It is hard for a player to top a season when he was a New England Collegiate Conference (NECC) First Team All-Conference selection, two-time NECC Player of the Week, and a D3Hoops.com preseason All-American. It is especially harder for an athlete to do so after graduation.
John Sanchez is doing just that. Since graduating in May of 2012, Sanchez has kept his basketball career alive, and in impressive fashion, by signing on to a professional contract with the Victoria Correcaminos of the LNBP, the top league in Mexico.
John was gracious enough to check in with us and tell us how he is doing:
Tell us about where you are playing?
Right now, I am currently in Meoqui, Chihuahua, playing for the Cerveceros de Meoqui (Brewers) of the Licomuba (Developmental League). We are just past the midway point in the season, and would be the seventh seed if the playoffs were to occur right now. We have one of the most talented teams in the league, but have been struggling with consistency. There is a lot of parity in this league and that is evident if you look at the standings. - if you win a couple of games in a row, you are almost guaranteed to move up a couple of spots in the rankings. We just want to hit our peak at the right time because it is a whole different season come playoff time, and that is what we are gearing up for.
How did the opportunity to play professionally present itself? How did the signing process go for you?
After my senior season at Lesley, which was the best season of my college career, I had very few agents knocking on my door. I took it upon myself to take the initiative and put myself out there. Fortunately for me, I grew up with a lot of guys who had played in Mexico before. Knowing what they had to do in order to play in a professional league made the process a whole lot easier. The game of basketball is my absolute passion and the thought of being able to get paid to play gave me even more motivation to do anything and everything to make my dream come true. After graduation, I started emailing agents left and right, especially the ones who had placed players in Mexico. I received some very good feedback and I also received some negative feedback – you're too small, you didn't play against high level competition at a D3 school, you put up great numbers on a team that was .500, or no response at all - whatever was said didn't affect me at all because it is the same stuff I have heard my entire life. Luckily, I got in touch with an agent based out of Wisconsin. He saw my game film, highlight tapes, interviews, etc. and felt he could get me a job. He had placed numerous players in Mexico and developed contacts with teams in several leagues. On July 6th, while back at home with my beautiful girlfriend and family, I received my first professional contract with the Victoria Correcaminos of the LNBP (Top League in Mexico). I have now been in Mexico for seven months, and am currently playing in my second league. All it took was one person to believe in me, and the rest is now history.
Here at Lesley, you were honored with numerous awards throughout your career (Pre-Season All-America, All-NECC Honors, D3Hoops National Team of the Week, etc.)This year you played in your first all-star game. How was that experience and where does that stack up in your career accomplishments?
It was an experience I will never forget and the fact that numerous people were able to watch it online back home made it even more special. To me, it stands out a little more than the others because now I am competing with guys who do this for a living. This is how they provide for their families, pay their bills, and put food on the table. It stands out, but definitely not by much. Every award I have received has a special place (small or big) because they all remind me of how far I have come. In high school, not many schools were interested in recruiting me; I had no choice but to do my own recruiting. My mom and dad filmed many of my of my games, so I used those videos to send to various schools. It was a total team effort. Looking back at all the stuff I used to do just to play basketball makes me laugh, but that's love. Love will get you to do some crazy things and I would do all of that over again in a heartbeat.
How is the style of play different from play in the States and NCAA Div. III? What has been the biggest adjustment you have had to make?
In college, I was known for making it to the free throw line quite a bit, but that is definitely not the case now. The game is so much more physical, it is like night and day in comparison to basketball in the U.S. Learning how to take contact and play through it has definitely been the biggest adjustment. Also, the stuff I used to get away with in college doesn't happen when you're playing against pros. I have learned that you cannot afford to cut corners, and that paying attention to detail is crucial when you are playing against this type of competition. If you don't, you're going to be wishing you did and you will be out of a job very quickly. Another adjustment for me has just been consistency and being at the top of my game every day. Here, you're constantly playing against guys who have played all over the world as well as in the NBA (Jelani McCoy, Torraye Braggs, Demarr Johnson, Renaldo Major, Lee Nailon, Lance Alred, and Anthony Pedroza). You have no choice but to elevate your game. They don't care if you played D1 or D5, you just better get the job done or they will be more than happy to find somebody else that will.
How have you embraced the change of culture now living in Mexico and playing professional basketball?
I was born in Torrance, CA but was raised in Carson, CA so Los Angeles was all I knew. I had been to Mexico a few times to visit family, but I was too young to grasp where I was or the significance of being in another country. Now that I am older, I love every minute of it. At first, I had trouble adjusting to the food because the majority of food in the U.S. is processed. I have definitely grown accustomed to it. My parents grew up in Mexico, so to see how they grew up, how these people live, and what they are all about is eye opening and extremely humbling. You learn so much while being out here and everyday you see something out here that makes your jaw drop. There are some beautiful places in Mexico, but there are also some very rural and poor places. There are kids working, people who don't know if they're going to see their next meal, people sleeping on the ground or in tents, etc. Every day there are kids who come to watch practice and they seem to be the happiest kids on the planet. To them, material items carry no weight and their smiles never change. You realize how fortunate you really are, and it makes you appreciate everything that much more.
Once I got to experience this life of getting paid to play the game of basketball, I wanted and still want - nothing else. To be able to do this for 10-12 years is what drives me. A lot of guys can do this for a year or two, but can you be consistent and stay relevant over a long period of time? I love everything about this life and have learned a lot in this first year. My first actual taste of what it was like to play pro ball was at the beginning of the season. Our first game was played on a Tuesday night in Victoria and we were fortunate enough to get the win. The next day we had to be up at 6am and catch an early morning flight to Cancun for a game on Thursday. We played Thursday and lost to a very good Cancun team and then had to catch two more flights the next day to get to Mexicali. We ended up playing Mexicali on a Saturday and after that, we had to catch two flights to get back to Victoria. By the time those two flights were over and we were back in Victoria, it was around 1am (Sunday/Monday), and we had practice the very next morning. I learned a lot in just those 5 days and realized that if I wanted to do this for a long time, I was going to have to learn how to take care of my body and eat right because all of the traveling really takes a toll on you. From that point on, I realized what I was doing was a privilege and should not be taken for granted. I loved everything associated with it and knew that this is what I wanted to do for as long as possible.
What do you miss most about Lesley? Do you still keep in contact with any of your former teammates?
Transferring to Lesley was the best decisions I ever made, not only for basketball related reasons, but because of the relationships I was able to develop while at the school. Just being around the people at school and being able to interact with them and my teammates is what I miss most. Those guys are all my brothers (KB, Gibson, Marcus, Drizzy, Val, Stock, Rosa, PJ, Kauf, Matty, Zeus, Bryant, AG, Cruz) and we really enjoyed what we did. We had some really great times as well as some that were not so great, but no matter what, we always had each other's backs.
This year was the first year that Lesley had the games on a live stream, so I made sure I caught every game I possibly could. Sometimes I couldn't watch because of how much I missed playing with the team and for Coach Morris. I also make sure I keep in contact with them regularly. Since I cannot text while I am down here, it certainly helps that we are all big social media fans (Instagram, Twitter). These things make it possible for us to always be joking and talking as if we still go to school together. Those guys are like family, so I try and give them any bit of support I can.
As for Coach Morris and his staff, (Malcolm, Bhuiya, Coach P) if it wasn't for them, I wouldn't be where I am today--it's as simple as that. They gave me an opportunity when nobody else wanted me and gave me the keys to the ship. I don't know if I'm going to be able to ever repay them for all that they've done for me. I just hope that they're proud along with the rest of the Lesley community. Not everybody gets to live out their dream, and with their help, I can honestly say that I am living out mine. This was a total team effort and I will always say that, no matter what, because that's the truth. For example, people have been asking me if I made the All Star Game lately. My response to them has been no, 'WE' made the All Star Game, and that's how I honestly feel. So many people played a role in this and I want them to enjoy this just as much as I am, they deserve it!
Be sure to check out John's highlight tape from his professional career so far: