Bayside senior’s AAU experience boosts confidence

Bayside senior’s AAU experience boosts confidence
CNG/Laura Amato
By Laura Amato

Kendra Sanchez is rising to the challenge.

The Bayside basketball star has always done her best to pack her stat sheet and jumpstart her squad, but this summer, the Commodores senior took that to the next level.

Sanchez just wrapped up a season on the AAU circuit with New Heights 17U and while every single game was a very particular type of challenge, she knows it’s only going to make her a better player. That was her goal, after all.

“I enjoy it because it’s all about playing with new girls and girls that I know are going to be playing high divisions,” Sanchez said. “These are really talented girls and that really teaches me and helps with my game.”

Sanchez has been a standout at Bayside since her freshman season, averaging over 15 points per game in each of the last two years. But competing with New Heights has given her a chance to stretch her on-court muscles.

New Heights plays on one of the most challenging schedules in the country, squaring off against some of the top high-school talent and, as the only PSAL player on the squad’s roster, Sanchez felt a very particular desire to prove herself.

She wanted to be part of the team and help lead the team to a victory every time they suited up.

“When I’m playing at Bayside, I’m more independent,” Sanchez said. “I’m showing more, but playing with girls that have more experience is great because it’s really teaching me at the same time.”

Sanchez has never lacked for confidence at Bayside. A multi-sport athlete, Sanchez is at her best with a ball in her hand and an open lane to the hoop.

She averaged double-digits last season, including 11 points in five postseason games, as well as 5.5 rebounds and 3.5 assists. This summer, however, Sanchez hasn’t focused on her numbers. Instead, she’s turned her attention to playing the game efficiently, looking to cut down on mistakes and improve her on-court instincts.

“I want to mostly improve my basketball IQ,” Sanchez said. “And then, on the defensive side of the ball, playing with these girls, I build a lot of know-how while I’m on the court. I’m just trying to bring my best every single game.”

Sanchez also credits her teammates’ talents for forcing her to improve her own defensive approach. A point guard by trade, Sanchez has never focused much on defense, but taking on potential Division I talent has helped her change her tune.

It’s a shift she’s certain will help her when she returns to the high-school game this winter.

“I know at Bayside I don’t really play a lot of defense,” Sanchez said. “I was always, mostly, an offensive-minded player. So that’s going to be a big difference for me.”

New Heights wrapped up its schedule July 28 at the House of Sports event in Ardsley, but Sanchez and her squad were nothing short of dominant this summer. The team criss-crossed the country and racked up a handful of tournament championships, but for Sanchez the challenge of playing on the AAU circuit was about more than hardware.

This was a personal challenge for Sanchez and one she’s certain she’s met. Now, she’s ready to get back to school and showcase everything she’s learned.

“It really helped build my confidence when I’m playing this kind of schedule,” Sanchez said. “I’ve really loved it.”