STEVE HANLON: What it takes to get to the top

2013-04-26T18:30:00Z 2013-05-06T21:42:07Z STEVE HANLON: What it takes to get to the topSteve Hanlon Prep Beat nwitimes.com
April 26, 2013 6:30 pm  • 

In 1977 Lisa Sanchez walked into East Chicago Washington as a semi-lost ninth-grader. The 5-foot-1 youngster had never before dribbled or shot a basketball.

Today, in Indianapolis, Sanchez will be inducted into the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame.

"Basketball has carried me through," Sanchez said by phone Thursday from her home in California. "It connected me with myself and it connected me to others. Basketball was the turning point."

Sanchez made the Senators team, but when her grandmother moved across town, the point guard became an E.C. Roosevelt Rough Rider. She said the coaching style of Bobbie DeKemper helped the scrub with no experience go into the same "Hall" where Larry Bird, Oscar Robertson and George McGinnis also reside.

There are a lot of halls of fames, but many are like being named the tallest dwarf at the circus. Here is your ribbon, sir. Congrats. The Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame is special. It rests on the highest peak of basketball's Everest.

"It was the first time I became passionate about something," Sanchez said of her early years at E.C.R.. "(DeKemper's) discipline helped my desire to succeed. I just kept getting better every year."

Sanchez plated the point for E.C.R.'s 1979 undefeated state championship team, with fellow Famers LaTaunya Pollard and Normela Upshaw. It is still considered one if Indiana's greatest state champs.

She averaged 20 points a game her senior year and went on to star at California Lutheran, where she scored 41 and 42 single-game record points and a single-season mark of 456.

Sanchez was inducted into the Ventura County Hall of Fame as the most outstanding female athlete in 1984. Her 1979 Roosevelt team was inducted as a group in 2009. She was inducted into the East Chicago Hall of Fame 2013.

But this "Hall" is different.

Sanchez and Crown Point stars Nancy Cowan-Eksten and Annie (Kvachkoff) Equihua are three of the 11 standouts being inducted in the 12th class of women's basketball standouts.

"This isn't just about basketball," Sanchez said. "It's what basketball brought to my life."

Several injuries in her career, where she also played No. 1 singles for the E.C.W. boys tennis team as a freshman, caused Sanchez to be concerned with the overall healing of athletes and regular folks.

Sanchez became a personal trainer with a focus on injury prevention. She also won several body building titles in America and Japan.

But another injury to her lower back brought a diagnosis of stopping all physical activity.

Neuromuscular therapy stabilized her pain in the early '90s. She earned a Masters in Oriental Medicine and Herbology. Now she owns Healing Path 3, a sports medicine and wellness clinic specializing in spinal treatments and internal medicine.

She lives in Mar Vista and practices in West Los Angeles. Her self-healing has allowed Sanchez to surf California's wicked waves every chance she gets.

Today she is a Hoosier, again. She will return to visit her family in Griffith after the HOF ceremony.

"Basketball has been great to me," Sanchez said. "I am honored to be recognized like this."

The honor, really, is for all of us who had an opportunity to see this class play, back in the day.

This column solely represents the writer's opinion. Reach him at steve.hanlon@nwi.com.

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