By Jabria Baylor
The bright lights beaming from the ceiling, the crowd roaring, and sweat dripping down his face. Just one more, one more, is what freshman at the time Corey Sanders said in the back of his mind as he scores 39 points with 11 assists, winning the game in triple overtime against Illinois back in 2015.
“That was best game of my career, nearly 40 points with over 10 assists, you can’t beat it” said Sanders, now a junior at Rutgers University.
At only 20 years old, Corey Sanders has blossomed into a D1 basketball player that has established a huge standing within basketball community. The athlete from Lakeland, Florida reminisces on the beginnings his love for basketball.
“I started playing basketball, when I was 2 years old,” said Sanders. “And I knew that I was really going to play basketball when I got in trouble for going to the park, when I wasn’t supposed to.”
By age 5, Sanders got involved into summer leagues; but somehow knew he was always a division ahead of his time. As a dual athlete throughout middle school, Sanders cut out football during high school to focus on more basketball.
Soon after, it became the love of his life becoming the only thing that keep him at peace, the only thing that truly makes him happy. It is exciting as well as a massive responsibility, as Sanders explains his role as a D1 athlete is more than just shooting 3 pointers.
“As an athlete, you don’t ask to be a role model,” said Sanders, “but when you do these type of things, when become this well-known basketball player, you are almost dragged into it. Now that I’m here and I have this opportunity to teach others I try my best to that person they can look up to.”
With a 127,000 followers on Instagram alone, Corey is now in the limelight in the basketball world, on the nation level.
“I started noticing the amount of people watching me around 8th grade, and throughout the summer of freshmen year,” Sanders recalls. “I started getting highlight videos made and then it just blew up, and I became this big thing. By 10th grade I had already had a few D1 offers, from there everything just started rolling.”
With the ball in his hand the minute he stepped foot on the court freshman year at Rutgers, his dream for going D1 came to fruition and he was ready to build this team up from the bottom.
“I choose Rutgers honestly because wanted go to a school that wasn’t that established with basketball and try to make them great. I don’t like following people, I like to do my own thing, and start a new wave,” he added.
Even though the team had a heartbreaking record of 15-18 last season, with 22 home games this years, Sanders remains hopeful that this is the year Rutgers will make a comeback.
Corey understands that there are still have things they need to work on as a team, but as of pre-season he sees improvements, and with all the home games this year, he knows the fans will keep them motivated. He also believes that practice always makes perfect, from afternoon preseason practices all the way to pulling all-nighters at the RAC, admitting to staying up past midnight at the RAC just to practice shooting, his favorite area to work on.
“I like working late at night so when I’m done I can go straight to sleep. I call it an overnight shift,” he laughed. “Working at night like that just makes me feel like I’m doing something good.”
However, being a star athlete is not all Sanders wants to be known for. With school, basketball, tutoring, Sanders admits that being a student athlete is much more than meets the eye, adding that he barely has time for a social life.
“It really does take a toll on you, the scheduling is crazy, but I’m glad that I am in the position that I am in, so I can’t complain, there’s no reason to because I wouldn’t trade it for the world.”
As of the late spring of 2016, Sanders was invited to California for the pre-draft, where young athletes train with different NBA teams to see if they would be a good fit. Halfway into the summer, Rutgers was delighted to see that Sanders had decided to come back to play once more at the RAC, despites the amazing opportunity.
“It was just in my best interest to come back and to get better, also for the team, it is a lot of stuff we can get done, so for me to come back was the best thing, for my personal and team’s sake.”
Sanders concludes with telling us how the game of basketball has changed his life in unimaginable ways. Showing him places that he never would have been before if it wasn’t for basketball, but also teaching him how to be grateful.
“Some people see me and only see the outside, the athlete, but not the person. They don’t know the real me, they don’t see it, they just know I play basketball,” said Sanders. “Nonetheless, basketball has given me a lot of opportunities to open up a lot of doors not just for me but for others, especially when we give back, like going to elementary school’s basketball practice, the feeling, you can’t beat it!”