July 11, 2012

Built Sankey tough

Kevin McCarthy

Whether it's in a foxhole, heading down a dark alley or even on a basketball court, toughness is the golden fleece of qualities. Coaches preach it, everyone admires it and, of course, poseurs attempt to fake it. Now being tough has multiple dimensions -- tenacity, fearlessness and a megadose of those familiar Tom Petty lyrics "...no I won't back down..." -- yet all can agree that toughness could simply be defined by inserting a photo of Khion Sankey next to the word in the dictionary.

photo of Khion Sankey

Now the 6-foot-5 Sankey is headed to Nashville (Tenn.) but, no, he hasn't donned a big hat and taken up country-and-western crooning. It's because he is a new member of the Lipscomb University Bisons, part of the Atlantic Sun Conference and a program headed by Scott Sanderson, son of legendary Alabama Coach Wimp Sanderson.

According to Sankey, he'll be playing all over the court at Lipscomb. That will be nothing new.

Looking back, Sankey enjoyed a senior season as the Newark Memorial High on-court spiritual leader, a year in which he averaged 14.3 points, eight rebounds, 2.8 assists and 2.8 steals a game for a 30-5 Cougar squad that won a northern California championship but then lost 63-56 in the state title game to Westchester. The latter enjoyed six eventual D-I players on its roster and Sankey worked them over to the tune of 25 points (14 in the fourth quarter) and 10 rebounds.

Recruiting nibbles appeared from some D-I colleges but no actual offers were forthcoming. College coaches were enamored but also unsure of what position the 6-foot-5 Sankey could play at the next level.

So he took his game and immense presence to Coach Steve Smiley and Sheridan College in Wyoming and in two seasons, the Generals won 49 games. As a sophomore, Sankey averaged 7.1 points, 5.4 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 1.4 steals per contest, boosting those figures to 15.5 points, 8.5 boards and 4.0 assists during Sheridan's run in the playoffs.

What was it like to go from California to a town of 18,000?

"I liked it" Sankey said. "It's a small town but the people were so nice, like a family." He even enjoyed the rodeos.

One aspect that he benefited from is being away from home.

"I grew up a lot living on my own, having to go grocery shopping and managing money, even a little cooking."

Sankey's planning to major in psychology.

Besides Lipscomb, the Atlantic Sun Conference consists of East Tennessee State University, Florida Gulf Coast University, Jacksonville, Northern Kentucky, Stetson, Kennesaw State, Mercer, North Florida and South Carolina Upstate.

The university has a strong focus on academics and seven of Lipscomb men's basketball student-athletes were recently honored for their academic achievements.

Sankey wished to thank his family -- Mom, Dad, sisters, brothers and family members - as well as all the coaches who coached him and the players who helped him become the player he is now.

Here's more, from the men who coached him, on what Sankey brings, both tangible and intangible, to a program. One of the elements involving Sankey is the respect he generates in his coaches. Each of his mentors has amazing things to say about Sankey the player and person.