MILWAUKEE – A little less than 20 months have passed since the Milwaukee Bucks selected Larry Sanders 15th overall in the 2010 National Basketball Association Draft.
For Sanders, though, it’s an entirely different world.
The Bucks’ backup center has seen his playing time increase in this, his second NBA season, due to Andrew Bogut’s ankle injury. He’s appeared in all 27 of Milwaukee’s games, averaging 3.2 points and 3.0 rebounds in 12.9 minutes per night.
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He’s made a positive impression on head coach Scott Skiles, who has been pleased with Sanders’ efforts on the defensive end.
“He just needs to be more consistent,” Skiles says. “Like a lot of good players, he’ll go out and have a good half or a good quarter or a good game. But he has to be able to follow it up, keep his focus and do it again and again. He’s not there yet but it’s something he’s working on.”
In three years at Virginia Commonwealth, Sanders evolved into a defensive force down low, twice being named the Colonial Athletic Association Defensive Player of the Year. As a junior ,he averaged 14.4 points, 9.1 rebounds and 2.6 blocks while leading the team by shooting 53.0 percent from the field.
Making the jump to the NBA after that impressive season, it took Sanders time to adjust to the responsibilities that go along with being a professional basketball player. While he’s always enjoyed traveling, which is a frequent occurrence in the NBA, it’s the down time and being forced to fend for yourself that can be problematic for many young NBA players.
Sanders credits his family for helping keep him headed in the right direction but is quick to admit that he’s grown a lot since joining the pro ranks.
“I’m a lot more mature,” Sanders says. “In college, everything is available to you. You don’t have that much responsibility. But now, there’s a lot of responsibility all at once. But to handle it and get things organized, you feel like you have a hold on things … it makes you feel like your taking steps in manhood. “
Sanders is still getting accustomed to the professional game – a learning process which leaves little room for error – but his biggest growth has come off the court; outside of the arena and practice center.
Last year, Sanders became a father for the first time. His son, Jasiah, recently turned 16 months old and there mere presence of his child in his life has had a profound impact on Sanders, who at 23, is still a young man.
“I just grow more and more in love with him every time we are together,” Sanders says. “It’s hard, because I don’t get to see him every day. He’s going to come stay with me this whole month, be with me. I need to be a daddy and spend some time with him.”
Having that young man in his life has actually played a role in his development as a basketball player, too.
“It’s that motivation that everything revolves around him now. I’m not just responsible for myself, I’m responsible for another human being. Every decision, my work ethic … it’s all about him now and that goes on the court as well.”
Being a father has helped keep Sanders grounded, not that he was one to soak in a lot of extracurricular activities anyway. When he’s not in the gym or film room, working on his game, Sanders likes to spend much of his free time pursuing another of his main interests: art.
Galleries. Museums. Paintings. Photography. You name it, Sanders enjoys it. His passion from art comes from an early age, when he’d scribble and doodle in notebooks.
“My cousin taught me how to draw when I was young,” Sanders says. “It was probably my first love. I used to draw a lot when I was a kid and it became an every day thing. My mom still has a lot of my journals full of drawings from when I was growing up. My older cousin taught me how to draw.”
Halfway through his second season, Sanders is still his toughest critic. He knows the expectations are high and has a desire and willingness to be coached hard in order to reach his fullest potential.
“I haven’t been satisfied with one game I’ve played,” Sanders says. “I just have to keep working and improving. I know what I’m capable of.”
A spiritual man, Sanders also knows that there are other forces in his life.
“This is the position that God has put me in,” Sanders says. “That drives me. I don’t believe in mistakes; I believe everything happens for a reason. He put me in this position – as a basketball player and a father – to work hard. He knows what I’m capable of.”