by Malik Vincent
It’s not just her 6’2” frame that attracted programs wishing to sign Lanise Saunders to a full athletic scholarship. In fact, multiple sources have indicated that it’s just a plus.
Cleve Wright, Saunders’ future college basketball coach at Division II Gannon University in Erie, certainly thinks so, as well.
|ON THE BOARDS—Lanise Saunders from Allderdice fights for a rebound against Westinghouse in City League action last season. (Courier Photo/William McBride/File)
“The thing that made me want Lanise to be a part of this program the most was who she is,” Wright said. “People who have the type of heart that she has, make great teammates. And her size, intelligence, and knowledge of the game is certainly something we will be glad to have.”
Saunders was a 2011 selection to the New Pittsburgh Courier All-City first team for her great junior campaign in which her Allderdice team was crowned league champs.
To go along with what she brings to the court, Saunders has a 4.217 grade point average. That has attracted Division-I interest from Ivy League programs like Princeton and the University of Pennsylvania.
“I just felt extremely comfortable with Gannon,” said Saunders, who signed a National Letter of Intent in November. “Yes, going to the Division I school would have been nice, but after visiting Erie and meeting their coaching staff and everyone, I know this was the right place for me.”
The starting center for the City League girls basketball three-peat Dragons plans to major in electrical engineering in college. Her coach, Dave Walcheskey, believes that her smarts, hard work, and dedication is what makes her such a success.
“A player of her caliber comes maybe once every 15 years or so,” he said. “She’s such a quiet leader and helps us in so many ways. She’s a very unselfish player. Her stats would be much higher, if she didn’t look out for her teammates so much. Her persistence to get better and how smart she is, really has made her into such a great player for us.”
She attributes most of her success to a best friendship that she has with, who most people consider Allderdice’s best player, Janay Bottoms. The 5’4” point guard was honored as the Courier’s girls’ basketball player of the year this past June. She was pictured on the front cover— with superintendent of schools, Linda Lane— in the honorary luncheon’s special tabloid edition.
“If it wasn’t for the never-ending support of Janay and her family, I’m not sure where I’d be,” Saunders said. “I wasn’t the best player starting out. I always had good size, but I was pretty uncoordinated there was so much I had to learn about the game. She would stay after practice with me and make sure I improved.”
The dynamic duo has shared much success. But Saunders recalls one moment when her friend called her at the beginning of last season and made a bold prediction.
“(Janay) called me and told me that we were going to go 16-0. She said we weren’t going to lose a single game,” she added. “We were going to be perfect and that we’d get another championship.”
Lo and behold, the Dragons did exactly that and got past Westinghouse, a perennial power in the City, for the third time to claim the title. Saunders made it plain that she wants another one before it’s all said and done.
“I think we have what it takes to get another one before I go to college,” Saunders mentioned. “We have some new talent coming in and I can’t wait to get them in and going. It should be a good year.”
(Malik Vincent can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter@malikvince)