper money until his former team told the NCAA he received money (possibly to make an example of him).
Deniz Kilicli of West Virginia was benched for 20 West Virginia games while the NCAA figured out his eligibility status.
NOT SAYING that is the case, but that there is obviously more to Sanchez' eligibility status than meets the eye. Perhaps it's a difficulty in locating birth records or school records, though he was eligible to play in junior college.
The team is 8-4 without Sanchez entering Big East play. The Johnnies have shown some talent, despite losses to decent mid- and low-major teams. But Sanchez was a very good rebounder on the junior college level, and one of the Johnnies' main issues is an inability to own the glass on both ends.
Yes, God`sGift Achiuwa is on the bench redshirting. But in extended time last season, he did not show a gift for rebounding. His 5.8 rebounds in 30 minutes per game is comparable to Chris Obekpa's 5.3 rebounds in 25 minutes per game; neither is enough to turn the Johnnies' fortunes on the glass around.
From our look at Sanchez' on-court stylings in the spring:
Sanchez was the leading rebounder and fourth-leading scorer on the Monroe College Mustangs, averaging 10.2 points per game and 7.7 rebounds (2.3 offensive rebounds per game), and added 1.8 blocks per game. Sanchez averaged 4.2 blocks per game in his freshman year at Monroe, with 9.8 points and 7.7 rebounds.
Seven percent of his shots are from outside the arc; he's hit 4/18 from the perimeter and is shooting 57.4% from the free throw line, so his perimeter shooting doesn't appear to be a strength at this time.
Inside the arc, he connected on 58% of his two-pointers and assisting on 15.8% of his team's shots - not the rate of a point guard, but the rate of a conscientious wing.
Sanchez is grabbing 22.8% of available defensive rebounds when he's on the floor, and 9.6% of his own team's misses.
Like Jamal Branch, Orlando Sanchez' talents might not be the cure for what ails the Red Storm; he might nit be the salve for the Red Storm's deficiencies. But it's hard to imagine that he wouldn't help with a rotation that lacks an impact big man who can end possessions and help facilitate half-court offense.
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