Before he became a shot-blocking demon, before he became a fan favorite in Milwaukee, before he even started playing basketball seriously, Larry Sanders was into skateboards.
The artist in him was drawn to the colorful skating culture and he still enjoys designing board covers and assembling boards to this day. He has always done his sketches in pen, not pencil, an approach that instilled a heightened sense of patience that would serve him well once he arrived in the NBA.
The 6-foot-11 Sanders was able to keep his head up through two frustratingly lackluster seasons, through a lockout that had him about a week away from taking a job in Europe and through the acquisition of two higher profile players who play his position. Now in year three, Sanders has asserted himself as one of the building blocks for a young team and the leading shot blocker in the NBA.
"I draw with a pen. If I mess up I have to throw the paper away," Sanders said. "There's no eraser for me. I can't get frustrated with that. I couldn't get too angry and upset. I just had to keep working at it. Maybe that did create a sense of patience in me that transferred to the game."
Sanders was drafted 15th overall out of Virginia Commonwealth in 2010, with the Bucks taking a chance on a raw big man with considerable athletic gifts. He struggled to acclimate to the NBA in his first two years, averaging under 15 minutes per game in both seasons while dealing with foul trouble on most nights. He averaged 3.6 points and 3.1 rebounds in his second season, giving the team little confidence that he was headed in the right direction.
"My first year I felt OK. My second year was really rocky for me, especially after coming off the summer where we were locked out," Sanders said. "A lot of issues. I didn't know where I was going to live, there were a lot of things that came up that were so unusual. I didn't have my pro habits established. I didn't know really how much it took and what I had to prepare for."
The Bucks brought in veteran center Sam Dalembert and drafted 6-foot-11 John Henson out of North Carolina to be the primary big men this season, a clear message to Sanders that he better pick it up, and fast. And Sanders did just that. He spent time in the summer working on his hands and his quickness going to the basket from his low-post position, then showed he was a different player right from the start this year.