Team: 25-8 (co-Tri-River Athletic Conference championship; Central Section Division I championship)
D-I title game: 15 points, 5 assists, 5 steals and 5 rebounds in 71-52 win over Buchanan
Season averages: 17.0 points, 7.6 rebounds, 5.8 assists, 3.8 steals
Awards: Bee Player of the Year and co-TRAC Player of the Year in 2010; Bee All-Star and TRAC Player of the Year in 2009
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TRAC career record: 28-2 (10-0 JV in 2008; 10-0 and 8-2 varsity in 2009 and 2010
The latest Bee boys basketball Player of the Year has followed a journey like none before him.
Robert Sandoval’s path has taken him from southeast Fresno, to Cambodia, back to southeast Fresno and then to Clovis East High.
The two-year numbers with the Timberwolves — mainly, a 50-13 record, two Tri-River Athletic Conference titles and a Central Section Division I crown this season behind Sandoval’s savvy floor management at point guard — suggest there never was a question regarding his ability.
Yet there was.
“When I came back from Cambodia,” he says, “I didn’t think I could hang with the competition here.”
“Here,” meaning the TRAC, the section’s elite league, which can chew up the weak.
Not that Sandoval ever fell into that qualification, but how was he to know? He’d been hustling playground hoops for two years in a Southeast Asia country that hardly knew the game while his parents were serving a two-year humanitarian mission.
“I came back working hard and had two great years with two great teams,” he says. “I’ve been blessed. It’s hard to believe it’s all over.”
It’s a relief for opposing coaches, who couldn’t match up with a player who beat pressure, applied pressure, rebounded, saw the floor, distributed and basically scored when needed.
But those same coaches stand back now and applaud.
Buchanan’s Eric Swain: “The biggest quality I saw was his leadership. What he did to lead by example, the way he brought his team up with his effort, was very impressive.”
Central’s Loren LeBeau: “Robert played point guard the way it is supposed to be played — the unquestioned leader in character, heart and hustle. Never rattled, always in emotional control, he embodied a team-first mentality.”
Then there’s his own coach, Tim Amundsen: “Every time I looked at the stats, he was close to a triple double. He could have scored 25 to 30 points a game easy if we just let him go, but he gave up a lot for the better of the team. And the thing people don’t realize is Rob played phenomenal defense; he was the best defensive player I’ve ever had. What a special kid.”
Similar praise was directed toward Chris Hernandez, the point guard who led Clovis West to 132 wins and was a two-time Bee Player of the Year (2000 and 2001).
It is Hernandez with whom Sandoval is most commonly compared.
It is Hernandez who would become an All-Pac-10 player at Stanford.
But it is Sandoval who, today, is without a college.
“Just trying to find the right fit,” he says.
Washington State coaches have come to Clovis to watch him work out twice. Pacific has expressed interest, and NAIA schools Westmont and Azusa Pacific have offers on the table.
So it’s going to happen.
“And that,” Sandoval says, “is the dream.”