LAS CRUCES, N.M. – In the game of basketball, preparation can sometimes be the deciding factor between a win or a loss. Scouting the opposing team’s strengths and weaknesses in an effort to exploit mismatches is a constant battle for coaches to overcome.
For New Mexico State University, assistant coach Aerick Sanders is the man behind a large portion of that preparation. His responsibilities as a coach consist of recruiting prospects and scouting the opposing teams to assure that his players are properly prepared for their opponent.
Sanders is in his first year as an assistant coach for the Aggies after spending the 2012-13 season as an assistant coach at Montana State. Sanders now reunites with NM State head coach Marvin Menzies, who coached him as an assistant for three years at San Diego State University. For Sanders, his contributions as a coach can be attributed to the lessons he learned as a former collegiate and professional athlete.
Sanders enjoyed a decorated career at San Diego State under legendary head coach Steve Fisher. As a sophomore, Sanders helped the Aztecs win a Mountain West Tournament Championship and make an NCAA Tournament appearance where they were defeated by Illinois in the second round by a score of 93-64.
In his senior season with the Aztecs, the forward and Carson, Calif., native nearly averaged a double-double with 16.1 points per game and 9.8 rebounds per game which led his team in both categories. Those statistics helped Sanders become an All-Mountain West performer in his final year at San Diego State.
“My collegiate experience, as far as everything from learning how to be a young adult to the friends I’ve made to the relationships I’ve built, was irreplaceable,” Sanders said.
After Sanders completed his career at San Diego State in 2004, he went on to play professionally overseas. He played for six seasons with clubs such as Strasbourg (France), Rouen (France), Dijon (France), Aliaga (Turkey), ASK Riga (Latvia) and Academica (Portugal) before a devastating knee injury ended his playing career.
“It taught me how to be professional, how to hold yourself accountable,” Sanders said. “At the professional level, it’s a business. You have to produce at a high level and if you’re not producing, you have to learn to fix your mistakes very quickly.”
Shortly after his professional career came to an end in 2010, Sanders began his own sports academy focused on helping players develop their skills on the court. The Sanders Sports Academy provided training for players at the professional level and aspiring basketball players at the grade school level.
As a player, Sanders was known for his great understanding of the game of basketball, amongst his peers. This is why Sanders had always envisioned himself coaching at some point after his playing days were over.
“That was always the plan for me after playing, I’m just very fortunate I was able to break through into the business as fast as I did,” Sanders said.
The experience of playing the game of basketball at a high level combined with great knowledge of the sport makes Sanders the ideal coach. In only his first year with the Aggies, his presence has been appreciated amongst the coaching staff and players at New Mexico State, said head coach Marvin Menzies.