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Stanford Basketball Player Profile: Christian Sanders

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Christian Sanders shooting had stormtrooper aim last year. Did it get any better in the offseason?

NCAA Basketball: Stanford at California John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports
Stanford basketball, Christian Sanders
Stanford senior Christian Sanders
Stanford Athletics
Season Games Played Minutes Played FG-FGA FG% 3FG-3FGA 3FG% FT% eFG% Rebounds per game Assists per game Steals per game Points per game PER (Player Efficiency Rating)
2012-13 26 234 16-49 32.7 3-15 20 81.5 35.7 0.7 3.6 0.3 2.2 7.9
2014-15 35 272 9-30 30 4-13 30.8 28.6 36.7 0.5 3.5 1.6 0.7 3.6
2015-16 27 605 32-106 30.2 7-36 19.4 83 33.5 2.2 4.6 1.1 4.3 7.3
Career 88 1111 57-185 30.8 14-64 21.9 78.2 34.6 1.1 4.1 1 2.2 6.6

Senior guard Christian Sanders is a pass first guard. Thank goodness.

Sanders certainly isn’t someone that should be looking for his own shot.

In 2015-16, Sanders was frequently the man defenders would sag off of to give help on a double team. As a result, he was often left open and unguarded.

In fact, last season, Sanders was unguarded on an astonishing 60.9% of his jump shots. Nearly 2 out of 3 jump shots Sanders took were wide open!

Despite this, Sanders went an appalling 16-for-66 (24.2%) on his jumpers. He also went 7-for-36 (19.4%) on 3-point shots. With Christian Sanders shot, it seems that we’ve found the only thing less accurate than presidential polling numbers!

When the Stanford offense was able to expose their opponent cheating off Sanders and get an open look, Sanders’ stormtrooper accuracy with his shot only did more to embolden the game plan to leave him open. Indeed, sometimes there is a very good reason why people are left open. In this case, a sub-20% 3-point shooter makes all the sense in the world to leave unguarded. Any coach anywhere would take less than 3 points on 5 possessions.

While a lot of the Stanford hoops data from last year is wince inducing. A sizable part of it can be explained away or pawned off on Johnny Dawkins’ coaching and schemes. However, this isn’t the case when it comes to Christian Sanders’ shooting. When you connect on only 24% your J’s and the healthy majority of your shots are unguarded, the problem isn’t coaching. It is a broken shot taken with a total lack of confidence.

Part of the reason that 60.9% of Sanders shots were unguarded comes as a result of the fact that Christian Sanders will pass out of a shot opportunity if he had a man with a hand in his face. That’s Sanders having a realistic expectation of his shooting abilities. That’s wise.

In a lot of ways, that’s a good way to describe the value of Christian Sanders. He’s a player that understands his limitations and his role. Then, he tries to play as hard and savvy as he can to facilitate the strengths of his teammates. This attribute is desirable in every ball player.

However, it is fair to wonder if Christian Sanders grit, effort, and avoidance of his limitations are enough to merit his playing anywhere near the 22.4 minutes per game that he played last season in this campaign with the return of a healthy Robert Cartwright. (All Cartwright has to do to earn the majority of the point guard minutes is to just be an average shooter and not turn the ball over as anemically as Malcolm Allen.)

After all, no matter how hard Sanders may play, it is awfully difficult for his teammates to play 4-on-5 offensively.

It is possible that the senior point guard improved his shot during the offseason. If he did, may with this improvement, he will now knock down open looks to keep the defense honest. But short of a significant uptick in his scoring abilities, it is hard to think that the Stanford program can be turned around with Christian Sanders as the primary floor general.

If his shot continues to leave a lot to be desired, he should likely be used in spot duty as a back up. That is assuming that Stanford head coach Jerod Haase will have the luxury of a better option. A luxury Johnny Dawkins did not have in the 2015-16 season.