Jesse Sanders is a 25 year old 190cm point guard from Sugar Land, Texas that will play his fourth professional season with the Walter Tigers Tuebingen. He started his basketball career in 2008 with Liberty where he played until 2012. In the 201-2013 season he started his professional career in Europe with Fileni BPA Jesi (Italy-Lega2): 25 games: 9.7ppg, 5.5rpg, 2.1apg, 1.4spg, FGP: 52.6%, 3PT: 34.5%, FT: 75.7%. In the 2013-2014 season he played down under with the Sydney Kings (Australia-NBL, starting five): 13 games: 10.5ppg, 4.7rpg, 3.5apg, Steals-2(1.8spg), FGP: 53.7%, 3PT: 17.2%, FT: 89.5%. Last season he led the Belgium league in assists and played withLimburg United averaging 11,5ppg, 5,1rpg and 5,0apg. He spoke to German Hoops about basketball.
Jesse thanks for talking to German Hoops Where are you at the moment and how have you been enjoying the early part of the summer?
I’m in Sugar Land visiting my parents. It has been great to be back and to introduce my daughter (Ava Michelle Sanders) to all of my family. Having some of our favorite Mexican food has been great as well.
You have signed with German beko BBL team Walter Tigers Tuebingen. How excited are you be playing in the fastest growing league in Europe?
This is an awesome opportunity and I’m really looking forward to getting over there and beginning work with the team!
Tigers head coach Igor Perovic has been observing you since years. What was the main reason for coming to this club?
From my talks with him I believe he understands my game well and correctly assesses how I can help the team. He is passionate about what he does and that is quality that I greatly value.
Did your ex teammate at Limburg Dane Watts give you any advice about coming to Tuebingen where he played for two years?
Yes, Dane is a great guy and he had nothing but positive things to say about the people and the club.
You will be replacing the best point guard that the club ever had with Bane Ratkovica and a guy who led the league in assists a few times. Do you feel more pressure or is it more a challenge for you?
I try not to get to much into comparing myself with other players. I don’t feel pressured but at the same time I have very high expectations for myself and for the team. I want to do whatever I can to help us win games.
Tuebingen manager Robert Wintermantel stressed you accelerate the game, are a good defender and quick passer. To what NBA player would you compare your game too?
Thats a tough one. I don’t know who I would compare myself too. I have a few guys who I greatly respect and value the way they play. Steve Nash has probably been my life long favorite player and I’ve always tried to watch the way he pushed the ball in transition and could get in the lane and create for others.
Your new coach Igor Perovic has said that you keep improving your game. However what is the biggest building block you will work on this summer with your game?
Its my personal goal to work as hard as I can every time that I step on the court. whether game, practice, extra shooting, or summer workouts. I will continue my personal routine and get as many ball screen reps and 3 point shots as I can. As well as devoting a lot of time to floaters and finishing with my off hand in the lane.
Last season you played for Limburg United of the Belgium league. The club finished with a solid 16-14 record, bit were in fourth place. How would you classify the season for a team that had just entered the first division?
I think it was a great year. We far exceeded the expectations other people around the league and maybe even the expectations of some of our own fans. It was a good situation there and I’m thankful for the time that I was able to spend as a part of Limburg United.
You led the Belgium league in assists. Has this been your biggest achievement as a professional basketball player so far?
I don’t know exactly what that would be. I’m thankful for the achievement and for the work we put in as a team. But it is important to realize that the assists number is just as much the finisher as the passer. I was fortunate to play with smart team mates who spaced the floor well and could finish in a variety of ways.
This season Limburg lost three of four games to Aalstar. The club held Rotnei Clark in check in one game, but in the other three wins he poured in 23 points twice and once 19 points. Was he one of the toughest players you played against last season?
Rotnei is a great player. I played against him in Australia the year prior to Belgium and he is actually a good friend of mine as well. He is tough to guard because he is such a deadly shooter but also has quick feet to get into the lane. He would definitely be one of the toughest players we played. Charleroi’s Zabian Dowdell and Pepinster’s Arizona Reid were two other players that I guarded and have a lot of respect for.
After a solid rookie season in Italy, you went down under to the Sydney Kings. What kind of experience was that for you and what was the most that you gained from this experience on and off the court?
It was a great experience. My wife and I were able to see a completely different part of the world. The people were great and the country was beautiful! I really enjoyed how friendly their culture was and how easy the adjustment was to living there.
As a rookie you played for Fileni BPA Jesi (Italy-Lega2. What was your wake up call to being a professional in Europe where you knew that I am in a totally new place far away from the States?
Yes, it was a major transition. My wife and I were married 8 days before arriving so we were new to everything! Living in Europe, pro basketball, being married, trying to speak a different language, but we learned a great deal about ourselves and about life overseas.
Was American Ryan Hoover who played at Notre Dame in the 90s and 11 seasons in Italy a type of mentor in your rookie season? What was the most important thing that you learned from him and learned to appreciate on and off the court?
Yes, Ryan was a good friend and really helped me out in a lot of ways. He brought a great deal of experience and perspective with him. I still keep up with him and his family. Great people! He had a good mindset. His confidence in himself didn’t waiver even in a losing streak or poor shooting performance. That was something I saw in him and have tried to emulate in my own game.
You played four years at Liberty(NCAA). How did Dale Layer prepare you best for a professional basketball career?
Coach Layer has always had a strong edge. He greatly valued hard work and demanded a high level of effort and accountability. Those characteristics can carry you even when you may not be playing your best ball or hitting every shot.
You are the only player in NCAA history to have had a triple double in each season. Which one was the sweetest?
Either the 1st one because I was so young. It was awesome to have my first triple double as a freshmen against a conference rival. Or the one my senior year because there was so much hype about me setting the record. I had had 4 or 5 games that year when I was like 1 assists or 2 rebounds away from getting it so there was a lot of buildup.
Who was the best player that you battled against in the NCAA that is in the NBA now?
CJ McCollum. He was at Lehigh and we played them in a tournament at Liberty. He was a very talented scorer who could get his points in a variety of ways.
When you look back at your Liberty days, who won a one on one in practice you or John Sanders?
Haha JC and I have had a lot of battles. My older brother Thomas played at Gardner-Webb and the 3 of us play every summer. Its a pretty even game and each guy has his own strengths and weaknesses. Highly competitive games though!
What does it feel like that NBA legends like Hakeem Olajuwon, Tracy Mcgrady and Robert Horry come from Sugar Land. Have you ever seen them around town?
I was a huge fan of them growing up! I work out at Lifetime Fitness in Sugar Land and from time to time Hakeem will be in there. We got him to play 3 on 3 with us last summer and he was still killing it.
Do you see the Houston Rockets reaching the final and what will be necessary to get past the Golden State Warriors?
That is a great series! 2 close games so far. Its tough being down 2-0 to GSW but you can never count the Rockets out after what they did last series. This is a tough one for me because I love the Rockets but I’m also a fan of Steph Curry. His game on the court and his humility and faith he shows off the court are things that I really admire.
What was the last movie that you saw?
Thanks Jesse for the chat.