Yesterday, we got the chance to talk with Virginia Commonwealth University power forward Larry Sanders, who's skipping his senior year at VCU to join the NBA. Sanders, who started his career with Coach Anthony Grant and finished it with Coach Shaka Smart, emerged as a star during his years at VCU. Here's what the 21-year-old from Fort Pierce, Fla., whom some experts are predicting will be taken in the first round of the draft tonight, had to say the day before his big day.
Q: How do you feel?
A: I'm excited, really excited, a couple of nerves kicking in. I actually really just got the time to sit down and think about it, so I'm excited.
Q: Do you care where you wind up?
A: No, can't be thinking about that, can't be thinking of the situation like that, so any team that wants me can use me.
Q: You didn't start playing organized basketball until your sophomore year of high school. How does it feel to be a projected first-rounder just a few years later?
A: It's unbelievable, really. I don't think I've really wrapped my hands around it yet, but just to think about it a little bit, it's unbelievable, I just don't believe it. I've got pits in my stomach.
Q: Do you think there were any advantages to starting your basketball career so late in the game?
A: Not a lot of bad habits. That's something Coach Grant told me when I came in as a freshman. He said I didn't have a lot of bad habits, and that was good, so I think that's probably my biggest thing. … I was moldable, you could really mold me, and I think that's what he did coming in my freshman year.
Q: How much have you talked to your former VCU teammate Eric Maynor, and has he given you any advice on the draft process?
A: I talked to him a lot. He prepared me very well for it. I didn't run into a lot of surprises. I kind of knew what to be prepared for, so he helped tremendously.
Q: Are you excited about the prospect of being reunited with Maynor in Oklahoma City, as part of the Thunder?
A: Yeah, I'm excited. I've been talking to him a lot. He'll actually be here tomorrow, so he's going to fly in for my draft, and that means a lot to me, and just to be around him again, that's good for me.
Q: Earlier, you said you would watch the draft by yourself, because that's the advice Maynor gave you, but what did you finally decide?
A: Well, it's going to be here in the Founders Room [inside the Siegel Center]. Everyone's going to be here. I'm going to be here before, but I'm going to leave while they start calling names and go to my designated area I guess, or my location, but I'll be back when my name gets called and I really get a chance to take it in.
Q: Who's going to be with you?
A: My family, my friends from Florida, my teammates, my coaches.
Q: Who did you talk to about skipping your senior year at VCU?
A: A lot of people. A lot of people from Coach Grant to Coach Smart, Eric, my best friend, my mom, a lot of people. It was actually like a last-minute decision, it wasn't something that was planned.
Q: What led you to make that decision?
A: They all gave me positive feedback, basically told me that it's up to me — how hard I work and things like that, so once they put it on my shoulders, I felt like I could do it.
Q: Do you plan on coming back and getting your degree?
A: Oh, yeah, definitely. I'll be back. You'll see me walking around on this campus in probably about a year or two. I got to come back and finish, and I owe it to myself, I owe it to my family.
Q: What was it like working out for NBA teams that are considering drafting you, like the Portland Trail Blazers and the Oklahoma City Thunder?
A: It was good, it was exciting — different teams, different players, different competition.
Q: What does that process entail?
A: Well, you fly in and you usually have dinner with them. The next day you get up, you stretch, you get your gear, do some kind of testing, usually like height test, vert test, you work out for the team, the workout is usually like skill work and then competing. There's a lot of competing and a lot of workouts … and then after that, they fly you out and you're gone to the next place. Short and sweet.
Q: Did they fly you out first class?
A: Oh, yeah, I did, after a while, because I told them I couldn't sit in those regular seats with my knees in somebody's back, so after a while they bumped me up.
Q: Did you get a chance to see any of the sights during your NBA visits?
A: Oklahoma, there's not a lot of sights, it actually reminds me of my hometown, there's not a lot of places, but it's good for basketball — it's a good basketball city. Portland, nice city. A lot of places surprised me, like Toronto. I just didn't know what to expect, and I get there and it's like little New York there. So I got to see quite a bit.
Q: Did you root for a team growing up?
A: I was big with Orlando Magic. I was a big Tracy McGrady fan when I started watching basketball. He was always on the Sunshine Network, which is a Florida network, and he was always on TV, and he was the best player on that team at that time, so I used to always watch him, so I used to always root for them. After a while, I turned to the Celtics. I really liked the Celtics, the way they play, the intensity — they run.
Q: Now that the basketball season is over, what sort of regimen are you following to keep in shape and keep your basketball skills up?
A: I went to Chicago first and worked out with Tim Grover, that's Michael Jordan's workout guy, Kobe's workout guy — worked out with him for a week for more strength and conditioning, then I went to IMG down in Florida [Sanders' agent is with IMG] and worked out there for about a month and six days a week twice a day — a lot of nutrition stuff. You had nutrition meetings between workouts. I did yoga. I did a lot of different stuff, and it helped out. It had me prepared, and that kept me in shape for my workouts and got me prepared. I've been working out ever since two days ago, so I'm not going to do nothing till tomorrow. Tomorrow I'll be in the gym again, but I'm taking a couple days off for my body's sake.
Q: Any good-luck rituals you plan to do before the draft?
A: I haven't thought about that. Maybe I should come up with something.
Q: Maybe a good-luck charm?
A: My mom's my good-luck charm, so she'll be here, and as long as she's around, it'll be all right.