by Joyce Leggett Brock
TOKYO – Hickory Flat native Lamar Sanders began a new adventure when he moved to Japan last month.
He’s really only gotten to see Tokyo, so far, but says it is a beautiful city. Among the things he most enjoys about the city is the fashion.
“There’s a lot of high fashion and I’m really into fashion right now,” said Sanders during a recent interview.
Unfortunately, at 6’6″ tall, Sanders can only admire the fashion in Japan. In a country where the average male height is 5’7″ – nearly a foot below Sanders’ height – most stores don’t have clothing on the rack in his size.
Sanders’ unusual stature isn’t the largest thing about his experience in Japan, though. He’s there to live the fulfillment of a pretty big dream – playing professional basketball.
Sanders has been playing basketball for as long as he can remember. He’s been breaking records and earning honors for almost as long.
A standout player at Hickory Flat High School, averaged 29 points per game and 14.7 rebounds per game his senior year. He scored a career-best 62 points in one game, breaking state records, and was named First Team All-State as a junior and senior. At Northwest Mississippi Community College and Lamar University, he continued to stand out.
Sanders is no newcomer to playing professional basketball, either. He began his professional career in 2008, when he signed with a professional basketball team in Spain. Since then, he has played for the Southeast Texas Mavericks and the Jacksonville Giants.
Now, he’s continuing to live his dream in Tokyo, playing for the Tukuba Daytricks.
He says the best thing about his latest venture is getting to see the world.
“I’m doing something I never thought I’d be doing,” he said. “Especially coming from the small town of Hickory Flat.”
In Japan, he says the game moves faster and is played at a high tempo, but is essentially the same.
“Basketball is basketball – I’ve been doing that since I can remember,” he laughs.
Basketball may be the same in Japan, but little else is.
For Sanders, some of the biggest adjustments have been adjusting to the food and the language. He’s taking classes to learn Japanese and has a translator for work. He knows a few basic words at this point and is finding ways to compensate. For example, when ordering food, most places have photographs on the menu.
The most difficult part, though, is being away from the people he loves who are still in America.
He may be doing big things in big places, but Sanders still has a humble, small-town man’s attitude.
“I’m surely blessed to be in this situation – I’ve come a long way,” he said. “I never thought I’d make it this far, just excited about being a professional basketball player.”
In Japan, as Sanders adjusts to a new way of life, he named one person as absolutely indispensable – his translator, Arimoto J. Hasegawa.
“If it weren’t for him, I’d be back in the states. He’s phenomenal, does a good job and I appreciate him so much,” Sanders said about Hasegawa. “He makes life for me in Japan really easy.
His girlfriend, Lauren Holdorff, is a big part of his support system, too.
“She keeps me motivated and helps me with my dreams,” he said. “She’s more than I could ever ask for.”
His family has been by his side, supporting him throughout his life. He has two sisters – Latonya and Aleasha Beard – and he is the son of Linda and Lamar Sanders, Sr.
He also talked about how much support he’s had from coaches. He specifically noted his current coach, Donte Hill, who coached him on previous teams, as well.
As his career continues, we can expect to see more big things from this small town guy.