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Nevada Student Section at UNLV game on March 9
Zoe Malen / The Nevada Sagebrush

The Nevada men’s basketball team landed their first transfer of the offseason on March 31, that being Kobe Sanders from Cal Poly University.

Last season, Sanders averaged 19.6 points per game while tacking on 3.7 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game. He spent four years with the Mustangs and will have one year with Nevada before his eligibility runs out.

Sanders has a similar play style to that of Kenan Blackshear, former Nevada guard. The majority of Sanders’ shots last year came from at the rim (33 percent of field goals attempted), at both elbows (26 percent of field goals attempted) and above the break threes on the left side (15 percent of field goals attempted).

The comparisons to Blackshear continue when you talk about Sanders’ best types of scoring. The main three he’s most efficient in are isolation plays (86th percentile in the nation), screen plays as the handler (74th percentile in the nation) and spot up shooting (64rd percentile in the nation).

Sanders played at Christian High School in El Cajon, Calif., where he earned a spot on the All-Eastern League first team after averaging 16.7 points per game and five rebounds a game. After committing to Cal Poly, Sanders did not see many minutes compared to the starters, but did average 16.2 minutes a game off the bench while getting 4.2 points a game.

As he saw more minutes over the years, Sanders’ totals began to slowly climb higher. Sanders was not the first option for the team until his first senior year, but he still saw his points per game increase by 3.5 between his first and third year while shooting over 35 percent from the field and averaging about one assist per turnover

Then came Sanders’ senior year. The forward played 306 more minutes compared to his 2022-23 season, which coincided with more field goal attempts overall (386 attempts compared to 172). Sanders thrived in his new priority role, as his shooting percentage increased by 10.6 percent (35.5 to 46.1 percent) while averaging over one assist per turnover.

Now, while the numbers are impressive and show how good Sanders is, one big question is whether or not he will be able to translate those numbers to the Mountain West. Overall, the Big West went 2-12 against the Mountain West during the 2023-24 season. Cal Poly contributed one loss against Wyoming and one win against San Jose State. The Big West’s year performance is not a one off scenario either. During the 2022 to 2023 season, the conference played Mountain West teams 11 times, only winning one of those matchups. 

So, knowing that the Big West fall pales in comparison to the Mountain West, Wolf Pack fans can not exactly say Sanders will be the guy to fill the hole left by Blackshear’s departure just yet. In transferring to Nevada, he will have arguably better teammates and a team that has experience going to the March Madness tournament. The backup will be there, Sanders will just need to show his skills can be translated in a tougher, more competitive conference.

Derek Raridon can be reached via email or via Twitter @TheBigCountry14

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