After coming off the bench in the first three games, Arkansas freshman forward Michael Sanchez started in the final two games of a Reach USA summer tour of China.
Sanchez was one of nine collegiate players participating in the tour of China against Shan Dong Gold, the third-ranked professional team in the country. Reach USA is a division of Sports Reach, which is a Christian sports ministry. His team played five games over a two-week period at the end of May, and Sanchez earned quality playing time against good completion, which should pay off this season for the Razorbacks.
“All in all, going over there with 10 guys I had never met before and playing some games, that was great, but also seeing all the people and their culture, that was great as well,” Sanchez, who redshirted for the Razorbacks in 2007-08, says. “You see what people have and you think about how lucky you are and how blessed you are to have the things we have here – air conditioning and cars. We didn’t see too many cars. Most everybody was on a bike or scooter. We saw little kids working and farming all the time.”
Over the final three games, Reach USA lost 94-86 and 75-73 before getting an 87-76 win in Nan Chung. Reach USA trailed by 11 in the third quarter but tied the game with 8:37 remaining before pulling away.
“The competition was pretty good,” he says. “They (Shan Dong Gold) were the third-ranked pro team in China. They were all men. Except for the point guard they were 6-9, 6-10, all the way up to seven-feet across the board. We played the same team five games in a row. They had been playing together for 10 years. We (Reach USA) met each other for the first time at the Chicago airport and then had a walk-through in Tokyo (with a sock for a ball) when we first got there in the airport. They were very strong fundamentally.
“Not playing ball for a year and going there in my first game I fouled out,” Sanchez says. “I was over-excited. I couldn’t wait to get out there and play, but that was one of the main reasons I went – to get some games in. We got cut two games short and I’m disappointed about that, but I felt good getting out there and getting in the swing of things.”
Sanchez, a 6-8, 231-pounder from Springdale, started the last two games. In the final game, he was 3-of-11 shooting, but had seven points and eight rebounds before fouling out.
In the first game of the tour, he had 10 points and nine rebounds in a 68-67 loss. The second game ended in a 78-78 tie with no overtime. Sanchez had six points and two rebounds.
In another game, he was 6-of-7 shooting, and finished with 12 points and eight rebounds.
In his first start, he suffered a bloody nose and had to leave the game with six points, eight rebounds and three blocked shots while making 2-of-6 shots.
In the five games, Sanchez made 19-of-34 shots (.559), and averaged 8.2 points and 7.0 rebounds with three steals and three blocked shots. He was sixth on the team in scoring, and second in rebounding and shooting percentage.
“The fans treated us like we were celebrities,” Sanchez says. “Everywhere we went, people just gawked at us. They couldn’t believe Americans were there. We went to one city and Americans had never played there so it was a really big deal. Before every game there was a huge ceremony that was more important than the game. After games, they had to break people off of us to get out of the gym. They just wanted to touch us, they wanted our autograph, or jerseys or our shorts. Our names were on the back of our jerseys and they would try to say it. Everywhere we went, they thought we played in the NBA. They saw USA on the shirt and thought we played for the Olympic team.”