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September 18, 2013The pieces are falling in place for UCF to become a big-time player on the college basketball scene.
Last night, the Knights picked up their first Class of 2015 commit from Alex Owens, a four-star power forward from Orlando's Oak Ridge High School. Less than 24 hours later, IMG Academy point guard Corey Sanders, also a four-star, followed suit with his own pledge.
The duo are rated No. 71 and No. 76 respectively in the Rivals150.
Sanders, who is originally from Lakeland, says he and Owens - and another possible future commit - are ready to help elevate UCF into a title contender.
"Me, Alex and Antonio Blakeney have been talking a lot about going to UCF," Sanders said. "Alex committed last night and now it's my turn. I feel like it's a good opportunity for us to go there and try to make history. Start something new. Everybody always goes to the same big schools in basketball, but we want to stay local. UCF is a great school. Great campus.
"It's just a good opportunity for us to go here and do our own thing. UCF isn't really known for basketball, so we want to start something there and compete for a national title. That's what we want to do. Coach (Donnie) Jones has his vision of what he wants to do. He's already won two national titles (at Florida). He knows what he has to do to prepare us for a national championship. I trust him and (assistant) coach (Darren) Tillis."
UCF made it clear from day one that Sanders was their top point guard target for 2015. He says Tillis attended each of his AAU games the past two years.
"I've built a great relationship with Coach Tillis," Sanders said. "I visited the campus and loved it, and saw some games. That's when I got my offer."
Sanders says he'd been favoring the Knights for a while, but it was Owens' decision last night that spurred him to pop today.
"When I saw him do that, I decided it was time," Sanders said. "This is a good opportunity for us to go there and make our own legacy. We're trying to build a team and compete, just show everybody that we can be contenders."
Sanders said he "shocked" Jones when he called to tell him about his decision.
"We had all been talking, me, Coach Jones and Coach Tillis, about what it would look like if I came there, but I don't think he thought I was going to commit right away," Sanders said. "I know it surprised him. He was really happy. He said, 'Let's build this team up so we can compete.' That's the reason for all of this."
Sanders says he and Owens, his future UCF teammate, go back a few years.
"I've always had a good relationship with him," Sanders said. "He's a great big man. We've played against each other. He can do a lot of things that other big men can't do. We're real cool."
More highly-rated prospects could potentially join them.
Sanders previously alluded to Blakeney, a four-star shooting guard who is rated No. 56 nationally and plays on the same Oak Ridge team as Owens. Sanders says he's also working on his 2015 four-star teammate, Dwayne Bacon, who is a 6-foot-6 small forward.
"We're going to try to get both of them," Sanders said. "Antonio and Dwayne are great scorers. Just great players. They can play any position. We're going to try to get them to join us in what we're trying to do. Let's stay local. Let's build this team up and compete for a national championship."
Rivals.com basketball recruiting analyst Eric Bossi calls Sanders "one of the most exciting playmakers in the country regardless of class," who is a "high flyer and flashy ball handler who can make defenders look silly via the dribble."
Sanders weighed in on what he thinks he does well.
"I'm a good scorer," he said. "I can open up opportunities for other scorers, get them open and feed them the ball. I'm really aggressive on defense. I like playing defense. Getting steals, forcing jumps, stuff like that."
He says he's working on things like his basketball IQ, ball handling and "basically everything."
Marquette, Memphis, Murray State, Tennessee and Xavier were among his early offers. Earlier in the day a representative from Xavier stopped in to see him.
"I'm solid with UCF and what we've got going on," Sanders said.
Sanders will make a return visit to Orlando on Sept. 28 for the Knights' big home football game against South Carolina. Owens and Blakeney are also expected to be there along with top 2014 target Adonys Henriquez as well as 2014 commitment B.J. Taylor.